$175 million. That is the current projected budget gap for Metro for the fiscal year. That is a gap some $30m larger than what was predicted just three months ago and you may be paying the difference. WaPo wrote today that Metro’s managers recommended this morning that up to $92 million of that gap be made up through fare hikes. That would require a full 25 cent increase on each fare, bus and rail, to cover 50% of the total shortfall. But why is Metro even worse off than expected?
Well revenues are down, of course. Way down. But why?
Officials said the main reason for the growing gap is the bad economy, which has meant fewer riders and less revenue.
Friends, you and I and everyone in between know that the economy, however recessed it might be, is NOT the reason Metro’s revenues are falling like crazy. Job loss is not why ridership is far below estimates. Does anyone even remotely believe this? Of course the economy has hurt every business, and Metro has to be run like a business (sort of). But COME ON WMATA. Walk up to a mirror and the answer to your falling revenue will look you right straight in the face.
The lack of a dedicated funding source for Metro is terrible and everyone knows that. Hopefully that changes soon, and it might. But how can taxpayers be asked to keep upping their contributions to the system while WMATA hits enormous problem after problem after problem. After problem. After death, after accident, after death, after problem. And now you want the individual riders to make up the difference with potentially significant fare increases?
Mr. Catoe, and all of your high-level staff: Ridership and revenues will continue to drastically decline if you continue to run the organization the way you do, regardless of the unemployment rate. I have no doubt that all of you are trying incredibly hard, but it just simply ain’t workin’. Not even remotely working. People are often scared to ride Metro these days, it’s not because they don’t have a job. It’s because the system is getting worse and more dangerous by the day; even after everyone accepted the big crash as a freak accident, Metro has continued to prove that there is no reason for riders to have confidence in the system. DC loves the physical Metro, it takes us where we need to go. But we absolutely do NOT love how the system is run, the lack of safety, customer service, communication, efficiency, management or timeliness of the organization and its trains and buses.
On top of fares, additionally proposed measures include more staff cuts, using capital improvement money for operations, and cutting service – specifically holiday service and MetroAccess. The board has said it will not accept Catoe’s current budget until they know more, but they are still proposing that the problem is the economy and the way to fix it is to raise fares. Good luck finding anyone outside of the board that agrees with your assessment. I’d love to fight and lobby for more dedicated funding for Metro, but first you have to fight for us. And right now, you are not.