Friday, November 7, 2008

VRE Ridership Up, Fares Will Be Too

Virginia Railway Express, which operates commuter trains from Washington to Fredericksburg and Manassas, VA, received the green light today for a seven percent fare hike to take effect in January. The increase comes in the face of record ridership, but is far less than the 15 percent hike railroad officials initially feared they would need.

The culprits are higher fuel, labor and maintenance costs, which caused a $1.6 million budget shortfall for FY 2009. A contributing cause was a Virginia Supreme Court ruling that $25 million in state funding approved by the legislature was unconstitutional. The court said the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority did not have authority to levy taxes and fees.

Other commuter and transit operators are facing fare hikes or service cuts to cope with budget shortfalls and governmental operating support that has failed to materialize. Voters in St. Louis defeated a proposal that would have upped aid to MetroLink, that city's light rail system. MARC, the Maryland commuter line, is considering eliminating service to points in West Virginia, including Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg.

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