>After a fairly comprehensive review of the fare and pass policies in place throughout the US, and my personal experience riding transit in Europe, I challenge anyone out there to name a rail transit system that costs more per month for the average commuter. The regular adult fare for up to a 12 mile commute one way, 40 times per month, during rush hour and using a form of payment commonly in use (i.e., no “Day Passes” since a commuter would more likely buy a weekly pass or monthly pass). If there is a reasonable monthly or annual pass suitable for commuting, you have to cite that too.
I’m going to list the systems that I checked out and the average and maximum fares in place currently:
Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Hudson-Bergen, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, Newark, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco (MUNI), San Francisco (BART), San Jose.
The most expensive one-way cash or cash equivalent fare was for Oakland’s trans-bay bus service at $3.50 each way. However, you can buy a monthly pass for $116.00.
The average one-trip fare is $1.86 and the average monthly pass is $68.00. The median fare is 1.75 and monthly pass 61.75 (half are bigger, half smaller).
For almost every system I looked at, the rail system and bus system had the same fares and passes. There was not a peak fare and off-peak fare. According to a WMATA presentation I read (sorry I can’t provide a link), if metrorail had the same fare all the time for all rides, the fare would be $2.75. I pay $3.20 each way and the maximum charge is $4.50. While a monthly pass is not available, you could buy four weekly passes for $39.00 each, but that wouldn’t work on the buses, so that would be another four weekly passes (if necessary) for $11.00 each. Your total is $156 for rail passes only, or $200 a month for both rail and bus, compared to $68 for most other transit systems. Also, most other systems allow free transfers between rail and bus. WMATA only gives you a discount of $0.90 in one direction.
So WMATA’s system has the advantage of taking it easy on bus riders, short distance commuters and people who ride off-peak, while asking longer distance peak rail riders to pay more. I would argue that for reduction of congestion, energy use and pollution, giving the peak commuter a break would be of benefit, but the trains are already packed. I think the next best thing would be to implement the “commute and get the weekends free” policy of monthly passes.
So, someone find me a transit system that’s more expensive for a regular adult, 9-5, 12 mile commuter, when you use a fare or pass that makes sense for the purpose. I didn’t look at European transit systems, but you’re welcome to.