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Morning Poll: ‘Peak of the Peak’ Metrorail Fee

by ARLnow.com October 12, 2011 at 9:19 am 3,092 44 Comments

Metro’s ‘Peak of the Peak’ fare surcharge is “highly unpopular among riders” — according to Metro.

The $0.20 fee applies to Metrorail trips on non-holiday weekdays between 7:30 and 9:00 a.m., and between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m. The ‘POP’ charge is meant to generate more revenue for Metro at those time when rail service is the busiest.

But a presentation released by WMATA yesterday morning suggests the transit agency is thinking about eliminating the surcharge as part of an overall effort to simplify its fare structure.

If you’re a Metrorail rider, how do you feel about the Peak of the Peak surcharge? Have you ever tried to adjust your schedule to avoid the fee?

  • Scott

    Maybe I’m just too tired to be doing math, but by my estimates it cost me $5/month extra. $5 and I can wake up after 7 AM? Here’s your 5 bucks.

    • JamesE

      that $5 could get you like 15 soft tacos from taco bell.

      • Al Gore


  • JamesE

    I really don’t mind the extra fee during the busy hours since the trains are usually on time and quick. What really kills me is during off hours when I get to metro center to transfer and just miss the orange line train and I see the sign says next train in 30 minutes. I will just leave the station and get a cab.

    • John B

      Yes I hate riding the metro on weekends or after like 9 pm on weekdays. If I do, I try to only go places on the Orange line so I avoid having to transfer. Either that or like you said, I just take a cab.

  • John B

    I don’t even notice it and it’s definitely not worth altering my schedule to avoid paying the fee.

  • JimPB

    For as long as I’ve used Metro, I’ve adjusted my work schedule as often as possible to avoid riding it during the “peak hours.” Non-peak travel is both less expensive and less crowded so that I usually had a seat and could read (for work or otherwise).

  • Agent Michael Scarn

    I like POP. There’s more demand, so there should be a higher cost. Space on the trains is more valuable (and limited) during that time. It’s simple market economics, folks.

    • Occupy Wilson Boulevard

      Market Economics aren’t very popular these days.

  • Jacob

    Of course they should charge more when it’s busiest.

  • Steven

    Is POP a standing up fee?

  • CW

    Wow, I’m surprised that the posters thus far seem to be solidly in favor of PoP or willing to change their schedules simply as to avoid it. While I don’t “notice” it and just pay it, the concept of it is bothersome from a policy perspective because it’s a penalty thrust upon a captive audience, and is discriminatory against certain socioeconomic groups. Think about it – who has the least flexibility to change their schedules? Hourly workers – receptionists, cooks, janitors, maintenance workers, etc. And who, generally, will a fee most impact in terms of % of income? The aforementioned. For this reason, I find the fee unfair because it most strongly impacts those most helpless to avoid it.

    • Smilla

      Good point, CW.

    • John Fontain

      Then think of the current fare structure as offering a discount to those who don’t ride during peak times.

      • CW

        Six one way, a half-dozen the other; my previous statements still stand.

    • Josh S

      On the other hand, hourly workers often don’t have a 9 to 5 schedule, which means they may not be commuting during the POP hours.

      • CW

        I’m thinking mostly of administrative and support-type office staff headed downtown.

        • John Fontain

          “[it] is discriminatory against certain socioeconomic groups”

          They charge the same fare to all riders, regardless of socio-economic status. Do you have evidence that administrative and support-type staff comprise a disproportionate share of peak-hour customers?

          • CW

            I didn’t say it was discriminatory against a majority of riders. I said that there were certain groups of people who are not afforded the leeway in their lines of work to change their schedules. Thus the fee is effectively a tax on this captive customer base who have no ability to introduce price elasticity into their demand for this service.

            What if metro put a $5 surcharge on fares originating from Gallery Place in the hour after a Caps game? Or on fares from Navy Yard within an hour of a Nats game? It’s a more extreme example, but it’s the same idea.

          • not a dolt

            It’s a start. Except that they should charge EVERYBODY a $5 surcharge so they can afford to repair, do routine maintenance, buy new infrastructure, expand service. Then maybe they could use the toll road money for – ROADS.

            That way when I pay the toll (and buy gas), part of my money goes to repair, routine road maintenance, new infrastructure and expanded service (one can only hope for I-66 widening). And metro riders would be responsible for that mode of transportation. In the event that I would have to take metro (maybe once a year), I would be happy to pay a fair rate.

          • John Fontain

            “I didn’t say it was discriminatory against a majority of riders.”

            I didn’t say you said that either. Despite your reference to price elasticity (which is misused, you meant consumption optionality), you still haven’t supported your assertion that PoP fares discriminate against certain socio-economic groups. Provide the evidence that these people comprise a disproportionate share of peak-hour customers and I’ll be convinced.

          • CW

            Hmm, ok, I’m not an economist by training, so sometime you will have to explain to me how I am misusing “price elasticity of demand”, which is “a measure used in economics to show the responsiveness, or elasticity, of the quantity demanded of a good or service to a change in its price” in saying that demand for a service will go down when they make it more expensive.

