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After a train derailment, a power outage, and single tracking caused grief for thousands of D.C. commuters over the past two days, Metro has announced that it will reimburse riders of the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines for the transit fares they were charged between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. today.
“We absolutely understand the frustration among our Blue, Orange and Silver line customers,” Metro Interim General Manager Jack Requa says in a statement. “Given the significant service disruptions that inconvenienced riders over multiple commutes this week, we are taking this step to thank everyone for bearing with us. I also offer a sincere apology to everyone who was inconvenienced.”
The reimbursement applies to riders who use SmarTrip cards—the vast majority of all Metro customers. Credits will be automatically processed early next week when SmarTrip users tap their cards at Metro faregates or fare machines, including those on buses. Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel says this is the first time in recent memory that riders have been reimbursed on such a scale. He declined to estimate the total number of riders on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines today and the likely reimbursement total, but added that Metro is doing it to “build public trust.”
“The potential revenue loss from losing riders entirely is much greater than the monetary value associated with the reimbursement,” Stessel explains. “We have two opportunities every day to either meet or fall short of riders’ expectations. For the Blue, Orange, Silver lines, we fell short.”
Although Metro fares vary depending on distance and whether a rider has accessed the system at an on- or off-peak time, the reimbursement will almost certainly cost WMATA tens of thousands of dollars. For example, a typical peak-time ride from the Eastern Market station to Foggy Bottom–GWU—along the three affected lines—costs $2.35. Multiple that figure by 10,000 people, and you already have nearly $25,000 in fares.
Stessel says it will take “some time” to figure out the cause of yesterday’s derailment: Officials are inspecting human factors, railcars, and infrastructure to determine what exactly went wrong at the Smithsonian station.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery