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Washington Post endorses Fair Share for Metro

A Washington Post editorial today endorses the message advocates have been promoting: that local jurisdictions must pay their "fair share" to stop crippling service cuts to transit.

Photo by Medmoiselle T.
Metro is facing the threat of service cuts—shorter trains, much longer daytime and weekend waits, and other drastic curtailments, including to bus service—whose effect would be to further sap an anemic transit system already losing ridership and facing the prospect of a long-term death spiral. If Metro has any hope of pulling out of its nosedive, it will be badly undermined by the $44 million in service cuts proposed for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Virginia jurisdictions have taken steps to leave room in their budgets for WMATA funding, but in yesterday's Post, reporter Ann Scott Tyson quoted Maryland and DC officials saying it's unlikely they will follow suit. Tyson also cited (correctly, this time) with a link. Unless all jurisdictions chip in, none will.

Tomorrow, Mayor Fenty will release his proposed FY2011 budget. If it contains room for added transit funding, it will continue the momentum and pressure Maryland to come along. If not, it will be difficult to add the money to DC's budget. The WMATA Board must make its service cut decisions before the DC Council completes its budget process. Any new cuts or revenue increases the Council might endorse could come too late.

Jim Graham sent an email to Ward 1 listservs yesterday expressing his vehement opposition to eliminating the Yellow Line to Fort Totten, but he still has not endorsed DC providing more money to maintain Metro service. In the Post article, he said, "The challenge that we face is, assuming the mayor does not come up with the money, what do we forgo?" The Post's editorial addressed the issue head-on about whether it's right to cut other services to maintain transit:

State and local governments nationwide have been forced to make painful cuts to services in recent years, but Metro is a service of a different sort: It's the region's vital strategic linchpin. If people can't get where they want to go with relative ease and affordability, the basic functioning of the region itself will falter, along with its prospects for prosperity. Metro is the priority on which other priorities depend. Given that basic truth, it shouldn't be so hard for the District, Maryland and Virginia to find an extra $50 million or so among them, which is what it would take to maintain an essential regional resource.
Thanks to Dennis Jaffe who took the lead in reaching out to the Post editorial board.

Advocates have continued to pressure local officials through emails and flyering at numerous Metro stations. WJLA covered last week's flyering:

The Arlington hearing on the WMATA budget is tonight, followed by Montgomery (in Rockville) and Northwest DC (in Columbia Heights) tomorrow. These will likely be the most heavily attended, given their locations in more politically connected areas and their
locations atop Metro stations, unlike the others.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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If Maryland doesn't chip in, would it be possible to truncate train service at or near the Maryland state line?

by Eric F. on Mar 31, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

I mean, not entirely, but pro-rated based on the contribution amount. We can't let one jurisdiction jeopardize an essential service for other juridictions. Of course, this would mean that DC would have to go along, since without the core, the system is much, much less useful.

by Eric F. on Mar 31, 2010 1:05 pm • linkreport

I was just in SF and muni had big signs and posters all over the place advocating the riders take some action and put pressure on local leaders or there will be cuts. ..nothing like that from wmata that i've seen.

by nowisthetime on Mar 31, 2010 1:24 pm • linkreport

It's a recession, folks. Budget cuts are necessary. Just ask your average American family.

by John K. on Mar 31, 2010 1:37 pm • linkreport

We need a general transit strike. One day with no transit service, advertised in advance (but not well in advance). Area leaders are completely asleep at the wheel on Metro, and they take it for granted. Half of them wouldn't even be living in the area were it not for the incredible economic opportunities afforded to the area thanks to Metro.

by JTS on Mar 31, 2010 1:54 pm • linkreport

Just signed the petition. Just called my dad (who lives in a rural part of Maryland) and asked him to sign, too. I told him to explain to his state delegates and senators that without all the tax money that comes from Metro-related economic activity in Prince George's and Montgomery, the rural parts of the state would receive far less support from Annapolis for services.

by Cavan on Mar 31, 2010 2:37 pm • linkreport

@Eric F: If Maryland doesn't chip in, truncating train service wouldn't be enough to close their part of the budget gap. Most likely, all of the proposed bus cuts in MD would have to be enacted as well.

by JS on Mar 31, 2010 3:00 pm • linkreport

Ask the feds for more. A lot more.

by Redline SOS on Mar 31, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport

Looking at the budget numbers, if you take the General ManagerÂ’s Proposed Budget and adjusted it so:

- peak rail fares were raised 21%
- off-peak rail fare were raised only 11%
- a peak-of-the-peak charge was set to $0.20
- increased pass prices accordingly up to 25%
- charged an extra $0.25 when using paper farecards on Metrorail
- and increased parking fees by $0.25

The difference would be enough that all the proposed rail service cuts could be removed. At that point the jurisdictions could provide their own funding to avoid bus service cuts as they see fit without worrying about other jurisdictions contribution levels. Of course, there would still need to be a subsidy increase of $40 million, which all the jurisdictions would have to agree to. Higher charges for the use of paper farecards and for parking could compensate for smaller subsidy increases, but a subsidy increase lower than about $35 million or so would almost certainly mean that there'd be rail service cuts.

by Mario on Mar 31, 2010 4:43 pm • linkreport

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