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What's at stake for Metro riders in budget

See other postings in this series on Metro's options:
-- Jim Graham: Tap capital budget.
-- Transit coalition asks Metro to avoid cuts.
-- Rider proposes targeted fare increase.
-- Smart Growthers back fare hike, borrowing.
-- Metro rider outlines travel concerns.
-- Riders consider train lengths, service cuts
-- Riders group backs surcharge.

We've heard from many riders and transit advocates. Now let's consider what's ahead.

Firm prediction: When the Metro board meets Thursday morning to consider what it heard at Wednesday's 5:30 p.m. public hearing, it won't approve any major service cuts to balance the current budget.

Prediction, less firm: Divisions among the board members will emerge over whether to close the gap simply by lifting money from the long-term maintenance and equipment-buying budget or to include a five-cent or ten-cent surcharge that would at least reduce the hit on the capital budget.

Outlook murky: Whatever the board does on Thursday, it's only the beginning. The current shortfall is chump change compared to the one looming in the Metro budget year that starts in July. It's very unlikely that the local jurisdictions supporting Metro are going to kick in any extra money for the operating budget. Meanwhile, Metro needs them to make a renewed commitment to finance long-term maintenance and improvements.

Riders who care about the transit system will expend a lot of energy and passion discussing the fare surcharge, proposed service cuts and risks of taking money away from the maintenance and improvement budget. But almost immediately, the board will begin asking them what it should do about closing the next budget gap, of about $175 million.

Plenty of the ideas they've expressed about this round will apply to that round, only more so. All those proposed service cuts, the ones I think will be avoided for the next few months, are likely to be on the table again for the year starting in July. Also on the table will be a very substantial fare increase.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 27, 2010; 11:38 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , Transportation Politics , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metro budget  
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Next: Alexandria DASH bus considers fare hike


Are the rider's paying for all the law suits or something? Did Metro's insurance policy get renewed?

Posted by: luvdc808 | January 27, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I would rather like to expend my energy and passion discussing why we can't also consider the other three-quarters of the agency's budget as fair game... You know, employee wages and benefits?

In the opinion of a rider, it is very frustrating to read that Metro would rather burden its customers with poorer service and/or higher prices than to even consider scaling back on the agency's generosity unto itself - especially in the form of what seems like exorbitant overtime and pension benefits.

Metro, you are a young and capable transit system, and you've got the potential to be a world-class example of public transportation. I'm rooting for you, I really am. But you desperately need to learn how to manage yourself in a safe and financially responsible manner. I think your days of getting away with it all are severely numbered.

Posted by: HydroxCookies | January 27, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Attacking wages and benefits is racist.

Posted by: member5 | January 27, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

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