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VRE passes fare increase
VRE fares to rise by 3 percent starting July 1


Date published: 4/21/2012

BY SCOTT SHENK

DALE CITY

--As of July 1, Virginia Railway Express riders will be paying 3 percent more for their tickets.

The fare rate increase should generate $900,000 during the next fiscal year for the commuter train system, said Dale Zehner, VRE's chief executive officer, at Friday's Operations Board meeting.

The new fare prices will add 15 cents to 35 cents to each ticket, depending on the length of the trip, according VRE figures.

Apparently the first rate increase in two years hasn't caused much angst among riders as there was "unusually low" turnout at the seven public hearings VRE held on the issue, Zehner said.

Four riders showed for the March hearing in Fredericksburg and no one went to the Stafford hearing.

Still, two area representatives on the VRE board voted against the increase--Susan Stimpson and Paul Milde, both members of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.

They said they couldn't support a rate hike while there is also going to be a 3 percent increase in the annual subsidy for VRE member localities.

In fiscal 2011, Stafford's subsidy was $2.734 million. Localities also take in millions of dollars each year from the VRE gas tax.

"I don't think a fare increase is warranted at this time," Stimpson said during the meeting.

Milde said raising the rate isn't going to draw in new riders.

"I think we should be encouraging people to ride the rail instead of riding on the roads," he said after the meeting. "That isn't to say it isn't a good deal."

Fred Howe, a member of the Fredericksburg City Council and VRE board, voted for the increase. He said the additional revenues will help VRE keep up its level of service as well as continue improving equipment, such as getting more rail cars to alleviate crowding.

NUMBERS DOWN IN MARCH

On the heels of a year in which VRE continuously broke ridership records, March was a downer.


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