After completing my recent analysis of WMATA’s Metrorail fare increase, I decided to do some more research to better put the fares in a national context.
First, a took a look at how Metrorail compares with the nation’s other subway systems. As you can see, every subway except Philadelphia’s PATCO, San Francisco’s BART, and the D.C. Metro operate with a flat fare for all riders. BART and the D.C. Metro are the most expensive of all by far.
Next, I added the total system lengths as a rough measure of the distance and choices offered by each system. The big outlier here is the huge New York City Subway. Chicago’s CTA is roughly the same size as Metro, but generally cheaper at $2.00. (However it should be noted the CTA is in a financial crisis.) L.A.’s new subway is the cheapest of the group at $1.25.
The D.C. Metro and San Francisco’s BART are often described as sister systems. They serve similar sized cities, were built at a similar time, and provide a similar type of service to their riders. They both also use a graduated fare system rather than a fixed fare. Like Metrorail, BART has recently adopted fare increases.
To complete the following analysis, for BART I used the 16th Street Mission station. For the Washington, D.C. fares I used the Shaw station. Both are residential neighborhoods located near the center of the systems, resulting in a good variety of destinations among the sample trips.
On the BART system, trips under 6 miles are fixed at $1.50, and longer trips vary according to length and where they run thanks to a variety of surcharges. (Airport trips are more expensive, for example.) Children, seniors, and the disabled receive a fixed 62.5% discount.
Here’s the result if you plot the regular fares from BART and Metrorail. For shorter trips, the two systems are roughly analogous, and for longer trips Metrorail is more expensive.
However, as the most interesting result comes by graphing the per mile cost of each fare. It seems the new BART and Metrorail fares are nearly identical per mile, and like Metrorail the longest trips on BART are quite cheap per mile.