How would Metro cut service?
During his dozen years on the Metro board, D.C. Council member Jim Graham knew how to deliver services for the District's riders, businesses and neighborhoods. Those services included the night owl trains on weekends and the extension of the Yellow Line north to Fort Totten.
On Saturday, Graham participated in a League of Women Voters forum on changing the way the transit system is governed, and he helped extend that useful civics lesson into the realm of regional politics.
[I was moderator. The panel also included David Alpert of the Metro Riders Advisory Council and the Greater Greater Washington blog, James Dyke of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Arthur Guzzetti of the American Public Transportation Association. Metro board chair Catherine Hudgins also sat in.]
It rankles Graham that his former colleagues on the Metro board are discussing the possibility of cutting some services that are popular in the District, such as the night owl trains. Looming in the background during any such discussion policy changes is a long-standing element in Metro governance: The jurisdictional veto. It's the great equalizer between the city and suburbs.
Maryland, the District and Virginia each have two votes on the Metro board. But because of the veto, you can have four votes for a service cut and two against, and the motion dies if the two no votes are from the same jurisdiction.
The Board of Trade urged curtailment and possible elimination of the jurisdictional veto in its governance report, called Moving Metro Forward. That might allow a more regional approach to transit planning.
Graham is far more friendly to the jurisdictional veto. He said it had been used only rarely. Dyke noted that fear of the veto is present in many discussions of Metro policy. And it will be this spring, as the board talks about potential service cuts to either save money or expand the window for maintenance in the rail system.
D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, a new member of the board, may have been channeling the ghost of Graham last week when he asked the transit staff -- since it was reviewing the night owl service -- to also review the cost-effectiveness of the extra Red Line service between Grosvenor and Shady Grove.
It's unlikely we'll see any major cuts in service unless the pain is shared equally.
| February 14, 2011; 5:10 PM ET
Categories: Metro, Transportation Politics | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail
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