Metro Celebrates Rate Structure and Maintains its Fairness

December 9, 2013

Metrorail is one of only three heavy rail systems in the United States with distance-based fares. (BART and PATCO are the other two.) With 86 stations (soon to be 91) and two fare time-periods (it used to be three), the average rider has a large number of possible fare combinations. The benefits of Metrorail’s existing fare structure are many-fold, but chief among them are equity, efficiency, and economics.

The fare structure is fair. Distance-based and time-of-day fares allow transit riders to pay fares in proportion to the level of service they’re using. Peak period riders pay more and have more frequent service. Short distance travel is less expensive than long-distance. With flat fares, those who take short trips subsidize those who take longer trips, and people who ride during times of reduced service subsidize those who ride during the peaks when trains are most frequent. With zone-based fares, customers taking short trips that cross a zone boundary pay a larger fare than other customers taking longer trips entirely within a zone boundary. (

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