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VRE Drops Plans for WiFi, Considers Fare Hike

VRE Chief Executive discussed 2012 plans in an online chat.

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.

Anna Gibson January 10, 2012 at 01:25 PM
State and local governments must increase support for Metro, VRE and other transit options. Right now, fare on Metro is prohibitively expensive for some - $5.20 each way to get downtown plus $4.50 to park. Our region's roads are in horrible shape and our commute is already one of the worst in the country. We cannot keep pretending like these problems will solve themselves.
Suhas Naddoni January 11, 2012 at 12:57 PM
I think VRE's priority should be to provide adequate rail service to it's patrons. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone to surf the internet. As a commuter, I would rather have more rail-cars and seating. Also, increased frequency of trains and trains commuting both directions.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) January 11, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Suhas! What are you doing commenting on the Burke Patch! You are suppose to be on the Manassas Park Patch only!
Stanley E Neuman January 12, 2012 at 07:11 PM
I think VRE should focus on adding a Thomas the Train face on the front of all trains. This will help reduce stress levels of commuters county-wide.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) January 12, 2012 at 09:41 PM
LMBO @ Stanley!!!
Susan Larson (Editor) January 13, 2012 at 03:01 AM
James, too! I'm partial to James.

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