Greater Greater Washington

Budget


WMATA releases preliminary budget, gap now $190M

There's no time to rest. Just hours after the WMATA Board approved a resolution to the FY2010 budget, staff released the General Manager's preliminary budget for FY2011, which starts July 1.


Photo by pberry.

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.

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia. 

Comments

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What do I think? I think it's pretty clear the oft-discussed "death spiral" is upon us.

As I noted before, 30-minute headways AND having to transfer at King Street will either push me to drive into DC to go to stuff, or I just won't go into DC.

by Froggie on Jan 29, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

Those items only add up to a little over $196 million, which does not give a whole lot of menu choices when you have to get up to $190.

A few other thoughts:
$6 for the 5A/B30 seems steep. Is demand for these bus lines that inelastic?

I wonder if the Yellow Line items are nonstarters given Jim Graham's position on the board.

How many times can we go to the well on staff reductions?

by Steven on Jan 29, 2010 10:22 am • linkreport

No Yellow Line weekends? So if you want to take the Metro from Pentagon to L'Enfant, you'd now have to go all the way around on the Blue line? That's eight extra stops! If they propose running a shuttle to Huntington, they should also run one across the (already underutilized) bridge.

by Teo on Jan 29, 2010 10:27 am • linkreport

Ouch. $190 million? And the fare increases don't even get to $90 million?

by Alex B. on Jan 29, 2010 10:29 am • linkreport

Teo: hence my comment...

by Froggie on Jan 29, 2010 10:39 am • linkreport

What strikes me is how little the service cuts actually save. Even when you add them up in total, you're only talking 33.7 million (43.7 million with MetroAccess included).

Any breakdown of where the gap is coming from? For example, is the gap from a decrease in rail ridership revenue? Bus ridership? Specific cost increases? I'd love to see a numbers breakdown of those issues.

by Alex B. on Jan 29, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

Did I mention that according to this document the Board has exactly four weeks to decide what to ask the public to comment on at public hearings?

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

@alexb: open the document and read the first couple pages for a good overview. I recommend the general manager's message on pages 5-6 of the PDF (marked page 3-4).

http://wmata.com/about_metro/docs/FY2011_Proposed_Budget.pdf

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

Are these all serious suggestions, or are some of them threats to get people riled up? Because the thought of no yellow line on weekends sure riles *me* up.

A peak-of-the-peak surcharge of 10 cents seems small. But I don't commute by Metro, so I take peak-of-the-peak trips only rarely.

by Johanna on Jan 29, 2010 10:51 am • linkreport

If the current trend of increasing fares with no increase in subsidy continues, a lot of service will be paid for 100% by riders, and cutting service will result in losing just as many fares as you reduce costs.

Then, there will be no way to balance the budget by cutting service. This is already evident in many of the proposed service cuts. Some of them cut huge amounts of costs, but also large revenue reductions, to end up with a small net savings. This is foolish. If people are willing to pay 90+% of the cost to keep that service going, why should we cut that back?

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

If those Metrorail service cuts come to pass, I'll NEVER use the system. EVER. That level of service is completely unacceptable.

by Jon on Jan 29, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

I've often wondered what running the escalators as stairs would save in electricity and maintenance. With the exception of some of the longer escalators (Dupont, Woodley, Rosslyn), I would think most riders would be willing to hoof it to keep us out of the death spiral.

My proposal would include keeping the elevators running as normal, so as not to reduce Metro's accessibility.

Surely we'd rather walk up a set of stairs rather than having service cuts, no?

by eleventh on Jan 29, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

Just turning escalators off and using them as stairs as a matter of policy is not an option. That does not meet ADA requirements and escalators can still break down - the steps actually move out of place, etc.

There was a proposal to replace some shorter escalators with staircases, and it would save some money, but it's a longer term time horizon to realize the savings.

Either way, that kind of work isn't the reason that Metro has the budget gap that it does. They're not $190 million in the hole because of the costs of operating the escalators...

by Alex B. on Jan 29, 2010 11:01 am • linkreport

@eleventh

I'm talking out my ass here, but the amount of money you save by turning of the escalators isn't even 1/20th of the amount needed to stave of service cuts.

There's a reason WMATA isn't proposing these piddly stuff "out of the box" solutions. It's because they aren't a solution at all - they would save pennies compared to the cuts they actually have to do. If they could solve their budget crisis by turning off the escalators in half the stations you damn well better believe they'd be doing it.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2010 11:09 am • linkreport

No 8 car trains at peak for the Orange and Red seem pretty silly for the low amount of savings. You could probably get away with it on the other 3 lines.

I assume MetroAccess and Paratransit are the same thing? I see they are raising the fares. But what about reducing the service? Isn't the current level of service being provided above federal mandated levels and leading to rampant cost escalation? We need to nip this in the bud.

by Paul on Jan 29, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport

To me, cutting the Yellow Line makes little sense. If I were to get rid of any line, it would be the Blue Line. South of King St., the Yellow line could have every other train going to either Huntington or Franconia-Springfield. Going across the Potomac bridge provides a faster, more efficient trip into Downtown DC, and it provides more frequent service to double the Green Line through the core of the city. Getting rid of the Blue Line would also allow for more frequent service on the western and central portions of the Orange Line. East of Stadium-Armory, where there are fewer riders, the Orange Line could have every other train going to New Carollton or Largo (in the same way the Yellow Line would split south of King Street). This would alleiviate the congestion in the Rosslyn Tunnel, and also perhaps begin to prepare riders for future Silver Line service, which may necessitate the elimination of the Blue Line anyway! When the Silver Line begins service it could perhaps take over one of the Orange Line's "legs" on the eastern end of the system. Whew...

I'm sure others will inform me of the errors in my thinking here, as these ideas are all based on what I've read on this site about ridership levels and on my own anecdotal experience riding the rails!

by David T on Jan 29, 2010 11:13 am • linkreport

Why didn't the board recommend increased efficiencies (i.e., dedicated bus lanes)? The DC gov't is looking at a whole lot of lost cash if these cuts come to pass. DDOT should be encouraged to play by striping some dedicated bus lanes on major commuter routes. I can't remember what the numbers are, but if I remember correctly, a dedicated lane on Georgia avenue alone would save like eight figures, right?

All I'm saying: if the region isn't going to pony up additional cash, DC should spend a little more to help WMATA save money and avoid cuts. DC is most adversely affected by this, anyways...

by JTS on Jan 29, 2010 11:17 am • linkreport

This will have a huge impact on real estate values, depending on what happens to blue/yellow south of the pentagon. Think Pentagon City/Crystal City and the lack of other transit. Many people live there with their primary way of getting to dc via metro.

by Pete on Jan 29, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

Man, that's a really large increase on the bike lockers. Why no increase on parking?

by jcm on Jan 29, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

@JTS: The shortfall starts in July. They have to have something that can be advertised in March, approved in April, designed in May, implemented in June and ready to go July 1.

Dedicated bus lanes cannot be done in that short a time frame.

@David T: The Rosslyn tunnel is only congested during the peak of rush hour. The proposal to eliminate most of the yellow line is only for weekends and after 9:30pm on weekdays.

@Paul: paratransit is the description, "Metroaccess" is the brand name. Not to be a jerk, but please read the article again and notice the section labeled "Metroaccess Service Cuts".

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

Alex, I certainly don't think shutting down the escalators would close the 190M gap on its own, but surely the electric bill and maintenance contracts are significant. My point was perhaps it would help as a stopgap measure to stave off the death spiral.

I'm not clear, however, on how escalators satisfy any ADA requirements. I believe the Act stipulates that facilities make a "good faith" effort to ensure people with disabilities are not limited in their access. If you recall, Jack Graham foolishly rode an escalator at Dulles in a wheelchair in an attempt to prove the elevators weren't necessary for handicapped (wheelchair) access. He of course failed in this attempt and a court-imposed requirement followed that all Metro stations incorporate elevators.

I don't claim to know the ADA front to back, but I'm not sure how moving escalators fit in to its requirements. Perhaps they do, I'm certainly not advocating that we limit Metro's accessibility to anyone.

by eleventh on Jan 29, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

MLD, you're probably right, but I'd still like to see the real data to be sure. The electric bill itself probably isn't too big. But I can't help but wonder what the maintenance contract on those escalators costs. Metro probably has a dozen elevator repair techs on contract retainer.

by eleventh on Jan 29, 2010 11:28 am • linkreport

I think those who favor getting rid of the Blue Line rather than the Yellow underestimate the following: 1) the number of trips between the Orange Line corridor and Crystal City/Pentagon/Airport/etc. 2) Don't consider that having a shuttle just for Huntington is easier than having to run a shuttle for the 4 stops on the east end of the Blue Line (Benning to Largo).

@Pete - how many Crystal City people are traveling to DC after 9:30pm? Weekends it will be impactful - but Blue is still an option.

by Paul on Jan 29, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

Less product for more money. It makes no sense. None. Basically, the grocery shrink-ray hits metro.

