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Proposed VRE fare hike drawing few complaints

A proposed fare increase doesn’t seem to bother Virginia Railway Express riders.

Most of them are federal government workers who haven’t been given raises in years. And now some of them are being forced to take furloughs because of the sequestration.

But just five riders showed at the first two public hearings on the proposed 4 percent fare rate hike.

The first hearing was held in Burke. The second was held Wednesday in Stafford County, where VRE officials outnumbered riders five to three.

Five more hearings are planned, including one in Fredericksburg March 27.

People at the Stafford hearing all praised VRE and said they are OK with the fare increase.

“I fully understand,” said Stafford resident Roderick Burke, a defense contractor who rides VRE at least three times a week. And he doesn’t get the $240 monthly mass transit subsidy because he isn’t a federal employee. “Costs are going up all around.”

He was more interested in getting Wi–Fi on the commuter trains, something the VRE officials said they are working to get done. However, it’s a complicated and expensive technology to install on the trains.

During the hearing at the Stafford County government center, VRE officials laid out the reasons for the proposed fare rate increase, which would follow last year’s 3 percent increase.

The overall VRE budget is expected to increase from $88.7 million to nearly $93 million between fiscal years 2013 and 2014. A combination of annual track access fee increases, rising fuel costs and capacity expansion expenses are the primary reasons for the $4.2 million increase in anticipated expenditures, according to VRE.

The 4 percent fare rate increase is expected to help close that gap.

If approved, the increase would start July 1.

The fare rate change would mean a relatively small bump in ticket prices.

For example, according to VRE, a single ticket from Fredericksburg to Union Station would increase from $10.65 to $11.10. A monthly pass for the same trip would go from $294.10 to $305.90.

“It’s always good to hear from our riders, no matter how many show up,” said Doug Allen, VRE’s chief executive officer.

As far as the response from riders, including written comments, he said they seem to understand.

“I think it shows we’re being reasonable,” Allen said after the hearing.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

WANT TO COMMENT?

There are five more public hearings before the end of the month on the proposed fare increase to take effect July 1.

Locally, the Fredericksburg hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, at the Central Rappahannock Re gional Library on Caroline Street. For a list of others, go to: vre.org/feedback/public hearingdates.html

Riders who can’t make it to the public hearings have the option of sending comments to VRE. The deadline is April 5.

By mail: Anna Gotthardt, 1500 King Street, Suite 202, Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Email: publiccomment@vre.org\

Fax: 703/684-1313

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2013/03/15/proposed-vre-fare-hike-drawing-few-complaints/