Metro boss wants ad­di­tional sub­si­dies

With­out them ser­vice cuts may hap­pen, he says

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JA­SON TIDD

Metro Gen­eral Man­ager Paul Wiede­feld wants the gov­ern­ments served by the tran­sit sys­tem to pony up $500 mil­lion a year, with­out fare in­creases or any more ser­vice cuts.

On Wed­nes­day, Mr. Wiede­feld told re­gional lead­ers that Metro needs $15.5 bil­lion com­mit­tee cap­i­tal fund­ing over the next 10 years to re­main safe and re­li­able. The funds would pay for new and re­built rail­cars and buses, tracks, safety im­prove­ments and other items.

“If we don’t deal with this, the only place that we can is fares or to cut ser­vice, which means cut­ting em­ploy­ees, which I don’t want to do,” he told the Metropoli­tan Wash­ing­ton Coun­cil of Gov­ern­ments (COG).

Mr. Wiede­feld said Metro al­ready has elim­i­nated 800 jobs and more cuts would di­rectly im­pact ser­vice.

The 40-year-old tran­sit agency has been plagued by de­lays, safety is­sues and de­clin­ing rid­er­ship as it has come un­der in­creased fed­eral scru­tiny and re­gional com­plaints. Its year­long SafeTrack main­te­nance pro­gram, which ends this month, has cut ser­vice and in­con­ve­nienced cus­tomers as it re­placed tracks and up­graded sys­tems.

Mr. Wiede­feld’s pro­posal Wed­nes­day in­cluded re­new­ing fed­eral fund­ing via the Pas­sen­ger Rail In­vest­ment and Im­prove­ment Act (PRIIA) to at least at the cur­rent level of $150 mil­lion per year and cre­at­ing a cap­i­tal trust fund via a $500 mil­lion-per-year re­gional rev­enue source.

Metro’s cap­i­tal fund­ing agree­ment and PRIIA both ex­pire af­ter the next fis­cal year. Cur­rently, the cap­i­tal pro­gram is funded by $300 mil­lion in fed­eral for­mula grants, $150 mil­lion from PRIIA, $150 mil­lion in match­ing re­gional PRIIA money and $210 mil­lion from the re­gional ju­ris­dic­tions.

July 1 marks the start of fis­cal 2018 for the tran­sit agency.

Mean­while, COG’s board of di­rec­tors on Wed­nes­day adopted a set of prin­ci­ples to guide its strat­egy group, which is fo­cused on se­cur­ing cap­i­tal fund­ing by the end of fis­cal 2018. How­ever, the prin­ci­ples lack any dol­lar goals.

The prin­ci­ples call for re­gional and fed­eral gov­ern­ments to con­trib­ute, and more rev­enues from rid­ers — not from in­creased fares but from an in­crease in rid­er­ship.

With SafeTrack end­ing, Metro al­ready is reap­ing ben­e­fits, Mr. Wiede­feld said. He said de­lays caused by rail­car prob­lems are down 41 per­cent through the first five months of the year.

But his pre­sen­ta­tion stated that in­creased rid­er­ship alone would not solve the cap­i­tal fund­ing prob­lem.

“Even if Metro were to re­gain to­mor­row the 100,000 av­er­age daily rid­ers lost over the last decade, its pub­lic sub­sidy need for day-to-day oper­a­tions would still grow to $1.5 bil­lion in 10 years,” he said.

Metro also suf­fers on the op­er­at­ing ex­penses side, where costs are ris­ing at twice the rate of fares and com­mer­cial rev­enues, ac­cord­ing to the pre­sen­ta­tion.

Mr. Wiede­feld said the rev­enue is­sues, es­pe­cially on the cap­i­tal side, will not be solved through “man­age­ment magic.”

“Ded­i­cated fund­ing alone is not the an­swer,” COG mem­ber Marc Kor­man of Mont­gomery County told re­porters. “Metro’s prob­lem is not just money.”

Mr. Kor­man, a Mary­land state del­e­gate, called for re­forms within the tran­sit agency, such chang­ing who ap­points the Rid­ers’ Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil.

“You could re­form the process for the Rider’s Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil … to give rid­ers a real, ac­tive group at the ta­ble that can ar­tic­u­late their in­ter­ests,” he said, adding that he op­poses new taxes to fund Metro.

“It’s not some­thing we should be ask­ing tax­pay­ers to even do,” Mr. Kor­man said, adding that a re­gional con­sen­sus should be reached in­stead of push­ing sep­a­rate bills through Mary­land, Vir­ginia and the District.

Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fair­fax County Board of Su­per­vi­sors and head of the Metro strat­egy group, told re­porters that peo­ple want to know the rail and bus sys­tem is look­ing at ef­fi­cien­cies.

“We need to be able to tell our vot­ers, we need to be able to tell our tax­pay­ers that we’re look­ing at ef­fi­cien­cies, that we’re look­ing at ev­ery­thing that needs to be dealt with, be­fore re­turn­ing to the tax­pay­ers for in­creased fund­ing,” Ms. Bulova said.

Wiede­feld

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.