I would like for the board members to come and explain why they are taking out the 8 car trains. During rush hour, on the downtown orange/blue and red stations. See if they survive.

This is not failed leadership anymore.
This is lack and absence of leadership.

by Jasper on Jan 29, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport

The prospect of service cuts boggles the mind. Long headways are far and away the biggest reason I avoid Metro at non-peak hours.

Ridership is at record levels. Metro has tons of people wanting its services. So raise the prices! Especially peak pricing. Considering the cost and hassle of the alternative (driving and parking) I think they could probably raise them significantly without causing many riders to choose other options. I commute via Metro every day and would be happy to pay an extra couple bucks a day to keep Metro healthy (and yes, I pay for my transit out of pocket).

Clearly increased subsidies are also in order (and would seem to be a wise investment; I'm sure someone's done the #'s on how much good Metro services increase land value, property taxes, and business development along Metro lines) but in the short term it seems to me that the tremendous demand for Metro's services indicates a lot of leeway for fare hikes.

by Aaron Z on Jan 29, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

Why can't they just install infrared sensors on the escalators to slow/stop them when not in use? Pretty much every system in Germany does this.

by Phil on Jan 29, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport

"If the current trend of increasing fares with no increase in subsidy continues, a lot of service will be paid for 100% by riders, and cutting service will result in losing just as many fares as you reduce costs."

So another way of looking at it is, if you don't want a service to go away, pay for it. For example, if riders let wmata stick them with a "weekend pentagon city mall trip" surcharge that covered the yellow extension's variable cost, wmata would look elsewhere for meaningful cuts.

by NAB on Jan 29, 2010 11:42 am • linkreport

Regarding the B30 bus: $6.00 might sound like a lot, but it's considerably cheaper than taking the SuperShuttle or a taxi from BWI to Greenbelt. And people do take that bus -- I've been on at least one ride when people were standing in the aisles for the entire trip.

Regarding ADA and escalators: I don't think escalators replace elevators for ADA purposes, but escalators, WHEN they are running, certainly help people who use canes or who are on crutches for a sprained ankle or who just need a little help getting up and down stairs because of arthritis pain. Take out lots of functioning escalators and there will be more stress on the elevators, leading to more elevator outages -- and that's the real ADA problem.

by Greenbelt Gal on Jan 29, 2010 11:42 am • linkreport

$6 for the airport buses? I like this and I don't like this at the same time. I ride the B30 frequently (I use it as an alternate commute route to Baltimore when the MARC is not running/running poorly), and the bus is mostly standing room only. It makes sense to charge a premium on this bus for that reason.
That said, I think it should only be $5, not $6. One of the biggest issues with the airport bus now is travelers who don't have the exact change required to pay for the bus. The lines back up needlessly, and I'd say that about 50% of the time, the bus drivers just wave everybody on in order to save time (or get the unsuspecting tourists to put in their $5 bills and then get no change). From what I've seen, simply charging them that $5 (which the fareboxes can accept) seems to be a better option than requiring them once again to have exact money.

by Justin..... on Jan 29, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

@ eleventh - if you just turned the escalators off, as a matter of policy, even the shortest ones would have too many consecutive steps without a landing to pass code as a staircase.

That's not to mention the fact that stopped escalators cannot safely be used as stairs for an extended period of time.

Metro's looked at this before:

http://www.alexblock.net/blog/?p=512

The takeaway - it would indeed save money over time, but would cost more money up front. This isn't a realistic option to close a budget gap for a single year.

That's not to say it shouldn't be on the table, but the savings are relatively small and the timeline to realize them is relatively long, thus it's a low priority in the grand scheme of things.

by Alex B. on Jan 29, 2010 11:51 am • linkreport

Paul, to be fair, if you have it where every other Blue (or Yellow) line train south of King goes to either Huntington or Franconia-Springfield, you could do the same with splitting between Largo and New Carrollton east of Stadium-Armory...

by Froggie on Jan 29, 2010 11:54 am • linkreport

@froggie - That alternating of trains may sound like a simple solution. However offpeak when the headways are already quite large I would venture to guess it will inconvenience more riders than most would assume. Why suck the Orange Line into this mess?

by Paul on Jan 29, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

I hate the Blue Line. I agree, the Silver /could/ take over the Blue line leg on the E side of the system. Every other yellow train could service Van Dorn St and Franconia, as seen in David Alpert's metro map. All that's left is a Blue line shuttle between Rosslyn and Pentagon. As an Orange-liner who uses Blue to National Airport, I realize the importance of the transfer staying in Virginia, but it can be served by the aforementioned shuttle. Of course, this plan wouldn't be implementable until 2011 when the Silver line is 'supposed' to be operating to Wiehle Avenue...and if that mythical new blue line tunnel ever gets built - I'm thinking 2030 is a reasonable time estimate, if at all.
In the meantime, jack up the fares. Service cuts are unacceptable.

by Matt Glazewski on Jan 29, 2010 12:08 pm • linkreport

+1 on jacking up the fares, Matt.

Michael Perkins: I understand that, but it doesn't mean it couldn't be expedited and deployed for the second half of the fiscal year. We're not talking about using eminent domain to seize property here; we're talking about striping a lane for four to six miles or so in a few different places. It isn't rocket science, and crazier things have happened in shorter order (remember when they switched 1000 series cars to the middle of the trains at an immense cost with no clear benefit?). Nobody doubts that making bus headways more efficient and predictable on major commuter thoroughfares would save loads of cash. The only reason WMATA isn't calling for help from DDOT is, in my opinion, lack of vision.

by JTS on Jan 29, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

Yellow line cuts are stupid. If anything, Kill the blue line, run yellow to Franconia/Springfield, have a (blue?) Huntington Shuttle from King Street and a Arlington Cemetery shuttle between the Pentagon and Rosslyn.

These suggestions are definitely death spiral inducing.

by NikolasM on Jan 29, 2010 12:20 pm • linkreport

Why does the $0.10 fare increase expire??? How insane is this??? Lets raise the rail rates a ton, the bus rates slightly, and not increase the fares at all for crippled people and what not.

by Michael on Jan 29, 2010 12:49 pm • linkreport

@MichaelPerkins

Can you be more explicit about below? I'm a bit green on some of this ...

@JTS: The shortfall starts in July. They have to have something that can be advertised in March, approved in April, designed in May, implemented in June and ready to go July 1.
advertise ... public hearing for the budget?
approve ... a preliminary budget?
designed ... what?

Thanks.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jan 29, 2010 1:16 pm • linkreport

A couple of comments
1. $70 for bike lockers was rather low, even $200 is still very low. Unfortunatly this does not really make any money.

2. Some said increase parking. Its already at $5 a day which is huge. If it went up any higher people would find shady ways to park near the metro or just drive.

3. Reduced service. As everyone has said if the wait time on weekends is 30 minutes they might as well shut down the train all together after 11. Now this could be fixed if they ran a consistet schedule like busses do. That way people could plan around this.

There is one other point of view. If the service gets really bad, and the costs get to high maybe the people will force the local government to step in.

by Matt R on Jan 29, 2010 1:22 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know why parking increases aren't on the table?

by jcm on Jan 29, 2010 1:22 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

It's not a lack of leadership - it is a lack of committment to the system on the part of the jurisdictions, and a lack of a dedicated funding source. If we want a subway that works, we have to support it with sufficient funds to kleep it running. Metro has been robbing Peter to pay Paul for years, and Paul is simply tapped out.

--Glenn

by Glenn on Jan 29, 2010 1:23 pm • linkreport

Agreed, we need to jack up the fares for Metrorail. Rail is a premium service and should be priced much higher than buses. Start with a $2.00 base fare and if that doesn't fix the problem move it up to 2.50. Even 2.50 is quite normal in comparison to other transit systems. Get rid of the SmarTrip bus-to-rail discount completely.

by Phil on Jan 29, 2010 1:25 pm • linkreport

@jcm - I think it's because parking fees were not decided on by the board as something to adjust for this budget cycle. However, they could decide to for the next budget - but honestly, parking is already pretty expensive. It costs just as much to park at East Falls Church as it does for me to ride to my office at Branch Avenue one way. Do we really want to hike up parking much more?

by Matt Glazewski on Jan 29, 2010 1:28 pm • linkreport

@Dennis:

Advertising: Some changes require a public hearing, like fare increases and some service cuts or changes. The Board needs to approve advertising to the public the specific changes at least 14 days in advance of the hearing.

Approval: Once actions are advertised and public comment is received, staff produces a report for the board to summarize what was heard. The Board then gets to officially decide what will be done. Sometimes this is a fare increase, sometimes it's a change in the bus or the rail service.

Design: Changing bus and rail service isn't as easy as updating numbers in the computer. You have to decide which specific bus or train runs will be added or deleted, what times they will leave and arrive, when the operator shift changes occur, when they get to take breaks, etc. You have to create a schedule for what all the vehicles are doing and what all the operators, supervisors and relief staff are doing at every hour of the day.

