WMATA releases preliminary budget, gap now $190M
According to the report, the recent labor arbitration and a continued decline in revenues have pushed the budget shortfall to almost $190 million, about $15 million more than the previously anticipated shortfall.
As advocates and some Board members requested, the report encompasses more cuts and revenue increases than necessary. That will give riders and the Board a larger menu to choose from. Not everything on this list needs to happen for WMATA to have a balanced budget. However, many ideas that we've discussed here still don't appear on the list.
The report includes:
Subsidy increases ($40 million): Although none of the jurisdictions has yet volunteered to increase its contribution to support WMATA, local transit advocacy groups like Transit First (of which Greater Greater Washington is a member), MetroRiders.org, Coalition for Smarter Growth and the Sierra Club all called on the local governments to increase their support for WMATA.
Director Chris Zimmerman from Virginia mentioned this need during a board meeting on Thursday, and with the door now open, Metro staff put this into the budget. Still, it'd be a tough sell: It's hard times for all local governments, who are looking to reduce most expenditures, not increase them.
Fare increases ($89.2 million): Continuing the recently approved ten cent fare increase would raise about $35 million. That increase expires at the end of June. WMATA is considering the following increases, all of which have to be approved to raise the required budget amount:
- Rail: Fares increase about 15% overall. Regular (peak) fares will increase to $1.90-5.00, with a peak surcharge of an additional ten cents during 7:30-9 am and 4:30-6 pm. Reduced (off-peak) fares will increase to $1.55 to $2.70. Passes would increase proportionally, and transfers would be good for only 2 hours instead of 3. This raises $64 million.
- Bus: Fares increase to $1.50 with a SmarTrip card, or $3.75 for express buses. The 5A and B30 will be $6.00, and transfers will only be good for two hours instead of three. Metro's popular flash bus pass, used by over 20% of riders, will increase from $12.00 to $15.00 per week, becoming equivalent to ten single rides. This raises $23.7 million.
- Paratransit: Fares increase to $3.00 per ride. WMATA says charging the equivalent fare to rail service was considered. This raises $1.1 million.
- Other: Bike lockers will cost $200 per year instead of $70 to raise $200,000.
Administrative staff reductions ($16.3 million): More staff cuts, likely from the Information Technology, Financial Services, and Corporate Strategy and Communications departments, though this is not entirely clear. Metro's administrative staff has been the source of two years of budget-balancing reductions.
Rail service cuts ($15.4 million): All the proposed rail service cuts from this past budget round are back, with larger budget impacts because they would be implemented for the whole year. Only $15.4 million out of the proposed $23.4 million in changes has to be approved to meet the budget target:
- Less frequent trains: Same as previously proposed, 15 minutes between trains during the daytime, as much as 30 minutes at night. This saves $8.5 million.
- Shorter trains: No 8 car trains during peak, which would save $2.7 million.
- Shorter hours: Open later on weekdays by half an hour, open later by an hour and up to three hours on weekends. This saves up to $7.7 million.
- Closed entrances: Close ten station entrances on weekends, close 5 station entrances at 8pm on weekdays. I assume it's the same list as proposed before. $870,000.
- Closed stations: Metro doesn't explain what exactly they mean, but closing three stations on the weekends could save $100,000.
- No Yellow Line weekends: On weekends or during late night (after 9:30 pm), operate the Yellow line only as a shuttle between King Street and Huntington, requiring passengers to transfer to the Blue line. Saves $1.32 million.
- No Yellow Line north of Mt. Vernon Square: Eliminate the Yellow line extension to Fort Totten, all the time. Saves $1.84 million.
Bus service cuts ($18.3 million): This is really too long to list, but it's comprehensive. Trips are eliminated, buses will come less frequently, routes and segments are eliminated, weekend late night service is cut, and bus stops are cut.
Bus stop reduction to five per mile on four lines in DC would save $800,000 per year. Similar bus stop reduction proposals in Virginia and Maryland would save $250,000. WMATA proposed a total of $26.5 million in cuts, of which $18.3 million have to be taken to balance the budget.
MetroAccess service cuts ($10 million): WMATA is considering reducing the service area to the federally-mandated 3/4 mile corridor and the hours of service for that corridor, implementing conditional eligibility for new participants, and charging the equivalent transit fare, which could include rail transit fare for trips that non-participants would typically travel by rail.
What do you think? Next week, we'll post our reactions.
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