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Should Transit Systems Charge More During Peak Hours?

8:48 AM PDT on May 7, 2010

peak-hour Metro commuters pay a surcharge in the most congested part of
the system? (Photo: roboppy via

This morning on the Streetsblog Network, there's a
lively and intelligent discussion going on at Jarrett Walker's Human
over the question "Should fares be higher during peak

The Human Transit post was sparked by an earlier discussion at
Yonah Freemark's blog, The
Transport Politic
, about the possibility of peak surcharges on
Washington, D.C.'s Metro system (it already costs more to ride Metro at
peak times; the proposal in question is for an additional 50-cent charge
in the most congested part of the system).

Walker thinks such charges could be a good thing:

There's also an argument for peak surcharging that connects with
urbanist goals for transit. People who have the option of traveling
off-peak should be encouraged to do so, because off-peak capacity is
usually abundant, while peak capacity is naturally scarce and costly for
the transit agency. This strategy helps build off-peak patronage, which
supports more all-day service, which leads directly to transit that is
more relevant to the entire life of the city rather than just the
commute. All-day frequent service is the only type of service that can
support transit-oriented development and thus change the shape of the
city in more sustainable ways.  From an urbanist perspective, then, a
gentle but persistent effort to shift demand away from the peak makes

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