Virginia Railway Express (VRE) has dropped plans to add WiFi to its commuter trains.
In an online chat last week, VRE chief executive Dale Zehner said, "While, I was optimistic for WiFi in 2011, in 2012, the priority for WiFi is dropping. During our last survey most riders said they wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t free. Also, I am not convinced that we can provide uninterrupted service at this time."
Zehner said VRE's three priorities for the New Year are:
- Maintaining on-time performance;
- Adding more cars and trains;
- Making the system even more customer service friendly.
VRE's Operations Board is considering Zehner's recommendation for a fare hike, effective July 1, 2012. "We have not had a fare increase in three years," said Zehner. "I don't like doing them, but I want to sustain the service at the levels we have today, because that is what the riders demand."
The proposed $88.7 million Fiscal Year 2013 budget includes the three percent fare hike request, and a six-year plan which calls for fare increases of four percent in the 2015 and 2017 fiscal years.
VRE spokesman Mark Roeber told the Washington Post the 2013 budget, "anticipates fewer dollars from the state and federal governments and an increase in fuel prices."
Riders are also faced with higher ticket costs due to the decrease in the federal transit subsidy. Transit advocates were pushing for the continuation of the $230 per month subsidy enacted as part of The American Recovery and Economic Stimulus Act of 2009. As of Jan. 1, 2012, it fell to $125 per month.
According to The Washington Examiner, "Transit advocates had been pushing for Congress to extend the higher benefits, but the effort got lost amid the end-of-year scuffle over the payroll tax."
VRE spokesman Mark Roeber told the Washington Examiner about 68 percent of the system's riders use some form of the transit subsidy.