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VRE sets hearings on fares
Public hearings set for proposed VRE fare rate hike.


Date published: 3/6/2012

BY SCOTT SHENK

The Virginia Railway Express has scheduled seven public hearings to address a proposed 3 percent fare hike.

Locally, there will be two public hearings:

Tuesday, March 13: The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Rappahannock Regional Library at 1201 Caroline St.

Thursday, March 29: This hearing will also be held at 7 p.m., at the Stafford County Government Center, Board of Supervisors chambers, at 1300 Courthouse Road.

The other hearings will be held in Northern Virginia and Washington.

The proposed rate increase would be the first in two years.

VRE imposed a 16 percent total fare increase in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years.

The commuter rail service's six-year plan includes possible fare increases of 4 percent in the 2015 and 2017 fiscal years.

The current proposed increase might prove unpopular with riders, especially since the federal subsidy dropped in January.

In December, during a presentation for the upcoming budget, CEO Dale Zehner pointed out the importance of fare revenue, especially since VRE expects state and federal funding to drop by $5 million in fiscal 2013.

He said diesel fuel costs also are expected to have a negative effect on VRE. In fact, the rising prices already have hurt VRE, which had to spend $1 million more on diesel fuel than it planned to this fiscal year.

This year's record ridership numbers, and revenues, have softened that blow.

If the increase is approved, it will take effect in July.

For those who can't attend the hearings, there are other options.

Comments can be sent by mail to: Anna Gotthardt, 1500 King St., Suite 202, Alexandria, Va. 22314.

Email comments should be sent to: publiccomment@vre .org.

Faxes can be sent to: 703/684-1313.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436
Email: sshenk@freelancestar.com