Commuters, city officials and D.C. Metro workers are lashing out at top transit officials for proposing 1,000 layoffs, fare hikes and reduced service to deal with a growing budget shortfall.
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. Wiedefeld argues major changes are needed at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and are critical to the future functioning of the region’s transit system. The “reality check” budget enraged riders and transit workers both, who called the proposal “unforgiving,” according to NBC Washington.
“Good God, we should applaud people who are still riding this thing, not punish them,” Council Member Jack Evans, chairman of the Metro Board, told The Washington Post.
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.
“That’s the main reason why people do not come back to the system, because you’ve cut their routes or you’ve added time to their travel,” Jackie Jeter, president of ATU Local 689, told NBC4.
The proposal is dividing city leaders on how to best fix the floundering transit agency. The District’s voting members on the Metro Board, Evans and businessman Corbett Price, say they are flatly against any fare hikes. Michael Goldman, chair of the Board’s finance committee disagrees, arguing fare hikes are inevitable and necessary, reports The Washington Post.
“Why would they raise them when they are closing early?” Sheediah Jones, a Metro rider, told NBC4. “I mean, they need to compensate us.”
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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