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Maryland transit riders will pay more for buses, trains

Light rail train
Kristen Mosbrucker
The Maryland Transit Administration is increasing the ticket prices for both trains and buses next week.

Public transportation riders should expect to pay more money for tickets on regional buses and trains across Maryland starting Sunday.

The Maryland Transit Administration is required by state law to increase fares every two years under the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013. That’s the same bill that ties the gas tax to the Consumer Price Index.

Bus and light rail fares were supposed to increase last year but Gov. Larry Hogan earmarked money from the federal coronavirus pandemic relief bill, the American Relief Plan Act, to cover the difference. Both commuter bus and MARC train fares did rise, however.

One-way bus ticket prices will increase from $1.90 to $2 starting June 26 while Mobility Link fares will increase from $2.10 to $2.20. Day passes will increase 20 cents to $4.60. Monthly bus passes are going up from $74 to $77.

Roughly one-third of day pass riders and 10 percent of one-way fare ticket holders are low-income residents, according to MTA data.

"Affordability is an issue," said Samuel Jordan president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition.

The fare hike could be the difference between somebody getting on the bus for work or not, Jordan said. Beyond that, many riders question whether there has been any improvement to the quality of services, such as more buses or performance measures.

"This is not the time to impose an increase," Jordan said.

Ridership for public transportation across the state plummeted during the pandemic but has recovered somewhat. About 2.4 million people were riding buses during the month of April 2020, compared to 5.3 million in April 2019. Ridership has rebounded to 3.4 million individuals during April this year.

The MTA rolled out CharmFlex, a discounted fare program for commuters working hybrid in-office and at home schedules where day passes can be used on nonconsecutive days.

Nearly 78 percent of buses were on-time in March 2020, the highest in years, but that figure has fallen to roughly 75 percent of city buses running on schedule as of March 2022, MTA data shows.

In September 2020, Gov. Larry Hogan proposed eliminating 25 bus lines across the Maryland Transit Administration system and cited pandemic related budget shortfalls. At the time, ridership was down 60 percent overall. Gov. Hogan reversed the decision after public pushback against the plan.

In the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson metro area the consumer price index increased 9.1 percent between April 2021 and April 2022. Food was up 11.3 percent over the year while gasoline jumped by nearly 40 percent.

Kristen Mosbrucker is a digital news editor and producer for WYPR. @k_mosbrucker
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