By now, everyone has heard (or is aware) that WMATA has a $29M gap in their budget to fill. And soon. Early suggestions by some parties (coughGrahamcough) was to use part of the $200M bailout money to fill the gap. Which is a stupid idea. And most board members agreed; that idea got tossed last week. (I’m glad there’s some actual common sense being demonstrated now over in Metro’s HQ; use the stimulus money for the listed projects originally put forth. It’s not a magic piggy-bank to use for stop-gaps.)
So what does WMATA do? Michael Perkins over at GGW gave a great rundown of the four options that Metro really has at this point. Probably one of the most controversial to many is the option of cutting services. Yet Metro seems to be holding this one option at arm’s length. It’s very much a hot-button topic for commuters, because no matter what Metro decides to cut (if at all this year), some people will be unhappy.
So let’s pretend you’re Catoe & Co: What services, routes or other Metro minutia would you cut in order to help bridge that gap? We’ll assume that the most obvious and best option – jurisdictional subsidy increases – isn’t viable and that Metro’s only option now is to cut down services and / or increase fares. What do you do? What’s most fair to you?
And to kick the ball onto the third rail, I’ll give my opinion first.
I’d increase fares – but not across the board. Jump the parking garage fees up by a dime, and then bump up off-peak train service by another dime. While fare hikes aren’t my favorite idea, selective fare hikes are a lot more palatable than a slathered across-the-board fare hike. Moreso than ignoring the issue altogether and then slamming down a greater hike next year, especially.
Additionally, closing a few station entrances – in those stations having more than one – a couple hours early and reducing train frequency after say, 9 p.m., would probably help alleviate enough to bridge the remaining gap after the targeted hikes.
I can’t really comment on what bus lines to drop / adjust, as I don’t really use the bus services with any regularity. But I know many of you out there do. What would you suggest?
Lay ’em out, readers. Maybe Metro will listen.