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Metro GM Wants Delay on Fare Plan

Metro's new general manager, John B. Catoe Jr., plans to ask the transit authority board of directors for more time to review Metro operations before he offers his own set of proposals on fares and service.

He is scheduled to present that request at board committee meetings on Thursday. The original plan offered by Metro management in December called for the board to agree this month on the schedule of public hearings necessary before fare and service changes could take place at the start of Metro's budget year in July.

This new recommendation does not mean we're spared from fare increases and service cutbacks. Catoe just got started last week and wants a chance to look things over and present his own ideas.

Here's how he puts it in his written recommendation to the board:

"Fare adjustments and service reductions should be viewed as actions of last resort in the process of balancing the FY08 budget. To assure our customers and the public that every possible efficiency has been implemented an organizational review is underway. The results of this review will likely recommend reallocation of budgetary resources and budget reductions as Metro better aligns itself to deliver Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroAccess service. The organizational review is scheduled to be completed in time for all recommendations to be incorporated into the FY08 budget."

This is what his recommendation says about the proposed service cutbacks on rail and bus: "Reducing service is contrary to the mission of Metro and ultimately leads to a self-defeating proposal. Therefore, the service reductions that have been proposed will be re-examined for opportunities to invest those resources back into other areas of bus and rail service."

This is what it says about the proposed fare increases: "If fare adjustments are still called for after completely assuring that Metro's FY08 proposed spending plan is aligned to achieve maximum efficiency the
implementation may be delayed until after the start of the fiscal year."

Catoe wants to postpone the public hearings till he knows what he wants us to be talking about. But he still must have a balanced budget on July 1.

How would that work, fiscal responsibility wise? He could have a budget balanced on revenue increases scheduled to kick in sometime later in the year.

So it's not time to exhale. There are only so many money-saving changes Catoe can recommend in the short term. It still seems likely we'll see some sort of fare increase out of this process.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 6, 2007; 8:19 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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It seems that *A* fare increase has been confused with *the* fare increase that was recently floated. The prices of everything go up, as do salaries for most people. Why should metro not consider raising fares a reasonable and balanced amount? The proposal floated was objectionable because it seemed counter to the purpose of public transit, which is to get people out of their cars.

Posted by: ah | February 6, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

A fare increase of some sort is inevitable. It's wise of Mr. Catoe to want to take another look at this. He could let what was already proposed go through and then say it wasn't his idea to begin with, but this shows he wants to understand the issues first and be accountable for the results.

Posted by: Cosmo | February 6, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Any reactions yet to the Dragados fixed-price offer to build the Tysons Tunnel faster and cheaper than Bechtel?

Posted by: Fairfax | February 6, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I liked that the fare increase proposal tried to promote reverse or off-peak commuting. Hopefully some of those elements will be kept!

Posted by: | February 6, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

OK, so Catoe wants to see what Metro can cut from its administration, and so forth. I doubt they can make up the entire shortfall with efficiency improvements and internal cost-cutting. What worries me is that Metro won't know the new (hopefully lower, but perhaps not by much) budget shortfall number until well after all the jurisdictions are too far along in their budget process to consider any Metro funding increase except unlikely emergency funding. Metro benefits everyone; the jurisdictions can and should kick in more money--this is really why we need dedicated funding. But Catoe's strategy here looks like a case of waiting until too late to get the jurisdictons to rethink their contributions, then using the cover of "we've looked everywhere and tried everything" to push fare hikes, or to cut service.

Posted by: thm | February 7, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I live in the section of Springfield where Metro inflates bus fares by diverting the local buses (18G in my case) away from Franconia-Springfield toward the Pentagon so they can tack on an "express" surcharge (watch this space for a "congestion" surcharge). When I see this kind of inefficient routing, I simply can't take Metro's supposed need for more money seriously. They already get more money from me; perhaps they could change ALL the bus routes into "express" trips to distant Metrorail stations and get more money from everybody that way....

Posted by: steveb | February 8, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

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