Implementation: Once you're done coming up with everyone's schedule, I understand that union rules require the authority to allow operators to select their desired shifts, runs and routes in order of seniority. If there are changes to bus routes, signage, printed schedules, etc, you have to send those changes to the printers, the computer and database techs for inclusion in all the systems that support Metro. (See this lunch talk for an example of union employees picking routes: http://wmata.com/community_outreach/lunchtalk_online_chats/transcript.cfm?ChatID=197)

Ready to go: Everything has to be done by July 1 for implementation. If you implement late, you have to make bigger cuts to balance the same budget.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 1:29 pm • linkreport

@Matt R $200 for bike locker rental is low in comparison to what? It's $100 a year at Union Station, which is much nicer. A quick google shows that Caltrain, Portland Trimet, LA Metro, and Minneapolis metro trasnsit all charge less than $100 per year.

Also, $5 per day for parking doesn't seem that high to me. I think another $.50 or $1 is very doable.

by jcm on Jan 29, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

Also, if they jack up the airport bus fares to $6 I will definitely stop riding them. 5A service is already completely inadequate: there are crap headways, buses are frequently 30+ minutes late, they are packed to the rafters at anything approaching a high-volume travel period, and they make several unnecessary stops.

If they double the price for such poor service I'll just take Washington Flyer from WFC or find a friend to give me a ride.

by Phil on Jan 29, 2010 1:48 pm • linkreport

@Alex, Good point on the landings, I hadn't thought of that.

However, based on the maintenance cost from your site, *if* it could be done (which per code, as you pointed out, it can't be), it would save:

86 Stations x 4 escalators per (assumed average) x $51,000 = 17.5M dollars annually.

Which is pretty significant. Too bad an expensive conversion would be required to add landings.

by eleventh on Jan 29, 2010 1:48 pm • linkreport

If the federal government can decide to infuse hundreds of billions of dollars into a financial system in three days, and actually do it in five minutes, this would not be that hard, nor would other big changes that could save the system's finances while drastically improving operations. It's just a matter of treating it like a priority. Everytime an express bus sits stuck in traffic, you might as well just burn money.

In fact, there are plenty of other things that are apparently off the table in this proposal (like letting fares keep pace with COL increases) for no other reason than lack of vision and myopic thinking about the future of the system. Plain and simple.

by JTS on Jan 29, 2010 1:49 pm • linkreport

For the bikes I was just comparing it to parking costs. $200 works out to about a $1 a work day wich is about 1/5 of the car cost. Now we can debate over the advantages of biking to driving but its still costs 5 times less to park a bike at the $200 price point. I was not considering comparing the cost to other bike rentals.

In the end its not as much as the cost of each part of the metro but the total cost of a typical commute.

For a driver during rush hour it would be about $15 round trip per per person per day (not accounting for car pooling.

For someone who walks or bikes to the metro they pay $10-$11. People who take the bus woudl pay around $13 to the metro At what value does that total cost become too high?

by Matt R on Jan 29, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

@ Matt R-would you say it requires 1/5 less space to park a bike compared to a car? Or even less then that?

by Bianchi on Jan 29, 2010 1:59 pm • linkreport

@Bianchi:
Just keep in mind that we're talking bike lockers, not bike racks. It is completely free to park a bike on a rack at a Metro station. The fee to park in a bike locker is all we're talking about here, and those are actually kind of bulky.

However, I think a $200 fee would kill the bike locker program. I won't shell out that much for one.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson Bike lockers are significantly more efficient than cars. Metro uses Cyclesafe lockers. From their brochure:

How much space do Cycle-SafeÂ’s lockers occupy? The footprint of a properly designed bike storage rack (rectangular plan) is
typically larger than a quality bike locker (only 10 square feet). For example, you can fit nine of our bike lockers in one car parking
space - thatÂ’s enough parking to hold eighteen bikes.

And that's ignoring the fact that the lockers are sitting on an otherwise unused sidewalk.

I think if an increase is necessary, $100 per year is fine. It wouldn't rais much money though. An additional $.25 per day parking would raise a lot more, let alone $1 or so.

by jcm on Jan 29, 2010 2:23 pm • linkreport

@Bianchi: My bike locker is about 6 feet long, three feet wide and four feet tall, and is shaped like a wedge.

In a standard 10x21 parking space, you could get 14 of these.

I've heard people say "that's a good deal" when I tell them how much I pay (most people are surprised to see what those gray boxes are). There's a waiting list at Eastern Market. I'm pretty sure that $200 would eliminate the waiting list. I'm not sure that charging more than is necessary to eliminate the waiting list is desirable. After all, you're not just getting the money from the bike box, you're getting all the fare revenue I spend getting to and from the bike box.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 2:27 pm • linkreport

Bike lockers can also be leaned upon, unlike bikes and bike racks. It's also easy to get rid of bikes left there too long, unlike racks.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 29, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport

Performance parking for cars and bikes. If there are long waiting lists for bike lockers -- in tough budget times, raise the prices, sorry bicyclists. If parking garages are near capacity -- in tough budget times, raise the prices, sorry drivers.

I'm pleasantly surprised to see them raise the prices for airport buses, as I've been agitating for.

Great that they're asking for subsidy increases: let's hope they get them.

Less frequent service and no peak 8-car trains should be non-starters. Closing weekend stations is very bad too, particularly given how little savings it yields.

Some of these bus cuts, including stop reductions, may actually be good for service. But others will probably be painful. I'd like to see a commitment to asking the jurisdictions to speed bus service, even if it'd be too late for savings in the next FY.

All in all, this is a big budget hole to dig out of. Unless there's a transit bailout, it's gonna be a big hurt on the system, which is bad for the economy and environment -- not to mention the hurt on WMATA workers' families.

by Gavin Baker on Jan 29, 2010 3:40 pm • linkreport

The Washington Metro system is a prime example of the failure of our socialized transit model, and why transit systems should be privatized.
Why are local Governments paying John Catoe $300,000+ a year plus a $60K yearly housing allowance? That is an outrage. Metro has been overpaying the unions as well as executives for years.

And local Governments continue to subsidize it.

Transit subsidies are vastly out of proportion to other modes of transportation and have made transit the most expensive way to travel. In subsidies, it costs about $.15 per passenger mile when you fly, $.24 per passenger mile to drive and on average $.80 per passenger mile to take rail transit. Using that figure, my commute each way between Alexandria and D.C. by rail costs Metro $7.20 for a $2.65 fare. See the problem?

Governments, which are not good at running businesses, have thrown enough of our taxpayer dollars down the Metro well. Privatizing will allow transit companies to compete to provide innovative transit options that we ALL can enjoy. We riders will get better service, and our communities will benefit as well.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 3:41 pm • linkreport

Where is the list of specific bus route reductions? I can't find it (although I haven't had a change to look closely yet). Any one know???

by Transport. on Jan 29, 2010 3:51 pm • linkreport

@Transport. In the report, near the front. Starts on page 10.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 3:57 pm • linkreport

@Gavin: I could support that. I don't think WMATA has the data right now to support such a proposal. Instead, I think they should give the GM the authority to raise bike locker prices where there's a waiting list, in $25 increments, until the waiting lists are gone.

Right now it's one price at all stations regardless of whether there's a waiting list.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 3:59 pm • linkreport

@LeeH - thanks for the information. We often hash out the same arguments here. Are any of the big US subway systems privatized?

by Paul on Jan 29, 2010 4:00 pm • linkreport

@LeeH - thanks for the information. We often hash out the same arguments here. Are any of the big US subway systems privatized?
by Paul on Jan 29, 2010 4:00 pm
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No. And that's part of the problem. They used to be prior to 1964 back when transit (bus/streetcar/trains) systems used to make money.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 4:03 pm • linkreport

@jcm,

The parking rate is already very high and specifically targets the people who could most easily abandon Metro altogether (those who already own cars and are used to driving as part of their commute.) Raising the price of parking even further will just result in more people driving instead of taking Metro.

by Jacob on Jan 29, 2010 4:04 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria:
That's an excellent point. Our transit systems made money in the past. Something must have changed from a policy or marketshare perspective.

Maybe we can get your insight about privatized transit in other big cites outside the United States.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2010 4:06 pm • linkreport

@jcm,
The parking rate is already very high and specifically targets the people who could most easily abandon Metro altogether (those who already own cars and are used to driving as part of their commute.) Raising the price of parking even further will just result in more people driving instead of taking Metro.

by Jacob on Jan 29, 2010 4:04 pm
----------------
@Jacob,

Part of the problem is the local Government's planning and zoning divisions lack of good planning around rail transit.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 4:09 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria
But isn't the problem with a lack of "good planning" around transit due mainly to the fact that the government is sticking its nose where it doesn't belong? Wouldn't the market provide for transit-supportive densities if zoning didn't exist?

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

@ leehinalex "They used to be prior to 1964 back when transit (bus/streetcar/trains) systems used to make money." I guess their lobbyists weren't as good as those from the car, hwy, oil and rubber companies since policies that benefited those were written and implemented that simultaneously allowed transits' near extinction.

by Bianchi on Jan 29, 2010 4:13 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria, Matt Johnson

Here's a big difference between now and then: density. Suburban sprawl means that you have to move people much further to get them from their house to their job.

