A Metro committee recommended a program to offer rush hour commuters refunds if train or bus service runs late by 15 minutes or more during a Jan. 11 board meeting at the agency's D.C. headquarters. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

A Metro committee recommended approval Thursday for rush-hour commuters to receive a refund if a Metro train or bus arrives late by 15 minutes or more.

The “rush hour promise” refund would include $3 for train rides and $1 on the bus and the program would only be in effect for this year.

According to the proposal, riders must have a SmarTrip card to receive credit, which may take up to five business days to receive. Rush-hour times are from 5 a.m.-9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays.

Between 2013 to 2016, the transit agency experienced a roughly 30 percent decrease in ridership due to “unreliable service.”

Lynn Bowersox, the agency’s assistant general manager for customer service, explained to Metro’s safety and service delivery committee that the refund proposal would bring back more riders and improve service reliability.

It could cost the agency between $2 million to $3.5 million, but staff projects the money would be recouped through revenue made this year.

The proposal would have bus riders fill out an online form because they only tap in with a SmarTrip card when boarding. Rail customers wouldn’t have to submit any forms because they use the card to enter and exit Metro’s train stations.

“It has taken a lot of effort from a lot of people … [to] deliver what we promise. That’s what the program is all about,” said Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.

Some board members expressed concerned about some riders who may abuse the system, but Malcolm Augustine of Prince George’s County said Metro can track a person’s travel with the SmarTrip card.

“I am very interested in people coming back to the system, and also appreciate that people get frustrated when they are delayed and are not provided a service,” Augustine said. “The idea of giving people a refund when they don’t receive the service they should be receiving, I am supportive of that.”

Carroll Thomas, first vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said Metro staff didn’t adequately study the issue before presenting the plan.

“That’s going to be a hell of a headache for them,” he said. “They didn’t think about that all the way.”

The full board could approve the plan at its Jan. 25 meeting and put into effect the following day. The program would be examined to see if it could be renewed for next year.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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