The new budget proposal from D.C. Metro leaders raises fares, increases wait times and slashes 1,000 jobs in what the general manager calls a transit “reality check.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld unveiled a budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year Sunday that would drastically alter the functioning and makeup of the transit agency. The budget calls for a 10 cent increase in fares with the maximum fare rising to $6. All bus fares increase by 25 cents and parking fees will rise 10 cents under the proposal. Train service will be reduced to an eight-minute schedule instead of every six minutes, reports The Washington Post.
The proposal also calls on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to fire 1,000 transit workers and cut employee healthcare expenses.
“Metro has to face reality when it comes to what the region says it can afford and direct those resources to best serve the riders we have today,” Wiedefeld said in a statement Sunday. “The most difficult part of this plan is the impact for Metro customers and employees.”
Officials estimate the fare hikes and service cuts will yield roughly $50 million in annual revenue. Additional funding in the 2018 budget comes from the D.C., Maryland and Virginia governments, which currently contribute $845 million annually. The budget calls on the District to contribute an additional $47 million, Virginia to add $39 million and roughly $44 million more coming from Maryland, reports WTOP.
“I’m against raising fares, I’m against cutting service and I’m against using capital dollars for operating expenses,” Council member Jack Evans, the chairman of the Metro Board, told FOX5 in October. “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.”
Declining ridership due to unreliability and SafeTrack repairs is leaving Metro strapped for cash and many localities appear reluctant to allocate additional funds to the transit system. The current budget shortfall at Metro is $275 million.
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.
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