On Monday we noted that the latest customer survey from WMATA really doesn’t seem to be interested in actual customer input, based on the lack of space for customers to suggest solutions for the current $116 million budget gap. In the survey, customers are allowed to play with one option: General Manager Richard Sarles‘ proposal to cover the gap with fare hikes and higher taxes.

Since then, Metro has held the first of six public meetings about the fare hikes—and surprise, surprise, people don’t want to pay more in fares or taxes, especially as the perception is that Metrorail service is only getting worse. The Post reports:

Stacey Rose-Blass of North Bethesda said she rides daily from Glenmont to Foggy Bottom and thinks Metro could save money with a simple fix: Cut off the heat on trains and buses in the system.

“Who are you keeping warm? The drivers,” she said. “We’re all bundled up in coats.”

She said she was concerned about how Metro is spending money. “We’re paying more and more, and it is just not getting better.”

Other riders are interested in curbing pensions, or trimming from the budget in other places. While WMATA won’t get this information from its survey, board members and staff are definitely hearing it in person. Will it make a difference? Spokesman Dan Stessel tells us yes. “All of the public comment—whether delivered at a hearing or submitted in writing—will be reviewed by Metro’s Board of Directors as they consider the FY13 budget and associated fare plan. Already, there have been items added to the docket in response to public feedback, including the 28-day pass. Public input is incredibly helpful for Metro and our Board as we consider options for next year’s budget.”

There are five more public meetings where riders can make themselves heard, including one tonight in Falls Church:

Wednesday, Feb. 29
Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School Cafeteria – Hearing 570
7130 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA

Thursday, March 1
Matthews Memorial Baptist Church – Hearing 571
John H. Kearney, Sr. Fellowship Hall
2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., SE
Washington, DC

Monday, March 5
Washington Lee High School Cafeteria – Hearing 572
1301 N Stafford St
Arlington, VA

Tuesday, March 6
St. Columba’s Episcopal Church – Hearing 573
4201 Albemarle Street, NW
Washington, DC

Wednesday, March 7
First United Methodist Church – Hearing 574
6201 Belcrest Road
Hyattsville, MD

Photo by Darrow Montgomery