Also, I'd be interested to know what kinds of data those subsidy per passenger mile numbers are made up of.

Just saying "they used to be privatized and they made money" isn't helpful. For any business profits are revenues minus expenses. What has changed fundamentally about the parts of this equation so that transit agencies don't make money now when they used to. "Government" is not a real answer. If it was and privatizing transit could make money, don't you think companies would be pushing to privatize the industry?

by MLD on Jan 29, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

those zoning regs Matt J mentions all benefit car/oil/rubber/hwy companies.

by Bianchi on Jan 29, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria:
That's an excellent point. Our transit systems made money in the past. Something must have changed from a policy or marketshare perspective.

Maybe we can get your insight about privatized transit in other big cites outside the United States.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2010 4:06 pm
---------------
@Matt,

What changed is the Government got involved through the Urban Mass Transit Act to prevent transit systems from closing low ridership routes for low income folks. When Government gets involved monetarily, it's never good news.

You're right, all transit is not subsidized by the Government (and by default - the taxpayers). Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of places that has private transit that I have been to. 1) Atlantic City, NJ, (where I have relatives) has a private bus system that runs 24 hours a day without subsidies and it is a fantastic service with low cost to the rider. 2) San Juan, Puerto Rico residents ride private buses known as públicos that carry more people at less cost to the rider, without subsidies, than the city’s tax-supported public buses and trains.

So you have to ask yourself why do most American cities and states outlaw private competition to government's monopoly transit systems?

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 4:19 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria

It's absolutely ludicrous to suggest salaries for a massive privatized transit system would go down. Have you taken a look at Wall St. lately?

by Michael on Jan 29, 2010 4:19 pm • linkreport

@ Jacob

You may be right, but I'd love to see some data to support that assertion. As far as I know, most of the outer lots fill up every day. There is a waiting list for reserved parking at several stations. There must be some elasticity there.

by jcm on Jan 29, 2010 4:23 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria
It's absolutely ludicrous to suggest salaries for a massive privatized transit system would go down. Have you taken a look at Wall St. lately?

by Michael on Jan 29, 2010 4:19 pm
---------------
@Michael -

If you are the CEO of a privatized system, many experts think a private company would look harder at costs than if that company is heavily subsized by the Government as transit currently is. Metro has been overpaying the unions forever. So much so that there is little room left in the capital fund for maintenance.

Maybe that would explain all the maintenance issues Metro encounters for example, in December, 191 Metro trains were emptied of their passengers and taken out of service because of mechanical and door problems which was a 56 percent increase over the previous month.

It's because Governments don't know how to run businesses.

As for Wall St, much of the blame for Wall St lies with the Government. But that discussion is for another website.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

@ LeeHinAlexandria

Here's another example you missed: Las Vegas Monorail. It charges $5 for a single trip and still declared bankruptcy last week. It's more like an amusement park ride than serious transit system anyway. You don't think fares would absolutely skyrocket once a transit agency is in private hands? Who would ride transit then? Certainly not the people who need it the very most.

by Reza on Jan 29, 2010 4:34 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria:
Actually, the Urban Mass Transit Act had nothing to do with the inability of transit operators to discontinue routes. For the most part, Public Service Commissions in each state regulated the abandonment of services.

In fact, the decline of transit can be traced more easily to other policy changes, including the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, which lowered the cost of driving (in time), policies by the Federal Housing Administration which kept monies out of inner-city neighborhoods, and other policies which encouraged decentralization and auto-dependency, including, as Bianchi points out, many zoning ordinances.

Streetcars stopped plying the rails in the District of Columbia on January 28, 1962. Over two years prior to the Urban Mass Transit Act. In many other cities, trolleys had already disappeared.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2010 4:35 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria, Matt Johnson
Here's a big difference between now and then: density. Suburban sprawl means that you have to move people much further to get them from their house to their job.

Also, I'd be interested to know what kinds of data those subsidy per passenger mile numbers are made up of.

Just saying "they used to be privatized and they made money" isn't helpful. For any business profits are revenues minus expenses. What has changed fundamentally about the parts of this equation so that transit agencies don't make money now when they used to. "Government" is not a real answer. If it was and privatizing transit could make money, don't you think companies would be pushing to privatize the industry?

by MLD on Jan 29, 2010 4:16 pm
-------------
Companies are pushing into the transit market. Virginia has two of them who are currently in a public/private partnership to build HOT lanes on the Beltway between Springfield and the Dulles toll road. But Governments have to be willing to allow competition to their current monopoly.

As for 'what has fundamentally changed' is Government involvement. A good example is this series of charts on US Mass transit trends from the Public Purpose:

http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-transit$1930.htm

Notice how costs have skyrocketed 4 fold since Governments began this monopoly.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 4:41 pm • linkreport

@ LeeHinAlexandria
Here's another example you missed: Las Vegas Monorail. It charges $5 for a single trip and still declared bankruptcy last week. It's more like an amusement park ride than serious transit system anyway. You don't think fares would absolutely skyrocket once a transit agency is in private hands? Who would ride transit then? Certainly not the people who need it the very most.

by Reza on Jan 29, 2010 4:34 pm
====================
@Reza,

The Las Vegas Mono-strosity (as I like to call it) was a disaster from the start. It is a great example of really poor Government planning. It is not a privatized system but a great example of a public/private partnership that failed miserably. For example, construction of the system was financed by a $650 million state bond so it was not entirely privately financed. The city and state continued to finance the project until its demise. Las Vegas has other problems that have contributed to it such as the bottom falling out of the private and commercial real estate market there.

As for your question - 'You don't think fares would absolutely skyrocket once a transit agency is in private hands?'

As I said, Governments, especially here in D.C. should allow transit companies to compete against each other to provide innovative transit options we all can enjoy. This competition will provide lower costs to riders. Right now, it costs Metro about $7.20 for my 9 mile trip into work. I pay $2.65 fare. See the problem?

A great example of competition lowering costs is Lasik surgery. Why has the cost of Lasik gone down? It's not covered by insurance but the cost has come down over the years due to competition among Doctors for your business.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 4:54 pm • linkreport

By the way, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (part of US DOT) has an excellent history of policy's effects on transportation (not just transit), including an overview of major legislation (such as the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964, the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, and so on.)

http://ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/UTP.html

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2010 4:58 pm • linkreport

The only successful private mass transit system in a major city is the Tokyo Metro, and that's only half of the system in a city with a much higher population density than any US city. Privatized mass transit is not feasible here.

by Phil on Jan 29, 2010 5:01 pm • linkreport

I suppose its always those damn unions--now they're causing door problems.

Actually many (not all) of the door problems are caused by the 1000 series cars. The relatively weak frames have sunk a little over 30 years (they used to be kind of like a frown and now they're kind of like a smile), putting pressure on the doors. If you look carefully over top some of the doors, you'll see stress cracks from the shifting. The floors also regularly pop loose and have to be screwed back down.

These door problems won't get much better with the loads that Metro is moving until these cars are replaced. No doubt the 3-4 years it will take to order, build, test and put into service new cars is another result of those damn unions.

by kreeggo on Jan 29, 2010 5:09 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria:
Actually, the Urban Mass Transit Act had nothing to do with the inability of transit operators to discontinue routes. For the most part, Public Service Commissions in each state regulated the abandonment of services.
In fact, the decline of transit can be traced more easily to other policy changes, including the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, which lowered the cost of driving (in time), policies by the Federal Housing Administration which kept monies out of inner-city neighborhoods, and other policies which encouraged decentralization and auto-dependency, including, as Bianchi points out, many zoning ordinances.

Streetcars stopped plying the rails in the District of Columbia on January 28, 1962. Over two years prior to the Urban Mass Transit Act. In many other cities, trolleys had already disappeared.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2010 4:35 pm
---------------------
Actually, World War II provided a last hurrah for privately operated transit in the United States. In 1942, American automobile manufacturers suspended the production of private automobiles in favor of war material, while the federal government imposed gasoline rationing to limit Americans' use of the cars they already owned. Left without an alternative, Americans turned to mass transit in record numbers.

So what happened?

Following the war, transit ridership quickly collapsed. Not only were cars again available and affordable, but so were suburban houses, built so far from central employment areas and scattered so sparsely that mass transit was simply impractical. Moreover, the construction of new roads, including federally-financed expressways, encouraged automobile commuting, whether by driving alone or in a carpool. As a result, transit ridership dropped from 17.2 billion passengers in 1950 to 11.5 billion in 1955. By 1960, only 8.2 percent of American workers took a bus or streetcar to work, with another 3.9 percent commuting by rapid transit.

Ridership had gotten so low that many transit agencies had closed routes (see your examples above).

So what happened?

Government, due to the ongoing mass suburban sprawl (I remember when Tysons Corner was still farm land.) got involved, reopened many of the closed routes with various forms of transit. This has led to the failed socialized transit model.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 5:19 pm • linkreport

So how will private transit corporations compete with federally-subsidized highways?

