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Metro will not raise fares or make “substantial” cuts to bus and rail service during its next fiscal year, the WMATA board announced this afternoon.
In a draft budget, Metro proposed increasing rail and bus fares by 10 cents, eliminating late-night rail service on Fridays and Saturday, and getting rid of bus trips and routes that serve a low (but unspecified) number of riders. The suggested changes totaled $46 million in subsidy reductions for D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. But the board today to reject the fare increase, while keeping the door open for some cuts to bus and rail service.
Since the board did not adopt the proposed budget in full, Metro will continue to hold public hearings regarding potential cuts or additions. In March and April, Metro says it will conduct “public participation and outreach” and hold a public hearing at a future date.
“While the final budget vote will come in the spring,” Chairman Mort Downey said in a press release, “the Board’s action today reflects a continued commitment to further reduce administrative costs and reprogram money from non-safety programs, and signals continued support from our jurisdictional funding partners to help balance the budget and continue our standing fare and service policies.”
As Metro pursues its goals of a balanced budget, increased safety, and keeping D.C.’s commuters “satisfied,” its board is in the process of searching for a new general manager and CEO. Former General Manager Richard Sarles stepped down in September of last year. “We want to ensure that we identify a candidate with the combination of leadership, transportation, financial and management skills required to move WMATA forward,” said Downey of the board’s expectations.
WMATA’s fare hike and service cut proposal faced an already angry D.C. area public frustrated with near-daily service issues and reeling from the deadly smoke incident that occurred Jan. 20. Metro is now facing dozens of potential lawsuits from affected passengers and an investigative hearing led by the National Transportation Safety Board this June.
The board will adopt a final budget in May.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery