Metro riders will pay more to take the rail system starting Sunday, just as they were getting used to coughing up more under fare increases enacted five weeks ago.

The transit agency is planning to implement the second phase of the fare increases, which are expected to help Metro generate about $108 million total for the current $2.2 billion budget. This round, though, is a bit more confusing: 20 cents extra for "peak of the peak" trips during the busiest times of the weekday commute and additional charges for paper farecard users.

What's next? One more change will be arriving on Aug. 29, when Metro drops the cost of the plastic SmarTrip cards from $5 to $2.50. The move is intended to encourage riders to use the reloadable fare cards. The delayed timing comes because Metro's board made the decision at the last minute when approving the budget. The cards cost Metro $3.40 each, but the agency says it has $4 million in reserves from the profit it has made off the higher price of the cards to cover the loss per card.


Riders could be forgiven especially for being confused about the 25-cent paper surcharges. Metro has repeatedly called the charge a "discount" or "savings" in press releases and fliers, saying riders will "save" a quarter if they use plastic SmarTrip cards instead of the paper cards.

But Metro acknowledges SmarTrip riders will pay the same amount they already are paying after the June 27 fare increases. A rail trip costing $1.60 during off-peak hours Thursday, for example, would cost $1.85 with a paper card on Sunday but$1.60 for SmarTrip users. (Bus riders already pay 20 cents more when they pay cash instead of using a SmarTrip.)

The agency pledged on Wednesday to ditch the term "discount" in describing the change after questions from The Washington Examiner.

"That's the wording we were using," spokesman Reggie Woodruff said. "Now we are changing our characterization of it."

Meanwhile, the peak of the peak charges will begin with Monday's commute, charging rail riders an extra 20 cents per trip if they enter the fare gates between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Riders who enter before then yet exit during that window will not face extra charges, since it could penalize riders delayed by service problems. The idea is to encourage riders to spread out their trips to reduce crowding.

The estimated cost of enacting all the new fare increases with new signs, advertising and fliers clocks in about $500,000, Metro says.