Closing WMATA $72 million gap could include increased local contributions or even station naming rights
According to the latest budget summary released this morning, WMATA's budget starts this season requiring $72.5 million in jurisdictional contributions, unless the region is willing to stomach fare increases, service cuts, or wacky one-time revenue sources like selling station naming rights.
A number of factors contribute to the deficit, including the cost of wages and fringe benefits, and lower system revenues as a result of lower-than-anticipated ridership growth, which Metro attributes to the economic climate.
WMATA also hopes not to repeat last year's one-time fix of transferring $30 million in preventive maintenance to the capital budget. However, on the other end, it moves $30.5 million in specific projects for overhauls to rail and bus maintenance shops to the capital budget.
At this point, WMATA is not making any proposals about how to close the gap, and the budget document by default shows it as a jurisdictional subsidy increase. Board members and local jurisdictions will have to decide if they can come up with the extra money, which is about 3 times as much as they added last year, or will have to swallow unpalatable service cuts or even higher fare increases.
During the Board discussion, non-public official members Peter Benjamin from Maryland and Mort Downey from the federal government expressed interest in at least exploring further the option to cut late-night weekend service and/or the Yellow Line extension to Fort Totten.
The presentation also lists some more radical ways to raise revenue, including selling station naming rights, which would bring in $1-2 million one time. Other one-time fixes include monetizing leases for development on Metro property to get all the money up front instead of a little every year, and skipping the plan to restore preventive maintenance money to the capital budget.
Metro's board will be reviewing the budget in more detail and approving a final budget before the fiscal year starts in July.
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