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Plugging Metro's Budget Gap: Reader Ideas

Following today's announcement of proposed service cuts for Metro -- which would include increasing gaps between trains toward the start and end of rush hour, eliminating duplicate bus service and closing some station entrances on the weekends -- Get There blog readers posted their suggestions for closing the budget gap. Have some of your own? Post them in the comments.

Instead of just closing station entrances and mezzanines, what about just making these entrances unstaffed? That way, the public still has access but they save having a station manager on duty at every entrance. Many NYC subway entrances are unstaffed and it seems to work fine (though they do have faregates that are harder to jump).

-- nashpaul

How much does Metro spend each year on escalator repair? My suggestion is to not run the short escalators, such as the ones between the mezzanine and the platforms. They are broken a lot of the time anyway. Metro would save some money by not powering those escalators, and by not repairing them. Then, they can cut back on the number of maintenance employees as well.

-- cainoo7x

  1. Privatize Metro. Union and benefits are eating up most of the budget. Get rid of personnel not needed -- I am sure there is plenty. Make employees pay a greater portion/co-payments of their health benefits.
  2. Get rid of "mezanine" personnel. They are useless...
  3. Make employees pay to use Metro -- enough freebies!
  4. Scrutinize budget with an outside accounting agency not related to Metro.
  5. Outsource repairs personnel. You will save a bundle.

-- rm1024

  • Don't waste money on upgrading the electronic signs. They are fine!
  • Charge parking on weekends.
  • Double the cost of a SmarTrip card. Actually charge money for paper farecards, since they are wasteful and less efficient than SmarTrip cards.
  • Increase the minimum fare by 50 cents.

-- Tony-Tony-Tony

More ads -- inside and outside cars, on station walls and floors, in parking lots, everywhere possible. Metro's leaving a lot of potential ad $$$ on the table.

-- JWJr

For starters, if the listed stations are slow on weekends, why not just close them and bypass them altogether? I saw nothing about layoffs or reduced hours. My job just informed us that we all are now the proud owners of two extra weeks of unpaid vacation, which will be deducted from our paychecks (prorated) starting next month, Metro can do that. What Metro really needs to do is have a real town hall meeting, on a local TV network. and have phone lines so that people can call in, instead of having meetings in locations that only the folks who live close by can get to. That's what I think.

-- 82AllAmericans

A lot of the bus, and all of the rail reductions (the C4 would be one example) will cause riders to have to transfer. If Metro could institute a timed transfer policy for those routes, the changes would be a lot less painful.

The BART in SF does this -- one rail line holds until the other train arrives, giving passengers a chance to catch the train that they are transferring to. In a similar situation, a Metrobus supervisor could determine that the C4 was less than 5 minutes away, and hold the Q2 (which duplicates its route) so the C4 folks can change buses and not wait for the next one, which would undoubtedly now have a longer headway before it arrived.

-- vtavgjoe

I think it's already ridiculous to schedule 12 minutes between trains after 6:30 p.m. since Metro is charging me rush hour (oops -- i mean regular) fares. I can't see us paying these fares to wait 15 minutes for a train! My husband regularly leaves work after this time, and his commute usually takes much longer than mine because of it (not to mention the number of missed buses). We've started to look for and take other options to get home whenever possible.

-- jrjumper

Would running the trains slower or more efficiently save any energy costs and/or help the environment, or reduce the wear and tear on the cars and tracks? It does for planes, but not sure for buses or subways. Has Metro implemented any study to see what maintenance procedures will maximize long term savings or compared the policies and procedures with other cities? What does D.C. do to learn from other cities? Are there current cost-effective green technologies that can be added onto buses to reduce fuel consumption?

I know that this posting may open the door for snide remarks on the inefficiencies of Metro but I would like to promote proactive discussion on improving service and would like to see more articles on these topics with ways that Metro area citizens can help push for responsible long-term change that is grounded not just in the current economic difficulties but is guided by long-term smart growth that accounts for economic justice, smart urban growth and environmental responsibility.

-- nate3456

Fight the union and cut the pensions like every private sector organization did a while ago. I could even take another fare hike (within reason), but don't start reducing service and extending wait times. Weekends are bad enough with rail maintenance and single-tracking, and early morning commutes are already extended with long waits before 7 a.m.

-- BTdc

As bad as it sounds, it could be worse. While nobody wants service cuts, there will need to be some sort of cut.

