Transit advocates urge Metro board to delay cuts
The Metro board is holding a special session Thursday morning at its headquarters in downtown Washington to review the budget-balancing cutbacks proposed for Metrorail and Metrobus.
Two groups are calling on the board to delay a decision.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth, an environmental advocacy group that supports public transportation, is urging board members to hold at least one public hearing and consider alternatives to the cuts in bus and rail service.
The coalition hopes the board will "commit to preserving peak period capacity and off-peak frequency, by finding other cost savings" to the proposed $4 million in cuts recommended by General Manager John B. Catoe Jr.
MetroRiders.Org, a group of rider advocates, sent a letter to the board urging its members to consider alternatives for balancing the books during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
"Metrorail riders across the region are very concerned about the headway reductions to 30 minutes in many areas," the letter says. "This change would make Metrorail one of the nation's least frequent systems off-peak. That's not appropriate for one of the nation's largest and most popular transit systems and the system serving our Nation's Capital."
The group makes this proposal: "To meet the current FY'2010 estimated deficit, why not follow the pattern of the last fare increase and impose the planned fare increase for FY2011 to take effect early -- during the remaining months of the current FY2010 -- hopefully to eliminate the need for the $4 million in proposed bus and rail service reductions that would otherwise have to be considered for those months?
"This would require speedy public hearings and Board decision-making after the General Manager presents his full proposed budget later this month to shape one fare increase that could take effect in late Spring 2010 and continue throughout FY'2011 starting in July."
Even though these cuts would deal with only a tenth of the anticipated shortfall of $40 million in the current budget, they'll still make the buses and trains more crowded and affect many thousands of riders. But board members will probably be thinking about several issues in considering a delay.
Even if the board approves cuts today, they won't take effect till March 28, giving Metro only three months to achieve the planned savings.
Why the lag time between decision and action? The proposed service changes would affect many bus and train schedules. The Metro managers, supervisors and bus and rail workers down the line need to be told. The bus drivers and their supervisors would need to learn the new routes. Last but far from least, all the maps and schedules for the affected routes would need to be redrawn, reprinted and distributed.
One of the proposed changes on Metrorail would eliminate the rush-hour train turn-backs at Grosvenor on the Red Line. The system maps on the trains and in the stations would need to be changed to reflect that.
On the other hand, the board might look at this $4 million service cut package and say that's mere chump change compared with the $175 million budget-balancing act that needs to be performed later this winter and spring for Fiscal 2011, which starts in July. There's almost certainly going to be a fare increase, which would require a public hearing. And further service cuts will be considered because all that can't be made up just through a fare hike.
The service cuts approved today for the current budget would be taking effect around the time people are going to the public hearings to discuss the changes proposed for the budget year starting in July. That gets pretty messy.
Layer onto that the prospect of needing to change bus and train schedules for Fiscal 2011 just after making all the changes required for the current budget. Now it's getting ugly.
If the board were to delay any action today, it might do so in favor of some proposal to deal with the two years' worth of budget shortfalls in a comprehensive way. But so far, we've heard no such proposal.
January 7, 2010; 8:40 AM ET
Categories: Metro | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, Metrorail
Save & Share: Previous: Accidents close lanes on 66 East, 395 North, 267 East [Updated]
Next: Metro board wants more options, public comment
Posted by: JG55 | January 7, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 7, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: esmith22015 | January 7, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: annie7 | January 7, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: EtoilePB | January 7, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: therewasacatch1 | January 7, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: robwilli | January 7, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: member5 | January 7, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | January 7, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JohnRDC | January 7, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SterlingNorth | January 7, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | January 8, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kevindiffily | January 11, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.