Greater Greater Washington

Budget


Board approves no service cuts

The WMATA Board just approved a FY2010 budget plan much like Option 4, with no service increases reductions and an across-the-board fare surcharge of 10¢.

Arlington's Chris Zimmerman created a resolution that modified Option 4 based on what he and other members heard last night. Among them was a directive to make more administrative cuts in lieu of some use of capital dollars.

Jim Graham spoke against the resolution, arguing that using some capital dollars would not take away from needed preventative maintenance, but ultimately allowed it to proceed without using the veto.

The resolution was not posted online during the meeting. I'll update with the details once it's available.

After the vote, Zimmerman also took a step that many of us had been urging: he publicly called for individual jurisdictions to try to increase their contributions. They all are facing tight budgets and deep cuts in many areas, he agreed, but argued that the possibility of increasing subsidies needs to be on the agenda as jurisdictions set their budgets. He'll make sure it's on Arlington's.

Update: Here is the summary of rider input at the hearing:

  • Support for Option #1: less than 1%
  • Support for Option #2: 1%
  • Support for Option #3: 3.5%
  • Support for Option #4: 21.2%
  • General opposition to modifying service: 54.6%
  • General support for increasing fares: 55.7%
  • Increasing fares 5 or 10 cents: 5.1%
  • Increasing fares above 10 cents: 6.3%
  • Support for using Metro's capital funds sparingly to close the gap: 18.2%
  • Opposition to using any capital funds to close the gap: 6.2%
  • Speculation that proposed modifications to service will cause people to abandon Metro: 17.5%
  • Opposition to changing rail headways or shortening trains: 15.9%
  • Opposition to reducing rail service hours: 17.8%
  • Support for closing certain rail station mezzanines: 3%
  • Opposition to closing certain rail station mezzanines: 8%
  • Opposition to changing bus headways: 5%
  • Opposition to reducing the number of bus stops: 2.6%
David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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probably should say "no service decreases" rather than increases.

I don't know what more they can do in the way of Admin cuts, but I guess we'll see.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 28, 2010 1:21 pm • linkreport

Have they given any thought to moving the blue line to the yellow lines tracks and canceling the virginia cemetery stop except for obvious tourist times? They could just run a 2 car train for 2 weeks at a time between rosslyn and pentagon and carry the tourists to the cemetery. As far as I know, no one local ever goes there via the metro stop. In fact, by doing that they could maybe remove one line completely, the yellow or blue, if the combined ridership numbers aren't at 100%.

by James on Jan 28, 2010 1:37 pm • linkreport

Fire the Board and eliminate the off-peak fares.

And fire Catoe today.

by Redline SOS on Jan 28, 2010 1:38 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS: You're bordering on troll here, but I'll bite.

Once you've eliminated off-peak fares, where do you come up with the approximately $70M per year they used to generate? Remember, all the horrible service cuts Metro proposed only amounted to about $12-15M in savings.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 28, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport

2.5% opposition to the idea of removing bus stops seems pretty low.

I'm sure opposition to removing bus stops would be higher if there were specific bus stops identified for removal.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 28, 2010 1:49 pm • linkreport

@ MP - How do off-peak fares generate anything? If there is one flat rate $2 or $2.50 fare you also eliminate a cost of programming fare gates so you generate more revenue and cut costs.

I'm no transit troll. I'm just one pissed off rider.

by Redline SOS on Jan 28, 2010 2:00 pm • linkreport

@James: What would happen to the Stadium-Largo segment?

What about massively decreased headways on the Rosslyn-Stadium segment?

What about people who use the Blue Line south of the Pentagon and want to go somewhere between Rosslyn and Largo (add a transfer, but that's a hassle)? In fact, what about people on the Blue Line south of Pentagon who want to go between Rosslyn and and Vienna (go into DC, transfer, then go back out, that's even more of a hassle)?

You'd also have a lot of veterans' groups and generally people in support of the military (which, last I checked, is a pretty big majority of this country) who would be pissed. Keep in mind that DC has a lot of control over WMATA, and the federal government has the right to control DC government if it wants, so really, the whole country has control over this, not just locals.

by Tim on Jan 28, 2010 2:08 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS:

Do you mean just charge the same rate all the time? Because the way you're phrasing it, you make it sound like you want Metro to be free during off-peak hours.

Also, programming fare gates isn't really something that costs money. The faregates have that ability built into them already, there's no programming to be done. A flat rate isn't going to increase revenue, it's going to decrease it.

Your cries for a flat rate for the Metro makes me think you live somewhere way out in the 'burbs...

by MLD on Jan 28, 2010 2:12 pm • linkreport

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that WMATA was somehow required to route the Metro trains to provide public transportation to Arlington National Cemetery, and that's why the Blue Line has that unwieldy shape. Unfortunately, I can't remember at this moment where I read that originally (if it's true).

by Greenbelt Gal on Jan 28, 2010 2:19 pm • linkreport

I'm not a Virginian and I don't travel much via Metro in the Commonwealth, but I do know that many people like the quick ride between Alexandria and Rosslyn.

