Metro’s prob­lems are tran­sit author­ity, op­er­a­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS ● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­

This is the per­cep­tion: At long last, of­fi­cials are get­ting down to the real nitty gritty about the re­gion’s mass tran­sit woes. The re­al­ity is this: They’re try­ing to tether the so­lu­tion to a “ded­i­cated,” Metro-only fund­ing stream.

Keep in mind, though, once you get the facts, that they don’t want to solve the tran­sit prob­lem. They merely want man­age the prob­lem, be­cause if they ac­tu­ally solve the prob­lem, they man­age them­selves out of a job.

See, the D.C. re­gion’s tran­sit prob­lem is the tran­sit author­ity it­self.

Tech­ni­cally, there are only 16 mem­bers on the board of the Wash­ing­ton Metropoli­tan Area Tran­sit Author­ity, or Metro, as the agency is com­monly called. D.C., Mary­land, Vir­ginia and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment get two vot­ing mem­bers and two al­ter­nates apiece. Some of those mem­bers are elected of­fi­cials, and some are ap­pointed. But that gov­er­nance struc­ture in and of it­self is not the prob­lem.

The prob­lem is that the board’s 16 mem­bers and the higher-ech­e­lon power­bro­kers, in­clud­ing Metro Gen­eral Paul Wiede­feld, also have to an­swer to re­gional of­fi­cials in Mary­land, D.C. and Vir­ginia, and those re­gional au­thor­i­ties have to re­port to state au­thor­i­ties, and those state au­thor­i­ties all look to fed­eral au­thor­i­ties for poli­cies, laws, reg­u­la­tions and, of course, the mother of all trans­porta­tion pol­icy-mak­ing, funds.

All au­thor­i­ties also have to con­sider trends and pro­jected trends in busi­ness, trans­porta­tion and hous­ing, as well as so­cial, eco­nomic and cul­tural data.

As for unions, they have their say, too, and they tap dance only af­ter dol­lar signs are guar­an­teed in red ink.

Vot­ers? Well, all they want is for vot­ers and other cit­i­zens to pony up — and that’s the real nitty gritty.

Ten Demo­cratic law­mak­ers in Mary­land have pro­posed not only over­haul­ing/re­form­ing Metro’s board but also es­tab­lish­ing a spe­cial pot of money in each of the three ju­ris­dic­tions served by Metro.

The amount? Each would be re­quired to pay $170 mil­lion. A year. Ev­ery year.

Where would the money come from? Taxes. Gas taxes. Car ren­tal taxes. Prop­erty taxes. Sales taxes. (Heck, why not kick in bi­cy­cling taxes? Oh, right. There are none.)

Metro is not a bro­ken bus, sub­way and para­tran­sit sys­tem. Metro has been a poorly man­aged sys­tem whose board didn’t pay at­ten­tion. Grow the sys­tem was the board’s No. 1 pri­or­ity.

Now that Mr. Wiede­feld has de­liv­ered that clear pic­ture, tax-and-spen­ders have their hands out.

Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan and Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe should just say no.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser won’t go it alone, and it’s dif­fi­cult imag­in­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion giv­ing two thumbs up.

Time is not of the essence re­gard­ing any new fund­ing pro­posal. Log­i­cal, apo­lit­i­cal de­lib­er­a­tions and con­tin­ued over­sight are, how­ever.

Metro trains are mostly run­ning safely and on time, buses are clog­ging up the roads as usual and peo­ple can still use para­tran­sit as their per­sonal taxis.

If Metro au­thor­i­ties re­ally want to know how to ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently run a tran­sit sys­tem, they should study New York City’s — one of the largest, old­est and most widely used ur­ban pub­lic sys­tems in the world.

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