            Also, what is “consumption optionality”? When I put it into Google with quotes around it, I get two hits. On the entire internet.

            But anyhow, where does this “disproportionate” thing come from? Why does it have to be a “disproportionate share”? What I said, several times, was that people who are unable to control their schedules, and, say, are required to be at their desk or on the clock by 8:30 A.M., would be impacted the most. Conversely, I would charge you to provide data that such workers constitute a trivial share of ridership at those hours. U.S. public policy historically has not required a group to compose a “disproportionate share” of something in order to receive protection or consideration during policy-making processes.

          • John Fontain

            “What I said, several times, was that people who are unable to control their schedules, and, say, are required to be at their desk or on the clock by 8:30 A.M., would be impacted the most.”

            Again, you have substantiated your claim; this time that those who have to be at work at conventional starting hours for businesses are disproportionately lower earning individuals. Until you can substantiate this, you haven’t proven that charging PoP fares discriminates against this group.

            Maybe an example would help. Let’s say metro jacks up the fares on people boarding the system Southeast DC during PoP times but doesn’t jack up the fares on any other riders. That is discriminatory against a certain group. But if metro jacks up fares on everyone during a certain time, you can’t claim that their fare structure is discriminatory.

          • CW

            Ok, gotcha. No, I don’t have the primary research, although one would think that Metro, in evaluating fare hikes, would be required to perform it.

            Maybe I didn’t need to add the hourly vs. salaried and lower versus higher wage part as confounding factors. How about this – the fare structure unfairly discriminates against all workers whose jobs require them to get to work during normal business hours? I’d say it’s hard to argue with that statement. My further assertions – that people who are required to work those hours tend to make less and would be more strongly imapcted – require data, you’re right.

  • Johnny Utah

    I feel like if they are raising rates to earn more money, then i sure hope they improve services. Every week it’s another issue with Metro, people complain. I hope they start addressing some of those issues.

    How come they can’t run more trains before and after hockey games for instance. I had to wait 22 mins on monday night, and that wasn’t the first time. Are other major cities with a rail system having the same issues? Or just DC?

    • Josh S

      Raising the rates to keep up with the existing costs, not to increase service.

      Transit fares have not kept up with inflation over time.

  • NoVapologist

    How long before a “Peak of the Peak of the Peak” surcharge is imposed?

  • Matt B

    They should tack on an extra $.50 for Fairfax riders since they have always voted down Metro expansion referendums.

    • Tysons commuter

      By that measure, we should collect a toll from Arlington commuters who drive to Tysons to work because Arlington blocks I66 expansion. Uh…no thanks.

  • Spinner

    it’s just a way to confuse consumers by obfuscate fare hikes

  • DLGlenCarlyn

    Metro’s ‘Peak of the Peak’ fare surcharge is “highly unpopular among riders” — according to Metro.

    New study published in latest issue of “DUH! – The Journal of the Obvious” finds that “9 out of 10 people would rather pay less for stuff they buy”

  • John Fontain

    I think Metro should raise fares even higher so that the system can be properly maintained and operated. I see no logic in letting Metro riders get transportation for less than its actual cost.

  • charlie

    oh it feels good to NOT be Car Free.

  • Anon

    Yeah I just told my employer I needed to change my work schedule to save $.40/day. What??? I don’t think so.

    • Sam

      The difference between you and me is that you see it as $0.40/day and I see it as an extra $120.00 that I’ve given Metro since it was instituted.

      If $120 is meaningless to you, you are welcome to send me a check.

  • novasteve

    I’d probably pay a dollar more each way if they actually fixed or turned on the air conditioning in the stations. Anyone remember the good old days when metro stations were cold in the summer?

    • Maria

      Holy moses, I wish. Most stations aren’t too bad, but I feel like I lose 5 pounds every time I wait in the Ballston station between April and October. Yuck.

  • Ballston Commuter

    I used to take the metro to work in Silver Spring every day – until I realized that with fare hikes, it’s actually less expensive and shorter for me to drive to work than to metro…

  • Sam

    Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that Yellow Line service to Ft. Totten has gotten much worse since POP was implemented?

    If I’m paying a premium surcharge, why am I waiting 12 minutes for a train at 8:45 in the morning? Why are trains running like: Blue train – wait 1 minute – Blue train – wait 12 minutes – Yellow train – wait 1 minute – Blue train…?

    The trains are usually more balanced as the day goes on (usually an even 4-5 minutes between trains on the way home), even after POP ends.

    • CW

      Uh, not really…yellow line to Ft. Totten? Yikes…

      • Sam


  • jjbug1

    Maybe I skipped thru these comments too fast, but I didn’t see anyone grateful that people are using peak hour Metro instead of depending on cars or bus transit on our roads! The more push on Metro to be efficient at those hours, the less pollution from gas vehicles, the less use of gas, etc. are not small gifts to the community.
    Maybe Metro shouldn’t penalize those who are giving such service to us all by taking Metro in peak hours!


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