In the face of a nearly $500 million dollar deficit, Metro is effectively proposing to turn its rail system into a commuter rail. Perhaps worse than that because at least the MARC runs weekends.
The tri-jurisdictional transit agency is considering the following cuts for the next fiscal year, which begins in July 2021:
- Eliminating weekend rail service.
- Reducing rail service on weekdays, meaning 30-minute wait times.
- Ending rail service two hours earlier, at 9 p.m.
- Closing 19 stations. (Low ridership stations like East Falls Church and College Park are being considered.)
- Reducing Metrobus service from 60 routes to 41.
- Cutting 2,400 jobs on top of the 1,400 Metro is proposing to eliminate this year. (That represents about a third of the workforce.)
“[T]he Proposed FY2022 Budget preserves barebones service to sustain essential travel and to ensure the network is in place to serve regional recovery,” according to a presentation from Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld. He presents the proposal to the WMATA board on Friday, Dec. 4.
The draconian cuts are avoidable if Congress gets its act together and passes a coronavirus relief package that includes dollars for public transit. The American Public Transportation Association is telling federal lawmakers to provide at least $32 billion. The lame-duck Congress faces a Dec. 11 deadline to fund the federal government, and could include a stimulus deal. A bipartisan group of senators would include $40 billion to assist hard-hit transit agencies in their proposal.
“Regardless of party or ideology, we must once again come together to save Metro,” tweeted Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The cuts would come when there is a vaccine. (Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, tells CNN it’s possible we reach herd immunity by May.) Right when the city’s economy could really start to recover, workers—particularly within the hospitality industry, among the hardest hit by the pandemic—would struggle to get around, as would customers. And students would struggle to get to school after wanting desperately to return to campus. Roughly half of students go to a school in the ward they reside in. So many would be impacted.
As the Post points out, this impacts the feds as well. “The federal government is also a Metro partner, but unlike MD, VA or DC, it doesn’t provide WMATA with any operating subsidies, just capital funding. Lawmakers such as [Virginia Representative] Gerry Connolly want the federal government to pitch in there. Federal workers are among Metro’s largest users,” tweeted transportation reporter Justin George.
Shook? Pissed off? The WMATA board will schedule public hearings and accept comments until February. A vote on the budget is scheduled for March. (Click HERE to leave a public comment.)
The blame falls to Congress, so activists and politicians are encouraging individuals to call their representatives. For my D.C. residents, try calling Maryland or Virginia members. (The umpteenth reason for D.C. statehood.)
City Paper wants to know what you miss and how you’ll know things are back to normal. Is it when you can see your grandmother? Or when you can return to the 9:30 Club? Be as detailed or vague as you’d like! Write us by replying to this newsletter or email me directly, and we will share with readers in a later newsletter.
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