Monday, May 16, 2011

How Should Metro Balance Its Budget? Make Your Voice Heard This Week.

Clarendon Metro canopyDC's Metro system continues to go without a dedicated source of funding. Not coincidentally, DC's Metro continues to come up short on operating funds. So now the agency faces some unpleasant options: Cut service, hike fares, or go hat in hand to DC, Maryland and Virginia asking for more cash?

Metro is proposing a series of cost-cutting measures (PDF), including reduced service on several bus routes in DC. But as a Virginia resident, this is what caught my eye:
Rail Service
  • Widen Saturday headways from 12 minutes to 18 minutes until 9:30 PM and to 25 minutes after 9:30 PM until closing; and
  • Widen Sunday headways from 15 minutes to 20 minutes until 9:30 PM and to 25 minutes after 9:30 PM until closing.
As Greater Greater Washington has detailed, late-night service is no longer a perk - it's a key part of the system. Metro has shifted from a system mainly serving commuters & tourists to one that serves a mix of riders in all parts of the day. Ridership may be lower at these times, but given how valuable the service is and how infrequently trains already run, these cuts look like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

You have several ways to let Metro know what you think of the proposal. The easiest way is through an online survey. Some key questions:
  • Q5 - Local jurisdictions absolutely should be asked to provide more funding to continue existing service. Whether you ride Metro or not, we all see its benefits in reduced traffic and lower air pollution. Why shouldn't we all be asked to support it? 
  • Q6.1 - Again, of the options in the survey, I'd most support "Asking local jurisdictions to provide an increase in financial support."
  • Q7 - Given that taxpayers currently subsidize parking at many Metro lots through artificially low rates, raising parking fees where lots are currently full every day would be a great way to raise needed funds.

Additionally, you can let Metro know your opinion in person. There are two public hearings in Virginia this week:
Tuesday, May 17
George Washington Middle School Auditorium
1005 Mt. Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA

Wednesday, May 18
Arlington County Board Room, 3rd Floor
2100 Clarendon Blvd
Arlington, VA
All sessions start with an open house at 5:30pm, a town hall at 6pm, and a public hearing at 6:45pm. You can see the full hearing schedule (PDF) and learn how to sign up to speak at WMATA.com/Hearings. You can also submit written statements until 5pm on May 24, 2011 by emailing writtentestimony@wmata.com (note that submissions are considered public records).
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