As for eliminating bus stops, I can't wait for that to happen. I'm sure there would be slightly more opposition from people who want to keep "their" stop. However, for every person who wants to keep a stop, there are several others who would be happy to see it go.

by Adam L on Jan 28, 2010 2:43 pm • linkreport

I have removed CW's comment which aggregated various info Redline SOS has posted about where he/she lives, income, job etc. While all of that was posted in comments, I don't want to have whole dossiers of commenters compiled and posted here to try to protect privacy to the extent we can. CW, feel free to repost the other part of your comment if you want.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

David-

My most sincere apologies. Since what I posted was put into circulation by this Redline over the course of one or two comments, all in a single thread, I didn't realize I would be crossing the line by reposting it (my intent in providing the link was even to show that I was really trying to keep the facts straight). I thought instead I would simply be providing MLD a little background in his attempt to understand the previous comments.

All I was trying to say was that anything that reduces the complexity of the system, i.e. removing temporally varying fees, would be beneficial in simplifying operations, even if the direct costs (i.e. programming gates to change fares with time) are not that high.

Again, my apologies.

by CW on Jan 28, 2010 2:52 pm • linkreport

Do I read this correctly that ~75% of the riders polled were in favor of NONE of the options? Were the riders unclear about what the options were, or are the great majority of the riders that were polled in favor of no fare increases with no service cuts (i.e., an unrealistic option)?

by NMRguy on Jan 28, 2010 2:56 pm • linkreport

How many of you (and others who support the fare hike) pay for their metro commute?

Because I pay for it -- and 100% out of pocket. It's expensive.

There is a conflict of interest for those who are in support of the fare hike and the fact that they don't pay for their peak trips.

by Poddy on Jan 28, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

I pay for it, and I support all the hikes we need to retain useful service.

by BeyondDC on Jan 28, 2010 2:59 pm • linkreport

I pay for it and support any necessary hikes. I also do not own an automobile. The costs I pay for Metro are a value compared to auto insurance, maintenance, fuel, parking, etc. Metro is an incredible asset to the DC Metro Area and I would hate to see it spiral into an unreliable, unusable system.

by NMRguy on Jan 28, 2010 3:10 pm • linkreport

How is it a conflict of interests?

It may make it an easier choice for them to support, but it's not a "conflict" of interests as that term is used. People were asked what option they personally preferred. The circumstances of that preference are unique to each person. None of us is in the fiduciary role of having to decide what is the preference of everyone.

That's the role of the board, who are the only people who could have a "conflict of interest."

by Reid on Jan 28, 2010 3:29 pm • linkreport

I pay fully for my metro commute and support the fare increase. Nominal levels of macroeconomic inflation are a fact of life.

by Eric F. on Jan 28, 2010 3:39 pm • linkreport

So more people are in favor of a fare increase more than $0.10 than $0.10 or less. Hmm.

I really hope they read the comments submitted in advance, not just those presented at the hearing, otherwise they shouldn't have asked.

by Gavin Baker on Jan 28, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

First set of bus stops to consolidate: the 42/43 stops along NB Conn. between K St and the beginning of the Dupont Circle area. There are three stops in a two block distance!

by Transport. on Jan 28, 2010 4:58 pm • linkreport

@NMRguy: Many speakers at the hearing did not mention an option number. The tallies reported in this thread feel about right.

By the way,... many of the speakers who categorically opposed fare increases appeared to be speaking on behalf of others or of sweeping ideals (such as communism). There was something fishy about it.

by Turnip on Jan 28, 2010 5:56 pm • linkreport

How's this? 17 stops in between Glebe Road and the East Falls Church metro station (distance 2.2 miles) on the 3 line.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 28, 2010 6:39 pm • linkreport

@Poddy: I donÂ’t pay for my commute, but I do spend a lot of my own money on Metro nonetheless. I am in favor of increasing fares because I realize what a valuable service Metro provides, and I realize that if fares donÂ’t increase this service will no longer exist. That being said, I am in favor of the flat fares that some have proposed. Even if this simply means that the Reduced Fare (which I would be paying out of my own pocket) is increased to match the Regular Fare. While this probably wonÂ’t happen for the entire day, I would like to see the Regular Fare charged starting around 11 PM.

@Michael Perkins: I think I see the confusion in the comments by Redline SOS (as this has not yet been cleared up). While many of us here referred to the two fare tiers are “On-Peak” and “Off-Peak”, Metro refers to them as “Regular” and “Reduced”. When Redline SOS says that we should eliminate “Off-Peak” fares, I believe this means that the Regular Fare should be charged at all times.

