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MTA unveils new MARC plan with smaller fare hike

Passengers walk down stairs at Penn Station, where they will board a MARC train to Washington D.C.
Passengers walk down stairs at Penn Station, where they will board a MARC train to Washington D.C. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

After MARC riders complained about a hefty increase in the fares for seven-day passes, the Maryland Transit Administration has unveiled a new, less costly pass that can be used only on weekdays.

The MTA announced the new plan Thursday at the monthly meeting of the MARC Riders Advisory Council in Washington.

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The original plan would have raised the cost of a seven-day pass to travel between Baltimore and Washington from $52.50 to $80. The new passes will cost $60 for five days.

A spokeswoman said the MTA was not changing its earlier fare plan, which she called the minimum required to comply with a legislative mandate.

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"This is a brand-new product," spokeswoman Erin Henson said. She said the MTA heard the riders' contention that the vast majority of weekly ticket purchasers ride MARC only to commute Monday to Friday.

The MARC riders' group protested this week after the MTA announced plans last month to impose sizable increases June 25 in MARC fares that haven't risen since 2003.

The riders did not object to the $1 increase on all single-ticket fares on the Penn, Camden and Brunswick lines. They agreed that increase was required under the same 2013 law that raised Maryland's gas tax. That change took the Baltimore-Washington one-way fare from $7 to $8.

But the council called for public hearings on the plan to raise weekly fares by as much as 67 percent and monthly fares by as much as 35 percent to reflect the potential for weekend trips.

Henson said the MTA will still offer the seven-day weekly passes at the prices announced last month. She said the agency would not change the increases to monthly fares, which took a Baltimore-Washington pass from $175 to $216 — a 24 percent increase.

Rafi Guroian, a spokesman for the MARC riders group, called the new weekly pass "a very good start" but renewed the council's calls for public hearings. He said the monthly increases exceed the minimum required by law.

"We still have concerns when it comes to the monthlies and the way they're calculated," Guroian said.

He said riders who purchase the monthly passes are looking for a solution similar to the weekly five-day pass.

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