Metro is a rip-off. So is [insert city’s train system here].


Despite my best efforts, sometimes I get caught riding the ‘tro during rush hour to some far-off destination. The crowds are bad, the headways are fast and the cost is…$3.90 to smell some fat guy for 25 minutes en route to Bethesda? What the heck?

With a SmartTrip card during rush hour, the highest fare you will pay on Metro is $5. That’s steep, especially if you have an impending bus transfer or parking fee to pay. But in terms of expensive public transportation, us DMV residents are not alone in coughing up our dough.

Take Denver’s RTD, which as of Janury, will see its highest one-way light rail fare hit $5. For the same cost as Metro, you get access to a much-smaller system with generally longer headways. Furthermore, this is a system that runs in mixed traffic and is therefore slower than Metro. In all ways, the two systems are incomparable: Except for fare.

What about the Yay Area’s BART, which grew up around the same as Metro? Just for the sake of argument, to go from Pittsburg to SFO, it’s $10.90. That is with an airport surcharge, but this system, which is comparable to Metro in terms of its hybrid status as a regional connector, shows that Metro fares can certainly get higher. A more typical fare, from Downtown Berkeley to Embarcadero, is $3.65. During non-peak times, you will never pay that much to ride a Metro train in D.C., no matter the distance.

Often we hear riders bemoan that in New York (where everything is better) or Chicago or Boston, the rapid transit fares are a flat fee, and henceforth a better deal. In many cases this is true, but when I take a train from Rosslyn to Eastern Market off-peak for $1.60, it is obvious that occasionally our fare system is advantageous.

Yes, Metro is expensive. But other systems will soak you too. Maybe that will make you feel better the next time you pay $5 to sit on a coffee-soaked Examiner on the way to Shady Grove, riding to the soundtrack of someone’s Soulja Boy headphones. At least that trip doesn’t cost $11.90.

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