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Good Enough For Government Work: Pay Continues To Rise For DC Metro

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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D.C. Metro ridership and revenue is declining. In spite of major budgetary woes, D.C. Metro continues hire more employees, increase worker benefits and charge higher fares thanpublic transit authorities in other major cities.

A July report comparing the Washington, D.C., transit system to other major cities reveals that ridership is declining despite an increase in the District’s population. Ridership in 2015 was just 86 percent of 2005 levels, according to a July consultant analysis of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).  In 2005, D.C.’s population was smaller by more than 100,000 people.

Other cities such as New York and Los Angeles have maintained ridership levels well above their 2005 numbers by beginning to charge cheaper fares than D.C. Metro. The District charges roughly 0.39 cents per mile traveled, while in New York, riders are charged 0.28 cents per mile traveled.

Even with steady fare increases, declining ridership costs the D.C. Metro roughly $44 million in revenue in 2015. The operating budget for the WMATA is expected to grow to $1.1 billion by 2020 if trends continue.

The fiscal woes of the WMATA have not slowed hiring, however, which increased by 4.6 percent between 2011 and 2015. Other major transit services around the country have only increased their labor force by roughly 1.4 percent over the same period. (RELATED: McAuliffe Threatens To Defund DC Metro If Safety Does Not Improve)

The WMATA’s labor expenses have increased at a faster rate than other transit services in the country. Fringe benefits for WMATA personnel are the fastest growing labor expenses, rising 7 percent between 2011 and 2015. Benefits at other transit agencies have risen roughly 4.6 percent.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who serves as chairman of the Metro board, is requesting greater funding for the Metro from the District, Maryland and Virginia. Evans is requesting $300 million from Congress to help balance their budget sheet, and $1 billion annually from the local governments to conduct the necessary actions to keep the system running.

“All I’m asking you for is $300 million, which is your fair share, given the fact that we transport 50 percent of your workforce every day,” Evans told Congress in April. “You want there to be safety? You want this to be reliable? Or do you just want to leave here and do nothing?”

Others charged Metro officials have mismanaged their finances for years and are sitting on unspent federal grants. Management of the D.C. Metro continues to come under scrutiny amid the 10-month long SafeTrack repairs which aim to make the deteriorating system more reliable.

Federal Transit Authority officials have conducted more than 200 inspections of the system, finding more than 1,100 track defects, some on recently repaired sections of track, since October. Many of those defects have yet to be addressed by WMATA officials.

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