Metro’s day of reckoning
In the movie “Lincoln,” there is a pivotal moment in which the nation’s elected leaders must make a decision critical to the future of the nation. President Abraham Lincoln tells them solemnly: “The day of reckoning is nigh upon us.” That assessment can also be applied to the decisions that the D.C. area faces on Metro. Reform and additional funding are needed to save our region’s most visible economic development engine — one that also plays a crucial role in D.C. tourism and security, as well as the federal workforce.
The region’s business community recognizes that drastic action is required right now. That is why our organization, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, is urging our regional government leaders to make significant governance changes at Metro to assure that any enhanced funding for the system is used efficiently to improve safety, operations, reliability and public confidence in Metro. These changes should include reducing the Metro board to nine members from its current 16, setting relevant boardmember qualifications such as those included in the legislation creating the Metro Safety Commission, making the choice of the board chair a joint decision by the Maryland and Virginia governors and the D.C. mayor, eliminating the single-jurisdiction veto and modifying binding arbitration.
Federal legislation is being developed to address the problems, but decisive action must be taken by our regional leaders, namely Govs. Terry McAuliffe (D) of Virginia and Larry Hogan (R) of Maryland and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). They should meet immediately to develop needed changes to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact. Our region must take control of its destiny; otherwise, the only viable option may well be a federally imposed control board. No regional leader should want to see that become the solution.
Metro’s success is vital to growing our regional economy. We are reaching out to other business groups, riders, our employees and the public to join this effort to urge our regional leaders and Congress to act now to make changes in governance, labor matters, operations and accountability while we also look for appropriate dedicated funding sources to assure that Metro’s fiscal house is in order.
Metro’s recent outstanding performance during the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington demonstrated that the system can still deliver, but it needs our help. Investing in Metro, both organizationally and financially, is essential to our region’s future. The day of reckoning is indeed upon us, and we need to answer the call.
Terry D. McCallister is the 2017 chairman of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Kimberly K. Horn is the 2017 chair-elect of the organization.