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Cut one train, don't raise fares, some say
VRE gets public reaction to possible fare increases


Date published: 9/22/2008

BY KELLY HANNON

Some Virginia Railway Express passengers say they'd rather the commuter system cut a train or two before raising ticket prices.

About a dozen people attended a public hearing in Fredericksburg last week on possible fare increases.

Riders could see ticket prices increase as high as 15 percent in January, and an additional 10 percent in July, although VRE's chief executive officer Dale Zehner has said he hopes the percentages will be lower.

Brad Ellis attended the hearing immediately after his appointment to represent Ward 1 on Fredericksburg City Council.

Speaking from his personal experience as a rider, Ellis asked Zehner to consider dropping the midday evening train, which returns to Fredericksburg at 2:26 p.m.

"In my opinion, the cost for running that midday train seems to outweigh the benefit," Ellis said. He suggested VRE should survey riders to see whether they would rather pay the fare increase or keep the midday train.

Zehner said he will look at the cost savings of dropping the train, compared to revenue taken in with fare increases. VRE raises around $250,000 a year from a 1 percent fare increase.

Then again, some people will stop riding VRE if they lose a way to get home early, Zehner said.

VRE dropped a late-morning train on the Manassas line several years ago to cut costs. VRE expected to lose the 200 people who normally rode the train. Instead, about 1,000 people left.

Still, the midday train is not part of the service's core mission of getting people to work in the morning and evening, Zehner said.

"If we had to cut service, that's where we'd cut," he said.

Mona Hendrick, a rider from Fredericksburg, works for a private company that does not subsidize fares. She pointed out many VRE riders pay out of pocket.

Hendrick has difficulty juggling her transit costs with household bills.

"If the prices go up, it will literally financially kill me," she said.


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Commuter Comments

Riders may still comment on the proposed VRE fare increases. You may comment by e-mail to: publiccomment@vre.org.

Comments can be mailed to: Virginia Railway Express, Public Comment, 1500 King St. Suite 202, Alexandria, Va. 22314