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VIA THE WASHINGTON POST:

Metro is moving ahead with plans to impose the largest fare increase in its history this summer, as the financially strapped transit agency prepares to make its riders shoulder the majority of the $189 million operating budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Board of Directors on Thursday discussed broad outlines of the fare hike — estimated in the latest budget to bring in more than $102 million for the year — to allow Metro’s staff to start work on programming and marketing the changes.

The main components of the increase — expected to be finalized at a special meeting of the board in mid-May — include a 15 percent increase in rail fares and a 20 percent hike in bus boarding charges, producing $64 million and $24 million in revenue, respectively. In addition, fares for Metro’s paratransit service for disabled and elderly riders will grow to twice the comparable bus fare, raising an additional $1.1 million.

“The staff now has a very good idea of the basic structure of the fare increase,” said Peter Benjamin, chairman of the board of directors.

Board members, however, objected to some specific fare hikes and service cuts set out in a revised budget unveiled last week by Metro’s interim general manager, Richard Sarles.

A proposed 50-cent increase in parking fees drew criticism from some board members as imposing too heavy a burden on rail riders, in addition to the increase in rail trip prices. “This disproportionately hurts folks who are making long-haul trips on the system,” said board member Jeff McKay of Fairfax.

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