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 29, 2010 5:39 pm • linkreport

So how will private transit corporations compete with federally-subsidized highways?
by Neil Flanagan on Jan 29, 2010 5:39 pm
=============
Like in Virginia, we're starting to see Governments turn to public/private partnerships. The problem is too many in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, think Government involvement is the solution. That will just allow them to throw our tax money down the drain.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 5:59 pm • linkreport

Actually the local governments that make up WMATA have mimiced the private sector pretty well. They received huge federal subsidies to build the system, reaped the benefits from the land value added by the WMATA system and spent it however they wanted. They failed to to reinvest and modernize the system and they starved it of operating funds. Then they asked the federal government for more money. Sounds a lot like GM and Chrysler to me.

by kreeggo on Jan 29, 2010 5:59 pm • linkreport

The only available quick fix is the establishment of a dedicated one cent per gallon gasoline tax in DC and in those counties in MD and VA that Metro serves.

I'm fully aware of the political hurdles, especially with Virginia's new governor, but if DC takes the first step and the Metro board gives breaks to those jurisdictions that kick in, who knows? Maybe McDonnell might be persuade to call it a transportation user fee.

I don't use Metro much, and I drive a lot, but I would willingly pay an extra penny (or two) a gallon to prevent the collapse of the system...and to keep the roads I travel from complete and total gridlock.

by Mike on Jan 29, 2010 6:22 pm • linkreport

I second the penny gasoline tax. With prices as volitile as they are it probably wouldn't be noticed.

by James on Jan 29, 2010 6:49 pm • linkreport

Regarding bizarre argument about subsidies.

I'm sorry, but "Lee Hin of Alexandria" needs to disclose his or her affiliation. I find it too hard to believe this is not somebody being paid to post such nonsense.

As somebody with a planning degree who has actually studied stubborn little subjects like economics, statistics, and public finance, I can assure you that no serious unbiased researcher is going to tell you that subsidizing "roads" is cheaper than subsidizing mass transit.

Let's start with Exhibit Number One: two billion dollars / WEEK for the Iraq War, which, like 90% of our involvement in the Middle East, is ultimately because of our addiction to petroleum-fueled single-occupancy vehicles.

Exhibit Number Two: uh, what about parking? When you subsidize somebody to ride a bus or train into the city, you are simply moving a person. When you subsidize somebody to drive a car into the city, that car needs to occupy space upon its arrival. Who's going to pay for 10-story parking garages in the District?

Exhibit Number Three: if everybody entering the city for a job came in via car, how many transit and parking police would we need? Wouldn't that skyrocket?

Agricultural production used to be cheaper in the "olden" days, too, but that was because of SLAVERY. Most of the major interstate highways in this country were built by cheap immigrant labor. Pointing to the past and saying "it was cheaper then" while glossing over stubborn facts like that is ridiculous.

These are just a few examples. The fact is that you can pull isolated statistics and facts to prove almost any point you want to prove.

Most of the people doing posts here are trying to take a very hard look at budget problems which have nothing to do with political ideology. It is sad that somebody has decided to pollute this effort and waste people's time with an absurd argument to "privatize" transit. Then let's privatize all forms of transportation! Pull all the U.S. troops out of the Middle East and let Chevron, Mobil, and Exxon pay pirates to get petroleum safely exported out of there. No more U.S. aircraft carriers sitting around waiting to be bombed.

Gee, I'm starting to sound absurd myself! Maybe we can get back to PRAGMATIC discussions here.

by Julie on Jan 29, 2010 6:56 pm • linkreport

I also second the keeping the Dulles Airport bus at an even $5. The biggest problem on those busses is waiting for people to dig out exact change. However, the trip to BWI is 50% longer than to Dulles, why are the fares the same?

I see where they say the new SmarTrip bus fare would be $1.50, but what are they planing to charge in cash? Since we're changing fares, can we make the cash fare more reasonable so that people don't need nickles or dimes?

by James on Jan 29, 2010 7:00 pm • linkreport

regarding discussion of leadership

I agree with the sentiment that there is a lack of leadership here. "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." Catoe has decided to get out of the way, and I "applaud" him for that. I believe this is an admission that he knows he does not know how to fix this problem.

The Board has also decided to get out of the way. They don't want to mess with sticky mathematical calculations--it's easier to say "cut administrative costs", but not say "which" administrative costs.

So I hope they find a new director who wants the ball, and who actually brings in some new ideas. I have said it before: it's time to think outside of the box. The lion's share of testimony is "do NOT reduce services". The goal of Metro's leadership HAS to be, raise revenue! I applaud all the people here who are getting deeply into the dollars and cents (sense) of operating expenses, but I think we're doomed if we don't get Metro leadership that is committed to raising revenue.

And I don't have all the answers, or I would be applying for that high-paying job, believe me, but I do believe that we need to see leadership that's going to think outside of the box.

Here's my newest outside-the-box idea: reality show! I think they could have cameras all over the place. People are so desperate to get on TV, who knows what shenanigans they will engage in to compete with each other to make the final cut? Clipping toenails on the bus, flossing teeth on the train, singing and dancing on the platform. If advertisers will pay big bucks to put a handful of people in a Dupont Circle house, how much more will they spend to have, literally, hundreds of thousands of potentially crazy people getting filmed on a daily basis?

OK, Metro's attorneys will, I'm pretty sure, say, "there's no way we want cameras recording everything happening in Metro," but I'm just throwing it out there for brainstorming purposes.

There's no doubt that local governments should be putting more money in, but the reality is that they're not. We need to keep lobbying local governments, AND we need to keep giving Metro the best ideas for reducing costs, BUT we also need to find NEW ways to raise revenue--SERIOUS revenue.

by Julie on Jan 29, 2010 7:13 pm • linkreport

@Julie - I can assure you I am just a concerned taxpayer who works as a computer programmer and not being paid one red cent. I have seen places like Alexandria, Fairfax, and other localities who suffer from extremely poor centralized planning.

As for exhibit #1, I believe a discussion on the war is for another website.

As for exhibit #2, look at Alexandria in some of the newer neighborhoods they've built around Metro like Carlyle. The City reduced the amount of parking in buildings to try and get people to take Metro.

And it is a failure as most of the people who live in Carlyle don't work in Carlyle. I in fact know people who live and Carlyle and drive to work TWO BLOCKS AWAY. But, I as a taxpayer can't blame Alexandria totally. Metro, when it was designed, was designed very poorly. Until Governments realize that, the socialized transit model will continue to be a failure.

As for exhibit #3, what we need are smart solutions and everyone should use less.

Having said that, and this goes to the folks above who advocate for raising the gas tax by $.01. To have any meaningful impact at all, as Amy Gardner correctly points out in the WaPo a few months back (http://tr.im/M4Rz) for example, the gas tax would have to more than double in Virginia to somewhere around $.40 a gallon. How much would it have to be raised where you live? As Amy points out, fuel consumption is dropping because of less driving and the increased prevalence of more fuel-efficient cars.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 9:15 pm • linkreport

@Julie - As for your topic on 'raising revenue,' I have noticed significant cutbacks in advertising. On poles in some platforms where there used to be ads, there have been none for months. Also, some trains on the ride in and the ride home the entire car is bare of ads. That would be one thing the new head guy should change.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 9:19 pm • linkreport

How many times do we have to go over this? All the ad space in the rail system is sold to a private contractor for a fixed fee. The contractor then has to try to sell all the ads they can to hopefully make a profit. If no one is buying ads, it's the contractor, not WMATA, that is losing money.

If you have something to say and about $50,000 you could buy an ad in the rail system. I suggest you contact CBS Outdoor, they hold the current contract.

It's like half the commenters here think the WMATA staff are functionally disabled and never think of these things.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 9:30 pm • linkreport

The proposed FY2011 budget includes "defined benefit" pension contributions in the amount of $105,049,431 (page 29). In perspective, that's $9,803.95 for each of the budgeted 10,715 positions (page 27).

by Turnip on Jan 29, 2010 9:32 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria:

Your Post at 5:19 completely contradicts everything else you've said. You blame mass transit's failures on government meddling, and then in that post you (correctly I might add) shift the blame to the suburbanization of cities.

The fact is that at this point transit cannot operate on the old model - the density and population diversity is not there to support profitable mass transit. Does this mean we shouldn't subsidize transit? No it does not. If the Metro went away tomorrow I say good luck to those of you who would all switch to your cars to drive - it would be hell.

Also, you haven't answered my question as to where your subsidy numbers for air travel, roads, and transit came from.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2010 10:09 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria: From the article you quoted, a one penny per gallon increase in the gasoline tax would generate $46 Million per year. This is hardly without "meaningful impact" as you put it. The $0.40 per gallon that you quote would be the amount the gasoline tax would need to increase to fund all road and rail projects in the entire state. You seem to be intentionally mixing and matching figures here.

by James on Jan 29, 2010 10:22 pm • linkreport

@MLD: You should look at his blog. ItÂ’s one politically charged non-sequiter after another. I think heÂ’s just throwing random (incorrect) statistics and antidotes hoping someone will bite.

by James on Jan 29, 2010 10:24 pm • linkreport

@James: His blogroll is 100% right-wing, including the Reason Foundation and John Stossel, which were his primary sources for the transit-related posts. While that is not in and of itself a refutation, it does lead me to question the breadth of his sources. I was not able to find a source for his unfounded claim about various subsidy rates.

