WASHINGTON D.C. — A proposal to refund Metro passengers for late trains during rush hour moved one step closer to becoming a reality last Thursday after a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration committee unanimously approved a plan that would refund passengers for trains that are late by 15 minutes or more during rush hour service.
The unanimous recommendation by Metro’s Safety and Service Delivery Committee’s during its Jan. 11 meeting brings the plan one step closer to final approval, and needs only the full WMATA board’s approval before going into effect, which WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said could happen as early as Jan. 26.
“We know we still need to earn back their confidence,” explained Assistant GM Lynn Bowersox.
The proposed plan, which will also apply to Metro’s bus service, will refund riders who have a bus or train that is 15 minutes or more late with credit on a rider’s SmartTrip card if it’s late during rush hour service, which is 5 to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. If approved, Metro would be exempt from providing refunds for late trains and buses if there is a planned major construction, a “significant weather event” or an emergency.
Metrorail riders will need to have email accounts associated with their SmartTrip cards to take advantage of the refunds, as they will automatically get a refund added to their cards if a train is 15 minutes late or more. Metrobus riders won’t have as easy a time of it, as they’ll have to fill out a request form to receive a refund for each late bus they are on.
While estimates suggest the program would cost Metro $2 to $3.5 million, Wiedefeld said he thinks it will bring more revenue into Metro in the long run.
“I believe as we get this out there it does reflect that the system does actually run very well every day and particularly during rush hour, and we want to promote that,” Wiedefeld said.
According to statistics from Metro, during a four-month period from July to October 2017, 285,296 rush-hour trips were delayed 15 minutes or more, accounting for .5 percent of all rush hour trips.
The plan to refund riders is part of a Metro marketing push is part of a plan to win back riders after years of unreliable service. In February, Metro reported that its ridership numbers for both rail and bus were down nine percent from the previous year accounting for a $125 million shortfall. The revenue shortfall, caused in part by the myriad problems that have plagued the system, have contributed to Metro’s issues as they have had to raise prices to keep revenues up.
Bowersox said the plan to refund Metro customers for late trains and buses would hopefully build greater trust between riders and Metro.
“We want to show our customers that we are accountable for delivering reliable service and they will get to their destination on time – especially when they are traveling to work,” she said.