Following months of sometimes contentious debate, Metro’s Board of Directors has paved the way for the first of two fare hikes. The first went into effect June 27 and is part of the beleaguered transit system’s effort to cover a $189 million budget deficit. The agency’s new fiscal year begins July 1 and incorporates an operating budget of $1.4 billion.

Rail fares over the weekend rose about 18 percent with peak service rates going from $1.65 to $1.95. At the same time, bus boarding passes increased 20 percent, going from $1.25 to $1.95.

Another bump in fares will go into effect Aug. 1.

So far, SmarTrip cards users have gotten a break, with their rates having decreased by half. Instead of paying $5, those riders will now pay $2.50. That decision came out of Metro’s efforts to further encourage commuters to use the cards.

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, who heads the Metro board, was the only member to vote against the increases. His particular concern has focused on bus commuters, who he said tend to be among the District’s poorest residents.

“I’m not in favor of raising fees, especially for the people who depend the most on public transportation,” Graham told the AFRO. “But , I don’t know what else we could have done. I’ve been fighting this a long time.”

Metro has contended that the fare hikes are necessary to avoid a cut in services.