According to WMATA's 2008 data in the national transit database, http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/pubs/profiles/2008/agency_profiles/3030.pdf

The heavy rail component has operating costs of about $2.62 per unlinked passenger trip. Average fare from that period is about $2.30 (source: WMATA.com FAO committee report, August 2008).

You can have your own opinions but not your own facts.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2010 11:10 pm • linkreport

@MLD,

And who's to blame for the poor centralized planning model? Governments. Government should set a standard then get out of the way and let developers build what they want according to that standard. But it doesn't always happen that way.

When Governments 'meddle' too much, the result is never very good.

For example, planners propose to reduce automotive air pollution by increasing population densities to reduce driving in the hopes of getting people to take transit. Yet the nation's densest urban area, Los Angeles, has only 8 percent less commuting by auto than the least dense areas. Meanwhile, technological improvements over the past 40 years, which planners often ignore, have reduced the pollution caused by some cars by 99 percent.

In Alexandria for example, developers work with the City to come up with a design according to a standard set by the City. The developer contracts with an architect to come up with a design. That design then is turned over to the City's architect to make changes. Why? This example has led to major transit failures around the Metro stations.

I'm not talking about running transit on the 'old' model. What I am talking about is Governments need to 'think outside the box' when it comes to transit.

As for the links you requested, the cited figures comes from information I have read in books and online. The Metro figures come from an analysis I have done using Metro's own figures over the years. Metro's ridership over the years was declining at a steady rate until the recent surge during the $3-$4 gas price surge during Bush II. Metro's ridership has been declining again as gas prices have gone down (now they're going up again) which is why raising the gas tax (as mentioned above) by a penny is too little. So you have to figure it out year to year. The analysis correctly takes into account the cost of building new lines, the number of passengers these lines are taking, the Metro Access for the disabled and its cost, and Metro's own figures (e.g. - Next years slide http://tr.im/M5sw).

A great place to start is publicpurpose.com which is one of the sites I went to when I first started researching this a few years ago (which I linked to above).

http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-transit$1930.htm

Also, Matthew Yglesias @ Think Progress has a fascinating look at this problem (posted last Wednesday - http://tr.im/M5vs).

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 11:19 pm • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria: From the article you quoted, a one penny per gallon increase in the gasoline tax would generate $46 Million per year. This is hardly without "meaningful impact" as you put it. The $0.40 per gallon that you quote would be the amount the gasoline tax would need to increase to fund all road and rail projects in the entire state. You seem to be intentionally mixing and matching figures here.

by James on Jan 29, 2010 10:22 pm
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@James - The $.01 mentioned increase above is not nearly enough to cover what is needed in Maryland, the District or Virginia. To continue subsidizing transit, plus keep all of the other projects each state needs funded, a doubling of the gas tax is needed. My mistake if I confused you. Myself, I am not for a tax increase. Opening up the local Government monopolies on transit to competition is a good way to keep fares at a reasonable rate and give us riders better service.

Having said that, Metro is not the only one suffering during these tough economic times. Alexandria is cutting service, Prince William County, which runs PRTC, is considering 15 percent fare increases, and Montgomery County is considering cuts that total 7.5 percent of service.

The crunch means trips could change - different enough to prompt regular commuters and occasional riders to second-guess how they get to work. All the transit agencies anticipate losing riders if they cut back.

What do all of these bus routes have in common? They are run by Governments.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 11:33 pm • linkreport

PLEASE STOP the dialogue with LeeHinAlexandria.

It is wasting everybody's time. Just ignore him. The guy's an ideologue who is completely uninterested in any facts except the ones spoon-fed to him by fellow ideologues. If he seriously thinks anybody is going to say, "gee, you're right, government is 100% the problem here", then he has a major screw loose. You cannot reason with irrational people. This website discussion was not set up to be a bully pulpit for him.

by Julie on Jan 30, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

@LeeHinAlexandria: We’re not talking about solving all of the funding problems of all of the transit projects in Virginia, Maryland and The District. We are talking about helping to close WMATA’s budget gap for next year. By the very article that you cite, $0.01 per gallon would go a long way to doing so. $0.0425 per gallon would completely solve WMATA’s problem. I realize that WMATA may not be the only one, nor the first one in line with their hands out from any revenue such a tax would generate, but that’s a discussion for another time. You continue to claim that you are getting various pieces of information from “I have read in books and online” and your own analysis, yet you still have not cited these books or shown the analysis. Adding to this your continued use of URL redirection so that readers cannot tell where your links point gives me the very distinct impression that you are manipulating the facts to push your political agendas. This is neither the place nor the time for that.

Your anti-government run transit arguments make absolutely no sense. Your blog is filled with non-sequiturs that contradict each other. First you claim that privately run transit failed because they couldnÂ’t make a profit, and the government killed them off with subsidies. Next you claim that current transit systems are failing because of the very government subsidies that kept them alive for the past 50 years. How does giving a system more money cause it to bankrupt? ItÂ’s as if youÂ’re claiming that the government has a sort of Midas touch that kills anything it touches.

This is not to say that the subsidized system is perfect. WMATA probably needs to clean shop, particularly at the bottom end. Yesterday while riding the Orange Line to Ballston from Vienna I saw two workers walked down the center of the track (as opposed to a much safer location, between the tracks or along the fence) to Vienna with their backs to oncoming trains. This is not something IÂ’d try on my dead end street at 3 in the morning when thereÂ’s no one around, never mind during rush hour when you know the next train is just minutes away. There was no body around to warn these two workers of approaching trains.

by James on Jan 30, 2010 12:45 pm • linkreport

@ Julie-thank you. When I read the first post from a 'screw loose' perspective my first thought was-'what sophistry, what a glaring omission of variables in this analysis'. As you and others have taken the time to point out transportation is part of a complex system and its laughably simplistic to point out single "subsidy" figures comparing road and transit. MP pointed out the figures presented may not be reliable or accurate anyway.

Since its one of my favorite subjects I'll add that the health costs associated with driving that are reduced when public transit is available is one of the variables omitted from the analysis of overall cost. Indeed, if local governments paid attention to the economic consequences of health benefit analysis regarding access to transit they would conclude its a good investment because it will reduce medical expenditure in the future including medicaid and medicare costs. Here's a simple relationship within the complex system: hours spent in a car/day has a linear relationship to increased risk for obesity and diabetes while access to transit is associated with reduced risk. Both obesity and diabetes are conditions that qualify a person for medicaid and SSD. Hows that effect the number of dollars of subsidy for roads compared to transit? Then there's trips to the ER for acute asthma attacks and deaths from those incidences linked to increased particulate air pollution produced from car exhaust. That has quantifiable public subsidy costs too. And metro is still far and away safer then driving. How much public money is spent on emergency response on the capital beltway every year? So many variables omitted.

by Bianchi on Jan 30, 2010 1:28 pm • linkreport

Michael - thank you for this very comprehensive article.

@greenbelt gal - I agree that the price is right -- for occasional riders who are trying to get to the airport to catch a flight. I'd be interested to learn the pricing of 5a and b30 for regular riders, those who actually work at the airport. will that change? Might there be a TDM program at the airports which could increase the subsidies for their workers who are also 5A and B30 passengers?

Side note: I used to live in DC, but now I'm in LA, and can tell you that our airport authority actually operates direct service between four locations in the metro area and LAX. They shoot for full-fare recovery. (Note the verb - they don't actually always achieve this.) So the fares are higher - $5 from Westwood, $7 from Union Station (?), $25 from Orange County. The routes generally do pretty well.

by Sirinya Tritipeskul on Jan 30, 2010 2:34 pm • linkreport

Perhaps this has already been covered (I haven't read all 100 comments) but one thing that jumped out at me is that a significant portion of the shortfall is made up from increased subsidies from the three jurisdictions ($40 million worth). What is the plan if those increased subsidies are not forthcoming? It is additional fare increases, further service cuts, what?

by dcd on Jan 30, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

Be a Green Commuter - nice blog! I wish there were something similar here in DC. Well, we do have unsuck metro, which is GREAT. But I like the idea of a commuting blog. Keeps it real and from there you can really pinpoint the problem and possible solutions. Wish I could say more, but I know zero about LA.

Nice job.

by Jazzy on Jan 30, 2010 4:42 pm • linkreport

103 comments ... and nary a mention of what's really going on.

Simply put, WMATA's personnel costs are spiraling out of control.

This mismanagement can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Board and on WMATA's executive leadership, both of whom should have seen these budget problems manifesting years ago. WMATA employees, union and administrative alike, deserve to compensated well for their work; the nagging issue, however, it that it appears they are exceedingly well paid, with overly generous benefits. The pension programs, in particular, appear to gold plated.

