City of Manassas Park Could Pay Less to VRE, Riders Could Pay More
New VRE track in Spotsylvania County leads to projected decrease in the amount of money city will pay to VRE, while federal and state budget cuts could lead to a three percent fare increase in July.
The City of Manassas Park is set to see a decrease in its bill from the Virginia Railway Express in Fiscal Year 2013, despite the possibility of a fare increase for VRE riders beginning in July.
As part of an agreement, each jurisdiction served by the commuter rail service contributes to its operations.
This year, Manassas Park will pay $556,000 to the VRE for its services, VRE spokesman Mark Roeber said.
But Manassas Park is slated to pay some $40,000 less in 2013.
The decrease mainly has to do with Spotsylvania County coming online next year and contributing its full allocation because of a new VRE track opening in the county in 2013, he said.
Manassas Park experienced a slight increase in ridership in 2011 when the number of riders went from 302 to 305, according to data collected from the October VRE ridership survey.
But not all jurisdictions who have more riders will pay less. Fairfax County also saw an increase in VRE ridership by some 180 people, but it will have to pay more because of that increase, according to a report by The Washington Examiner.
In July, riders could see a three percent increase in fare, largely because of expected cuts in federal and state funding, Roeber said.
The increase is the VRE's first since 2009 when fares increased twice in a six-month period.
The three percent increase is expect to bring in about $3.9 million more in revenue.
The CEO of the Virginia Railway Express, the board and other chief staff members are reluctant to impose a fare increase on riders, he said.
“We’re hoping that more money is made available,” Roeber said. “… We don’t want to do that.”
The VRE is projected to received 30 percent less money from the federal government and 15 to 20 percent less from the state.
On Jan. 1, Congress followed through on its plan to decrease the amount it pays in federal transit benefits, also known as taxpayer subsidies. As of this month, the federal government went from paying $230 a month to paying $125 a month toward transportation costs for each federal employee.
A monthly ticket from Manassas Park to Union Station is about $234. It is a little less for riders who disembark at Alexandria or Crystal City.
The decrease could lead to some people opting to drive to work instead of riding the VRE.
“I certainly think it will be a determining factor for people to consider,” Roeber said of the decrease in federal transit benefits. “Clearly, it’s going to have some effect on some people.”
People will have to weigh the option of riding the VRE against traveling on congested highways and secondary roadways to work, Roeber said.
Even traveling from Manassas Park to Manassas at the wrong time of day can take several minutes, he said.
“VRE on-time performance is at 90 percent or more; in October it was 98 percent—you can’t do much better than that,” Roeber said.
As far as the three percent increase is concerned, it actually adds up to about 30 cents on the cost of an individual ticket, which isn’t much when compared to the fare increases imposed by other agencies in the U.S., he said.
The Greater Boston Public Transportation System had a 43 percent increase in fares while the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transportation Authority had a 15 percent increase in fares, Roeber said.
Other transit systems in the U.S. increased fares by well over 25 percent, he added.
Fares cover about 67 percent of the VRE's operating costs.