As for the buses: how about the 2 line. I think we could eliminate just about every other stop between Glebe Road and Gallows Road. I'll even volunteer "my" stop at Hollywood Road to go first. It's right before a light that almost always turns red as people are getting off.

by James on Jan 28, 2010 7:50 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the link on the tweeting.

I also pay for my own commute.

I suppose I would be for option 4, but my fear is, like a lot of others, ok, so we vote for a fare increase, and STILL they come back and cut and cut and etc etc...which probably will happen.

by Jazzy on Jan 28, 2010 8:15 pm • linkreport

@Jazzy, So this action was only for the period from this March through June. If they didn't do something this year they were going to run out of money and the lights would go out.

What they did today doesn't affect what they're going to have to do before July 1, because that budget is about $170 million short. This ten cent fare increase raised about $10 million over four months, so it might be expected to raise $35-40 million over the coming year. If the discussion up to now is correct and we raise about $90-100 million with a fare increase, then it's going to be "everything goes up a quarter from the start of 2010" which is really everything goes up an additional fifteen cents from what was approved today.

If the board starts tailoring it with larger increases on rail or on longer trips or whatnot, then those increases have to get quite a bit bigger, while the other increases can get smaller.

$90 million in fare increases still means the Board has to find $80 million in other cuts, though.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 28, 2010 8:29 pm • linkreport

New Metro proposed budget is up if anyone else wants to take a look: http://wmata.com/about_metro/docs/FY2011_Proposed_Budget.pdf (PDF)

by Michael Perkins on Jan 28, 2010 10:54 pm • linkreport

A 10 cent fare increase seems rediculously low. Will it even pay for all the signage changes and dispensing machine software modifications that the change will cause?

Given that there hasn't been an a real increase in Metro fares in about the same amount of time there hadn't been a real increase in parking meter fees, wouldn't it have made sense to double Metro fares too? Shouldn't inflation bumps be similar for both?

by Lance on Jan 29, 2010 4:25 am • linkreport

@Lance: Metro says it raises about $9M net of costs. Reprogramming costs almost nothing, it's uploading a new table into the fare control software. I assume the sign change will be a sticker that's applied to all fare tables.

It could not have been higher. DC vetoed consideration of anything higher than ten cents. Doubling would be higher than ten cents, therefore we couldn't consider it.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 6:23 am • linkreport

First of all, nobody pays the cost of their entire commute. The cost of building the system was financed in very large part by federal funds. And the fare that you pay on the rail portion of Metro pays only 80% of operating expenses.
So, no matter who you are, somebody else is helping to pay for your ride.

Second, it seems the only logical solution here is for DC and for the counties that Metro serves in MD and VA to enact a one cent per gasoline tax as a dedicated source of funds for the system. Okay, Blowdry Bobby McDonnell, we can call it a highway/transit user fee. A penny a gallon is chump change, but it will help a lot.

Hell, DC ought to enact such a tax and try to shame the others into following suit. Whether my gasoline costs $2.83 or $2.84 a gallon don't make no nevermind!

I drive a lot and use Metro very little, but I'm more than willing to pay to maintain a mass transit system that keeps the roads from total gridlock.

by Mike on Jan 29, 2010 9:00 am • linkreport

Bus stop elimination is not a good option for people with mobility challenges. Please, those of you who are able to walk longer distances, don't sell out riders who are not. I'm speaking as someone who after an unfortunate fall down the stairs suddenly learned how quickly mobility can be taken away. I would advocate a mix of express buses and local buses on one route rather than outright elimination of certain stops.

by Greenbelt Transit Advocate on Feb 1, 2010 2:36 pm • linkreport

@Greenbelt Transit Advocate: Surely there's a limit to how close bus stops need to be to each other. There are two bus stops across the street from my work that are only 250 feet apart, only 0.05 miles. Isn't that too close together?

Not only do the extra stops slow down the movement of buses on busy lines, but extra bus stops cost WMATA money, in maintenance, and in fees to contractors. For example, I just found out that WMATA has to pay NextBus a fee per bus stop per month for phone support.

What I've heard discussed is reducing the number of stops to 10 per mile maximum.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 1, 2010 2:55 pm • linkreport

@Michael Perkins, I hope that Metro is working with disability advocacy groups and disability transit planners to determine how close bus stops need to be to each other. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of people who need the system the most. In reading these comments and other transit advocacy lists, I haven't seen much mention of disabled people's bus stop needs and I want to make sure that able-bodied transit advocates are not forgetting the rest of us. I urge all of us who work in transit advocacy to consult and partner with disability groups.

by Greenbelt Transit Advocate on Feb 1, 2010 3:57 pm • linkreport

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