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Metro board questions why ridership has dropped in recent months

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Did higher Metro fares drive riders away? That is one possibility the Metro board looked at today when considering a more than four percent drop in the first half of fiscal year 2013.

Metro officials believe there are a number of reasons why fewer people got on board in the first months of this year. They're even blaming Superstorm Sandy.

Metro called in experts to find out why ridership, and thus revenue, dropped sharply in the first half of the fiscal year.

Regular rider Meghan Schulte says she could have told them why there has been a drop.

"I would probably take a cab or or walk or drive," Schulte says. "Because I don't want to sit around and wait for ten to thirty minutes.

Weekend rider numbers are way down, a whopping nine percent. But that's when Metro does a lot of track work which leads to those delays.

Metro officials acknowledge higher priced tickets probably are a factor as well.

But they also blame Superstorm Sandy and they cite the federal government cutting the Metro benefit for employees.

While the Metro board pondered the drop in ridership, it wondered if the effects of sequestration furloughs could mean even fewer passengers. Metro officials already are floating ways of dealing with further reductions in ridership.

While reducing staffing and closing off facilities would save money, it also has the potential to drive even more Metro passengers into their cars.

"It's easier for me to drive sometimes," says Jasper Carter, a Metro passenger. "Because of the delays and stuff."

Despite the drop in ridership, Metro still finished the year with a $5 million surplus. And that is attributed, in part, to its fare increases.

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