Lawmakers Consider Massive Fare Hike To Cover Costs Of DC Metro

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Lawmakers across the Washington metropolitan region are sparring over how to deal with the D.C. Metro’s growing budget shortfall, some suggesting massive fare increases.

Mayor Muriel Bowser urged local leaders at a regional summit Wednesday to focus on finding a solution to the funding issues at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). A proposal brought before the D.C. Council Tuesday suggested hiking fares 35 percent to deal with the transit agency’s current $275 million budget shortfall. Declining ridership due to unreliability and SafeTrack repairs are leaving Metro strapped for cash and many localities appear reluctant to allocate additional funds to the transit system, reports FOX5.

The Metro Board of Directors convenes Thursday to discuss various suggestions to adjust fares and amend service hours.

“I’m against raising fares, I’m against cutting service and I’m against using capital dollars for operating expenses,” Evans told FOX5. “All are terrible financial approaches as well as others suggested by my colleagues like selling buildings. Metro is in the trouble it is today because of short-term fixes. Look at a fare increase like a tax hike. You don’t raise taxes in a situation where the entity is in decline.”

Commuters in D.C. have taken 20 million fewer trips on the Metro this year, bringing ridership to 10-year lows. Ridership fell by 11 percent between April and June when SafeTrack began and the declines appear to accelerate. Passengers took 8 million fewer rides between April and July alone.

Metro made 321 million passenger trips for the fiscal year, which ended June 30, marking a 6 percent decline over ridership in 2015. Metro officials previously estimated ridership would grow by 3.2 percent this fiscal year. Analysts warn if the trend continues, the D.C. Metro will have a $1.1 billion budget shortfall by 2020.

Evans wants 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 in dedicated funding from the local governments to conduct the necessary actions to keep the system running.

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