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Metro’s board of directors on Thursday quickly and unanimously approved a fiscal year 2018 budget with fare increases and service cuts, which predictably raised the ire of riders and made for a slightly raucous scene at the weekly board meeting.
The $1.8 billion spending plan calls for fares to go up 25 cents for buses and off-peak Metrorail, and 10 cents at peak hours and daily parking. The new fares go into effect July 1.
The fare increases — Metro’s first in three years — are expected to bring the agency $21 million. In addition, Metro expects to save an additional $2 million by eliminating 300 positions, which would go toward creating a “lifeline” late-night bus service that would replace the hours of operation cut on Metrorail.
A handful of the bus routes initially eyed for elimination earlier in the budget process were ultimately spared, including the T14 Rhode Island Avenue-New Carrollton line in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and the H6 in northeast D.C.
Before the board approved the plan, a small ruckus occurred outside the meeting room when a Metro police officer wouldn’t allow more people inside.
Metro board chairman and D.C. Council member Jack Evans said the room had filled to capacity and officials didn’t want to cause a fire hazard. The room capacity is 144, but some members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 stood along parts of the room.
Union President Jackie Jeter walked outside the room and told the officer she would give up her seat to allow Southeast resident Chauniece Jones, 23, to sit down. But the officer told her she couldn’t, without explaining why.
Meanwhile, Jones said the officer used force to move one of her friends from the doorway.
“Why are you putting your hands on somebody who’s trying to hear what’s going on that’s affecting their life?,” said Jones, who sported a white T-shirt reading, “Vote no Metro fare hikes. Metro not booming.” “Yeah, you have a job to do but … have a heart. You don’t have to take it that way.”
Evans said during a press briefing next door in the board room that the meeting room has accommodated more people. Although the board room’s capacity is nearly three times the size at 391, Evans said the other space presents a more intimate feel when communicating with his colleagues.
“I like the idea of a more compact area where I can see all my board members and they can see me,” he said. “It makes for a more fluid discussion.”
Jeter said that doesn’t matter.
“I have seen the participation of the public escalate,” she said. “I have seen the participation of my members escalate and they have a right to be here … and know what you’re doing to them in the budget that you are passing. They should have a space that allows people to come in … and hear what’s going on.”
To view the entire budget document, go to http://bit.ly/2nhjwuN.