It's imperative that WMATA immediately fund an independent study to determine whether its personnel costs are in line with other transit systems around the country. It's very possible they are not. And even if they are, a compensation and benefit analysis needs to be undertaken regarding what salaries and wages are truly appropriate and fair. For example, is paying a bus driver or train operator $90,000 a year too much? Does a station manager deserve $80,000, or with a some overtime $110,000? If some of you question these wage levels--which I'll admit are off the top of my head--think again. The unions that represent WMATA employees have made sure that their people are very well taken care of. Perhaps too well.

Unless WMATA's rapidly rising personnel costs are contained, and soon, the frequently mentioned "dead spiral" will loom ever closer, a constant threat to the system. At this time, in order to continue on as the first-class transportation provider it has been, WMATA leadership has four basic choices to pursue:

1. Induce local jurisdictions to substantially increase funding. This isn't likely because DC, MD and VA are themselves facing daunting budget crunches.

2. Cajole the federal government into ponying up more funds, and on a regular basis. A possibility.

3. Appeal to the feds to take over the system. This might seem like a long shot, but the recent appointment of two representatives to the Board signal that the feds are not just going to sit by and let WMATA go down the drain.

4. Bring personnel costs under control.

These are the choices the new management team will be evaluating. Let's hope they choose wisely.

by Anonymous on Jan 30, 2010 5:40 pm • linkreport

I believe someone threw this out last year, but regarding Anonymous's point #1, I think a one or two day transit strike would knock some sense into these jurisdictions. Yes, it would disproportionately affect the poor. Yes, it would cause havoc on the streets. Yes, employers would be significantly inconvenienced. Yes, it would generate lots of publicity (most bad). But ultimately, it would show everyone what a region without Metro would look like. How does that song go? Don't it always seem to go/that you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone/You pave paradise and put up a parking lot. ooo la bada da da...and so on.

by JTS on Jan 30, 2010 8:38 pm • linkreport

How, exactly, do you plan to bring personnel costs under control?

by Alex B. on Jan 31, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

@Alex B: Metro has pretty much one option, and it seems like a long shot. The union contract just came out of arbitration, with a three percent raise per year for the next three years, and a three percent flat payment for this past year.

Arbitration requires Metro and the union to each choose an arbitrator, then the two of them choose a third, neutral arbitrator. The three of them get to decide between them what the next contract looks like. The union puts forth its wish list, Metro puts forth its wish list, and the three of them decide what's fair.

According to Metro's lawsuit, the contract awarded does not meet federal guidelines. The federal guidelines limit the ability of arbitration to award contracts that exceed the authority's funding ability, especially if the raises impact the public welfare.

I would argue that the raises awarded do affect the public welfare, in that we're discussing 15% fare increases and service cuts in a recession, and that's only if we can convince strapped governments to increase their support to Metro by about 8%.

Not all of Metro's funding problem is based on union compensation, there's other things like paratransit costs too, but the fact is that most of Metro's costs are personnel costs (70%), and most of Metro's personnel are union (no figure available, it's above 80%).

Cue Kreeggo's response, right here.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 31, 2010 2:01 pm • linkreport

I forgot to link the article I found:

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/news/article.asp?id=21951

by Michael Perkins on Jan 31, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

Re: the sacred cow of "administrative costs".

The fact remains that Catoe told the Board that Metro has kept its costs within the planned budget, and that the budget hole is because revenue is far lower than anticipated. I'm not going to wade into the debate about who is getting overpaid or underpaid in this town, but if he was telling the truth on that point, then pointing fingers at personnel costs is not particularly helpful. (I will note that the CEO of Starbucks, for example, said his operating budget pays more for health care than coffee beans: it is not uncommon that personnel costs are a large portion of an operating budget.) If the current problem was caused by a drop in revenue, then the ideal response is to increase revenue.

Metro says demand is down, but somehow its proposed service cuts stink, so I would like to see Metro explain exactly which routes or times of day have lower demand and only cut those. I'm not sure we've really seen that kind of targeted service reduction proposal.

And, again, I will say that Metro needs to think outside the box for raising revenue.

Pointing fingers at people we deem overpaid may be a little too simplistic--I truly wish we could trim "fat" so easily, but I am skeptical. Metro needs to find a financially viable way to offer the service: cutting administrative costs is just going to lead to more service cuts, only indirectly rather than directly.

by Julie on Jan 31, 2010 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Alex B "How, exactly, do you plan to bring personnel costs under control?"

Well, for starters, let's look at health insurance costs. They've been rising steadily for years as we all know too well, and not just for organizations like WMATA but for everyone. To help cover these rising costs, many employees and self-employed individuals are simply going to have to accept paying more for insurance coverage. When costs go up, someone has to pay more. Sounds like basic economics and, of course, it is. But with unions and collective bargaining, who pays and how much becomes a contentious issue. With unions any increased burden on their members, no matter how small, is considered a labor concession, and unions usually don't like to concede anything. And rightly so, I might add, but these are tough economic times for WMATA, and everyone (everyone!) has to accept a little less--or at the very least, a much smaller increase in wages and benefits. Also, it may be determined that everyone (everyone!) may have to pay a bit more for certain particulars like insurance.

If each of WMATA's 10,500 employees paid an extra $300 a year (via a paycheck deduction, of course), or $25 bucks a month, WMATA would save $3.15 million. Is this not a reasonable response to escalating health insurance costs?

Moreover, maybe WMATA could offer a revised assortment of tiered health insurance plans, running the gamut from a catastrophic, high deductible plan to pricey, top-of-line coverage. Some healthy employees might opt for the cheaper plans. Lower-level insurance plans are, of course, less expensive to buy, so both WMATA will save as will those employees who select a less expensive option.

WMATA's next big step to creating savings is to rejigger its pension programs. While I don't know the ins and outs of the current system, it certainly needs to be on the table for reevaluation. WMATA may find it necessary that they can no longer be as generous as they once were. Many companies and institutions across the country are, in fact, now realizing that their retirements plans as currently structured are unaffordable. Times, as they say, are a-changing, sadly.

Also WMATA needs to consider whether wage ceilings should be implemented for certain positions. Again, I'm not familiar with WMATA's structure; it's possible they already have in place a tiered system. Whether or not such a system has already been established, a complete reevaluation is warranted, and if tightening up a bit is to be forced through, so be it. No one likes to be promised less or have a more slowly rise in grade level, but, again, the times today (and very possibly the future) are not the gravy days of the '80s and '90s.

Like WMATA, New York's MTA is battling huge budget deficits. To address their situation, a one-year 10 percent salary cut for all non-union employees has been proposed. It might go through, it may not, but at least it's being looked at. Perhaps WMATA should do likewise.

There are many ways WMATA can reduce personnel costs. If it means taking on the unions, so be it. If it means the charter needs to be revised, let's take a serious look what is to be done. These are challenging times; tough choices are facing WMATA's leadership and it Board. Do they have what it takes to get the job done?

by Anonymous on Jan 31, 2010 8:42 pm • linkreport

@Julie "If the current problem was caused by a drop in revenue, then the ideal response is to increase revenue."

The principal reason why revenue is dropping is due to people opting out of the system. The fares to ride Metro are presently among the highest charged by any system in the world. Even though gas prices have once again drifted upward, many folks find it cheaper to use their cars for commuting and daily excursions. Others are now bicycling, walking or car sharing to a greater extent than before. The result is falling ridership throughout the WMATA system.

Simply returning to the same passenger well again and again for additional revenue is no longer an option. Any increase in already high fares will only push more transit users to consider alternatives, leading to further revenue loss.

by Anonymous on Jan 31, 2010 9:07 pm • linkreport

Those seem like interesting goals to shoot for, Anonymous, but I still don't see the 'how' there. How would you achieve these goals?

I ask because I see people suggest things like this all the time, without ever addressing how incredibly challenging (if not next to impossible) it will be to completely re-do those union contracts, to say nothing of the costs and timeframes involved with doing so.

by Alex B. on Jan 31, 2010 9:10 pm • linkreport

The result is falling ridership throughout the WMATA system.

Hard to believe that is true.

by Jazzy on Jan 31, 2010 9:25 pm • linkreport

@Jazzy Re: falling ridership ... "Hard to believe that is true."

Unfortunately it is indeed true. After peaking during the gas price crunch of 2008, ridership levels fell in 2009 both on Metro trains as well as on buses.

WMATA leadership based the system's budget on increasing ridership, but when this failed to occur, the gaping budget gaps we see today quickly materialized. This inept forecasting is known far and wide in the business world as mismanagement, and the blame here can be squarely placed on WMATA's executive leadership as well on the Board.

by Anonymous on Jan 31, 2010 9:58 pm • linkreport

@Alex B "Those seem like interesting goals to shoot for, Anonymous, but I still don't see the 'how' there. How would you achieve these goals?"

Good question. Indeed, it's going to be a challenge to make progress slowing the increasing costs of personnel. And there won't be any quick fix either. Nevertheless, WMATA leadership has to address this situation, and the sooner they do so, the better.

