WMATA: Delays to be 15 minutes or less, or your money back

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A WMATA Metro Red Line train passes near Washington Union Station.
TRAINS: Steve Sweeney
WASHINGTON — Metro officials say commuters should have train delays of 15 minutes or less, or get their money back.

In a move reminiscent of pizza delivery commercials, Paul Wiedefeld, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's general manager, proposes a "Rush-Hour Promise" that would refund passengers their fare money if trains they are more than 15 minutes late, the Washington Post reports.

The proposal is expected to come before WMATA's safety and service delivery committee on Thursday, and could come to a vote before the agency's board of director's on Jan. 26. If approved by the board, WMATA would begin to automatically refund fares to WMATA Metro rail passengers using registered SmarTrip cards. Bus users would have apply for their refunds separately.

The move is a tactic WMATA managers say could bring back customers who've suffered delays, breakdowns, and worse, over several years.

A WMATA report the Post cites shows that after passengers have a ride delayed of 30 minutes or more, the passenger is likely to give up on the system altogether, or at least curtail their public transit use.

Daily average ridership is about 615,000, compared to peak ridership figures of more than 750,000 in 2008. About 88 percent of WMATA's trains arrive on time, according to the report. Between July and October 2016, the latest figures available, a total 285,296 rail and bus trips saw delays of 15 minutes or more and would have qualified for the refund.

Officials say the refund program could cost the agency between $2 and $3.5 million for 2018.
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