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Metro details service, fare options in budget

Metro's staff has just released a more detailed menu of options for riders to consider as the board of directors figures out how to close a $40 million budget gap. There's no dessert. These are all choices with negative consequences for riders.

But in recent weeks the board has been pressing the staff to expand the range of options and the details about what would happen if fares in crease so much, service is cut so much or maintenance is delayed so long. Today, we see the result of that staff work.

I'll outline the options for you here, then link you to the statement Metro issued Saturday because the additional details are quite extensive. (If you're a bus or train rider, I urge you to look over those details, because many thousands of riders would be affected and it's not as simple as, "Pay 10 cents more per ride and we're okay.")

Option 1: Reduce Metrorail and Metrobus service to save $4 million, and take $12 million from the capital budget to pay for parts that are needed to keep the bus and rail system in good working order.

Consequences: Riders would experience more crowded trains and buses, longer waits between trains and buses; customers may be required to travel an extra block or two to an open station entrance evenings and weekends.

Option 2: Use $16 million from the capital budget to pay for parts that are needed to keep the bus and rail system in good working order.

Consequences: Using capital budget money to plug the current operating budget shortfall would create a $16 million shortfall in next year's capital budget and delay a rail yard rehabilitation project by one year.

Option 3: Increase fares by 5 cents and passes by the equivalent of 5 cents to generate $4.8 million and use $11.2 million from the capital budget to pay for parts that are needed to keep the bus and rail system in good working order.

Consequences: Riders would pay more for their trips. Using money from the capital budget to plug the current operating budget shortfall would create an $11.2 million shortfall in the next capital budget and delay a rail yard rehabilitation project by one year.

Option 4: Increase fares by 10 cents and passes by the equivalent of 10 percent to generate $9.6 million and use $6.4 million from the capital budget to pay for parts that are needed to keep the bus and rail system in good working order.

Consequences: Riders would pay more for their rides. Using capital budget money to plug the current operating budget shortfall would create a $6.4 million shortfall in the next capital budget and delay a rail yard rehabilitation project by one year.

That's only the bottom line. Look at the full statement to see how service cuts would affect bus and train services.

More generally, notice that Metro is no longer asking for public comment only on a $4 million portion of the budget gap, the part that involves a fare surcharge or service cuts. Metro now asks you to comment on $16 million of the cuts. It's not that things got worse. It's that many board members are concerned about the impact of taking $12 million from the capital budget -- the maintenance and equipment-purchasing part -- and using it to pay for running trains and buses right now. The board members want you to know that this action -- nice now, because it avoids further service cuts -- will have long-term consequences in deferred maintenance.

Use this link to see more information about the Jan. 27 public hearing.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 16, 2010; 1:32 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metro, Metro budget, Metrobus, Metrorail  
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Comments

I'm in for the added cost all the way. A 10 cent increase would add what, $5 to my transit costs at the end of the month? I know that times are tight for a lot of people and so maybe it's selfish to say that a $5 monthly increase isn't that big of a deal, but given the current level of service by Metro, I will happily pay $5 a month to not make that worse.

Now, do I trust that Metro can do it? Not really. But I don't want to see what service that even Metro says isn't as good might be like.

Posted by: runnergirl03 | January 16, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I agree that a 10 cent increase, etc, makes the most sense. I really don't see how cutting service would do any good, given how bad it is already, and I don't think they should borrow ahead because they can't afford to screw themselves on maintenance anywhere. In fact, I think they should consider 15 or 20 cents and try to work ahead. If they can do that, they'd offset lost riders from any increase for one, but also hopefully forestall problems in the future.

Posted by: kmcandrew | January 16, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

They should just close the system completely from 2AM Sunday morning to 5AM Monday morning. The wait times between trains are too long on the weekends to make the system usable and they could use this time to do maintenance as well.

Posted by: Axel2 | January 16, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

People that can't drive, rely on Metro. even on weekends,I'll pay the 10cents extra, if it means keeping metro open and running.

Posted by: Max231 | January 16, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I'd vote increasing fares by 20 cents and not cutting service or the capital budget at all. I don't like higher fares, but Metro service needs to get better, not worse. If the only way to make that happen is to have higher fares, then that's the way to go.

Posted by: robwilli | January 16, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Option four all the way.

Posted by: manfromtallahassee | January 16, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Pay to keep Metro in fine fettle by taxing Republican filibusters. Every minute they stall, another $1,000,000.00 goes to Metro.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | January 17, 2010 3:39 AM | Report abuse

Option 4. The originally proposed service cuts were too severe. Real people rely on Metro, even at night and on the weekends. It you don't use Metro at those times, it is easy to suggest complete elimination of service without any regard to how such a suggestion will have a real detrimental impact on others. Hopefully, the Metro board has better judgment.

Posted by: NovaCath1 | January 17, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

..."Metro is asking is no longer asking for public comment only on a $4 million portion of the budget gap..."
Come On! I'm sick of stupid errors like this in Post articles. Is anybody proof-reading?

Posted by: glidecr | January 17, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Clearly, Option 4 is the only thing that even makes half a bit of sense.

Posted by: pikamander007 | January 18, 2010 1:04 AM | Report abuse

All of these "options" require either the rider or the system to suffer... Why is it that Metro employee wages are completely exempt from this discussion? Salaries, wages and benefits for employees make up, what, 70% of Metro's operating expenses?

Metro budgeted $40 million in overtime pay alone last year... It would be a drastic and gutsy move indeed to stop paying for overtime, but I would still think it preferrable to cutting service.

Employees ungreatful of their continued employment in this recession are easily replaceable. Ridership is not.

Posted by: HydroxCookies | January 19, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

There is an option 5 as well. Metro has thousands of square feet of space that could be used by retailers, vendors and food service. I have heard they are looking at some limited retail offering but there is a lot of money to be had if they would lease all of that space...every other subway system I have been to has food and such for sale in them why not ours?

Posted by: gwodds | January 20, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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