COMMUTE

Why is Metro losing riders?

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Ernesto Lafuente used to ride Metro everyday from Falls Church. But that routine ended a year and a half ago because the prices were too high and the frequent delays.

Lafuente switched to driving into the city and says that cut his commute by 20 minutes compared to when he took Metro.

He's not alone. Metro ridership has been dropping steadily over the last four years. Since 2008 the number of passenger trips has dropped by more than 5 million.

Metro officials say the tough economy, not last year's fare increase, that's causing the decline in ridership.

“People really haven't changed their ridership based on the fare increase,” said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. “The largest driver of ridership is the employment market.”

And with the economy still slumping, Metro predicts in the next fiscal year ridership will drop 5 percent. The fatal accident from 2009 does not appear to be a factor for most riders and the vast majority still enjoy taking the trains.

And with more than 217 million trips each year, it remains among the most popular Metro systems in the country.

“The Metro is so efficient, you just sit and relax, don't have to drive,” says rider Colleen Herron.

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