Metro hopes to maintain fares, service
The transit authority staff, now developing the Metro budget for next year, is hoping to do it without increasing fares or cutting bus and rail service, but that will be difficult. Among other financial challenges, Metro anticipates growth of 10 percent in the ridership on the costly MetroAccess service for elderly and disabled people.
Another concern for the budget staff will be the cost of the safety improvements stemming from the investigation into the 2009 Red Line crash and the recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The staff will work on $25 million worth of internal cost reductions at the transit authority. Over the past three years, Metro has implemented $165 million in budget reductions, the staff says.
But with current financial assumptions, and without an increase in the subsidies provided by the local jurisdictions, the staff projects a budget gap of $89 million.
It's early yet. The Metro budget year starts each July, so it's difficult for the budget people to project trends in revenue and spending, which will be important in creating the next budget. So far this fiscal year, Metro has seen a decline in bus ridership.
Last winter, Metro had to impose an emergency fare surcharge to cover unanticipated costs. That was followed by the permanent fare increases that took effect this summer.
The Metro board won't decide on an actual budget until the spring. Board members Peter Benjamin of Maryland and Jim Graham of the District, meeting today in the finance committee, expressed concern about adopting specific budget guidelines that would tie the board's hands. They are worried about whether the jurisdictions they represent would be able to increase their subsidies to a level that would balance the next budget.
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