Lately, strikes, cuts and hikes have one thing in common in transit around here. More specifically, the Fairfax Connector, Maryland budget woes, and VRE fare hikes.
Fairfax Connector: Today is Day 2 of the bus driver strike, where drivers are holding out for a new contract with better pension and health benefits. The old contract ended on Sunday.
Yesterday, the first day of the strike, saw 16 routes get canceled and eight others put on a reduced schedule. Servicing over 20,000 commuters a day, the strike only affects the routes serving southern Fairfax County as the striking drivers are from the Huntington garage. The Herndon-based drivers are under a different contract so there is no reduction of service from routes originating there.
Both the union and Veolia Transportation (who runs the Huntington garage) are waiting to hear back from a federal mediator. Meanwhile, affected commuters should get used to checking the Connector website or calling 703.339.7200 for service updates.
Maryland: With $1.1 billion to drop from transportation spending, Maryland is cutting several area projects to save some cash. The biggest victim? Nearly one-third of the funding for the massive improvements around the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center was chopped away.
Other cuts include engineering work on the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway.
The usual litany of excuses was trotted out by state officials: lower gas tax revenue, low vehicle titling tax revenue, higher fuel costs, etc. The only good thing is that the cuts did not touch money being set aside for bridge maintenance and Maryland’s share of Metro funding.
Despite early assurances that the Intercounty Connector wouldn’t be touched, state officials announced last Friday that part of it would indeed be delayed to save money. Now, to be fair, the ICC isn’t part of the overall MD budget structure, as it falls under a separate financing arrangement. However, the project is being stalled due to uncertain federal funding and the usual ‘cost overruns’ so common with large projects these days. Supposedly, the ICC is still slated to finish on time.
VRE: There’s still time to make your voice heard about the proposed VRE fare hikes. The rail service is looking to increase fares twice next year – a 15% increase in January and another 10% in June. Midday service cuts are also being considered.
Again, the usual reasons why: fuel costs, labor costs, maintenance.
Still, VRE wants to hear from its riders and is holding both day and evening hearings at various locations. You can check the schedule for a location and time near you; it’s not too late to be heard.
Whether they listen is another matter entirely.