A firm decision by executive management to focus laser-like on controlling personnel costs is, in and of itself, a meaningful beginning to the process. With judicious decision making, the nitty-gritty of exactly "how" to proceed should become apparent. The unions, of course, will need to be brought into the process, and everything–wages, benefits, perks, and so on—must be on the table for consideration and reevaluation. It was take effort and time, to be sure, and maybe little will be accomplished this year or next, but starting the process is the key.

The budget woes currently facing WMATA may not ease for several years. An improving economy may help to some extent, and another gas crisis will certainly enhance ridership levels. But what is really needed now to ensure WMATA's long term stability is conservative budgeting and a slowing rise to personnel costs.

by Anonymous on Feb 1, 2010 12:23 am • linkreport

Ok, but what's WMATA's leverage with the unions? What will they offer in exchange for reducing WMATA's costs?

I ask, because most of WMATA's previous efforts via third parties (the courts and arbitration) haven't helped WMATA from a budgetary perspective.

What I fear is that the only way WMATA has the necessary leverage to extract the concessions you speak of is if the system is essentially on its deathbed - i.e. after they make these draconian service cuts, and the situation still doesn't improve. I almost see it as major surgery that you can only begin once the patient is in critical condition, and at that point the odds of saving the life a slim.

by Alex B. on Feb 1, 2010 7:40 am • linkreport

Anon,

Granted most of my 'evidence' is anecdotal and photographic, but I'd like to see some numbers on ridership. I have no doubt that there is and has been mismanagement at the board and mgmt level. What I do have doubt about are the numbers. Did they stop running as many trains in 2008? Those are the sorts of things I'd like to know. (I know bus lines have been cut. It would follow then that there might be fewer riders.) It's possible this has already been discussed recently on GGW.

I disagree with some of your musings on benefits for employees.

How I wish you'd get a name, already.

by Jazzy on Feb 1, 2010 7:46 am • linkreport

@Anonymous: You say that WMATA has some of the highest fares in the country. Do you have the numbers to back this up? Several people have already provided numbers showing that WMATA has some of the lowest fares in the country, particularly on the buses.

I have to agree with Jazzy, IÂ’ve been hearing that ridership is down, but IÂ’ve also been hearing and seeing busses, trains, and stations that are more crowded than ever without an apparent cut in service.

by James on Feb 1, 2010 10:15 am • linkreport

Ridership is down, that's just a fact. The trains seem just as crowded because capacity is down, too - even if service hasn't been decreased yet. Capacity is down due to using manual mode instead of automatic in the wake of the crash, and manual mode isn't nearly as efficient at moving the trains, particularly during peak hours.

At peak hours, when train headways are very tight, any small delay (doors at the platform, for example) will quickly cascade through the system. That slows the train behind it, which then causes more people to accumulate on the platform, which means it takes even longer to load and unload the train, which slows things down even more... It all compounds on top of one another.

by Alex B. on Feb 1, 2010 10:32 am • linkreport

To a couple "stats" that have been bandied about here:

"The fares to ride Metro are presently among the highest charged by any system in the world."
- Not sure where you got this idea, but it's completely and totally false. The absolute cheapest fare on the London Underground is ~$1.75 and it goes up from there.

"Metro's ridership over the years was declining at a steady rate until the recent surge during the $3-$4 gas price surge during Bush II."
- Also completely and totally false. Yearly ridership on Metro (rail) grew every year from 1996 to 2008, adding 100 million trips in that time period. Yes, it has fallen from '08 to '09, but that was to be expected given the record gas prices in '08 and the economic downturn. Everyone's ridership is going down.

This information is really not hard to find (you could try googling "public transportation ridership"), so I'll just assume you guys are making stuff up to try to prove your point.

by MLD on Feb 1, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

@MLD: We know that London is higher than WMATA in terms of rail fares. That does not refute the fact that WMATA is "among the highest charged by any system in the world". Didn't say WMATA was the absolute highest. There are very few systems that charge more than WMATA for equivalent trips. Right now I only know of one.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 1, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

@jazzy
I've not seen the Be a Green Commuter blog, but Arlington County hosts the CommuterPage blog, which may be at least a little of what you are looking for.
http://commuter.typepad.com/

by Steve O on Feb 1, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

@Alex B ... Re: "Ok, but what's WMATA's leverage with the unions? What will they offer in exchange for reducing WMATA's costs?"

A negotiated give-take approach, with WMATA management taking a firmer line, may produce positive results. If necessary, management can choose to ratcheted things up a degree to "carrot-stick" by pushing much harder for concessions during arbitration. If the arbitration process is fair, management will win its share of battles. Labor is well aware of this and will choose what to fight for carefully.

WMATA management, in conjunction with the Board, would be well advised to pursue amended tweaks to the arbitration process. Rules that govern labor negotiations during economic downturns might be expanded to give WMATA leadership more flexibility to balance the budget. In what way do they go about doing this short of chapter amendments, I have little idea. But if there's the will to move forward in this direction, there's a way.

It's important to stress that labor unions should not be looked on as an adversarial enemy; usually, it's counterproductive. Nor are the unions that represent WMATA employees the sole cause of WMATA's budget difficulties. But they have to be part of the solution. Wage and benefits must be tempered, or pared back slightly, and when prosperous times wane. But as mentioned above, WMATA management doesn't have the tools it needs to do this properly at this time.

@James ... Re: "You say that WMATA has some of the highest fares in the country. Do you have the numbers to back this up?"

Metro train fare in and around DC are fair and reasonable. But when the outlaying areas, such as Dunn Loring, Rockville, Greenbelt, are factored in the cost of using the system rises dramatically for many passengers.

Some examples:
Bethesda ---> Metro Center (one-way, full fare)...$2.70
Twinbrook ---> Metro Center (one-way, full fare)... $4.00
Twinbrook ---> Ballston (one-way, full fare)...$4.50
Ballson ---> Courthouse [Arl] (one-way, full fare)...$1.65

Add in bus transfer or parking garage charges, and the system becomes rather pricey for many passengers. Bus service fares, on the other hand, are very reasonable.

A few comparisons with other transit systems in the U.S.

MTA (New York)--one-way trip w/free transfers, including bus ... $2.25 flat
CTA (Chicago)--one-way trip/.25 1st transfer, 2nd free ... $2.25 flat
MARTA (Atlanta)--one-way trip ... $2.00
MBTA (Boston)--one-way trip/free transfers (bus, too) ... $1.70 w/CharlieCard
BART (Bay Area, CA)--mileage-based system similar to WMATA's; comparable pricing to WMATA (Some transit people consider BART to more commuter rail than inter/intracity transit.)

As for international systems, my knowledge is limited as I've only used transit in Tokyo, Beijing, Bangkok and Kyoto. All were very reasonably priced, however.

by Anonymous on Feb 1, 2010 4:11 pm • linkreport

I wrote about transit fares in the United States two weeks ago. See my analysis here: http://tracktwentynine.blogspot.com/2010/01/transit-tuesday-fare-enough.html

BART, which also has a graduated fare system, is by far the most expensive of the heavy/light rail systems. The maximum fare on BART is $10.90.

The highest fare on the DC Metro and on Denver's Light Rail is $4.50 in both cases. Next in line is Pittsburgh, with a max fare of $3.50.

by Matt Johnson on Feb 1, 2010 4:20 pm • linkreport

WMATA needs to take basic economics 101... how can they think that by cutting service AND raising fares that they won't just be shooting themselves in the foot?! Riders may accept fare increases, OR they may accept service cuts--but most of us WILL NOT ACCEPT BOTH! I'll happily pay a little more if it means keeping the service intact! We've already seen that service cuts are only saving basically pennies on the dollar here and there--the only way to really plug the budget is to increase revenue from advertising, local subsidies, and to the most extent possible, fares. Continuing to cut service will just eat into revenue because people who have a choice, will not chose to keep taking Metro if the cuts continue. For those of us who are dependent upon public transit and have no choice--we'll be left to suffer with over-priced fares for crappy service! Further, if Metro starts to collapse in on itself, that means more people on the roads which in the end, will end up costing the local governments far more in road upkeep and related costs than if they'd just forked over a little bit extra in their subsidy.... but I guess nobody is thinking about the bigger picture here! How typical!

by Matt on Feb 8, 2010 5:10 pm • linkreport

Why not kill the Blue, not the Yellow? The Bridge is underused as it is. Run shuttles (train and bus) form the Pentagon to Roslyn, and start "Silver", before the Tyson's extension is completed, trains form West Falls Church and run them to Largo. To kill the Yellow during off hours is just plain dumb, it would mean a lot longer trip downtown or to the Verizon center and Nationals park for anyone south of the river. Run truncated Blue service to National Airport, if you want. Metro is really in a pickle, some of it their own ineptitude and some of it not their fault (lack of funds) However something has to be done differently. Cuts to this level are unacceptable for the Nation's Capital's public transit system.

by Mike on Feb 12, 2010 5:48 pm • linkreport

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