I think they should study the idea of raising fares slightly in the non-peak hours. Rush hour riders just had their fares raised, while those riders in the later hours did not.

This would be conducive for two reasons:

  1. It would help to justify Metro not cutting back late night service (such as early closings or yellow line closure etc)
  2. There has been a tremendous surge in late night ridership due to the development along metro lines (think red line and orange line corridors)

-- m1ke3i6

Bus fares need to rise to roughly $2. Train riders should not be subsidizing a more expensive way of transportation. ... Too many bus riders still pay in currency and not a SmarTrip card which causes more wear/tear to the machinery. That also holds up the buses while loading. Too many bus riders refuse to pay or underpay (parents of kids over 5, people released from jail, etc.) in certain parts of town. Buses are slow due to people all exiting from the front instead of from the back. Plenty of things metro could do to save money. Raising fares on the bus should be No. 1.

-- nathanmboggs1

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  February 19, 2009; 5:17 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Commuter Alert: Orange Line Delays Continue
Next: Commuter Alert: Orange, Green, Yellow Line Delays


Time to take a step back:
1. Can Metro handle more riders? If so, the answer to the budget shortfall should include "how do we get more people riding on metro?" Instead of all the "how do we save money by cutting service" ideas.

2. Would the buses be profitable if they had more riders? If so, how do we get more people riding the busses?

One big solution to the second question is to completely redo the bus system inside DC. Without looking at a bus map, tell me, where does the 80 go? What about the X1? What's the difference between the L2 and the L4? How do I get from Georgetown to Adams-Morgan by public transportation? The bus names and number make no sense to anyone but the planners. More people might take the bus if they had any idea which one to grab and where (without consulting the website).

If WMATA followed L'Enfant's layout and simplified the downtown routes like this: The North Capitol Line, 4th ST, 8th ST, 12th ST, 16th ST, the 20th ST, the 24th ST, coupled with the Constitution, the F ST, the K ST, the P ST, the U ST, then everyone would know that when they are downtown, they are ALWAYS within 2 blocks of a bus that will take them to a known spot on the grid. 12 Simple bus lines running in straight lines back and forth. How would you get from 2nd & H to 19th & Q? easy, take the K from 4th to 20th, then transfer to the 20 from K to Q.

I know there are problems with blocks in the grid (like the white house) and that some streets are one-way, but think about the broader idea of simpler, straighter bus lines. If you like the idea, please comment!

Posted by: djjunk | February 19, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Charge more for parking. If you have lots full early, if there's a waiting list for parking passes, if you have way more demand than supply, it means you aren't charging enough. Raise parking prices until you no longer have a waiting list (basic congestion pricing).

Posted by: cranor | February 19, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Won't someone please make serious suggestions regarding the seriously overweight gorilla in the room- Metro's union employees' benefits package? Are there any WMATA board members with political "balls"? Perhaps the BOD are all suffering under conflicts of interest- especially any of them that are elected officials in their respective jurisdictions. And what about members of the Rider's Advisory Council? There will be no solution until all cards are put on the table...

Posted by: kmm88 | February 20, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

I know that some or all of my ideas would be immensely unpopular (even controversial), but here goes:

1. Charge for parking on weekends/holidays at the same rate that is being charged for weekdays.
2. Increase parking fees.
3. Increase bus fares from $1.35 to $1.75 or $2, similar to other cities.
4. Get rid of peak/off-peak rail pricing, and charge all hours at current peak prices.
5. Reduce or eliminate the $5 fee for a new SmartTrip card to encourage usage.
6. Add a fee for paper fares (like 10%) to discourage use.
7. Power down short escalators (unless the elevator is out) to reduce power consumption and maintenance costs.
8. Renegotiate with the unions to lower wages/benefits/etc.
9. Simplify bus routes to eliminate unnecessary redundancy.
10. Ask the Federal Government to increase the allowable pre-tax transportation benefits from $100 to $150+ to encourage more ridership.

Posted by: rjf3833 | February 20, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

It's my understanding that there are enormous costs maintaining the "comforts" of our rail system - costs of maintaining and replacing the seat cushions and the carpted flooring in the trains. In other systems across the country you find hard plastic seats and rubber flooring which I assume are less costly to maintain. Yes, we are spoiled in DC; however, I think we could live without the cushions and the carpeting which could lower costs and potentially help metro use some environmentally friendly products.

Posted by: marydavie | February 22, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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