DC Metro Leader Looks To Trump To Make WMATA Great Again

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The leader of the D.C. Metro Board of Directors is hopeful about what a Trump presidency means for infrastructure spending and the beleaguered transit agency.

President-elect Trump has made repeated promises to pour federal resources into rebuilding America’s roads and cities. While nobody knows the specifics of what Trump may or may not do regarding the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Metro Chairman Jack Evans, Ward 2 Council Member, is sounding optimistic at the potential for greater focus on public infrastructure, reports The Washington Post.

Trump promised to “rebuild our infrastructure” in his acceptance speech Tuesday and it appears at least some leaders at the WMATA are willing to give him a chance.

“The first thing he mentioned last night was infrastructure, and that’s exactly where we’re at here in D.C.,” Evans told The Washington Post. “I hope that continues, along the lines of getting the federal government more actively involved in the infrastructure of Metro.”

Since the system came under national scrutiny last winter, Evans has been on a virtual mission for more federal funding. In addition to $1 billion in dedicated funding from regional governments, Evans is requesting $300 million from Congress to cover their current $275 million budget shortfall.

“I don’t know what his thoughts are on Metro, but I do know he’s from New York, and they’ve gone through what we’re going through now,” Evans told The Post. “He would have a familiarity with public transit, and its importance to New York and the people who live there.”

Other leaders at the WMATA are less hopeful however, arguing that the current Republican-controlled Congress is normally opposed to big spending bills on infrastructure. Union officials from ATU Local 689 said they are going to need to be vigilant and fear a Trump administration might try and privatize the transit system.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) currently oversees the struggling agency, making the federal role in the D.C. Metro greater than other national transit systems. Leaders of the D.C. Metro system are moving closer to accepting cuts to late night service in order to free up time for preventative repairs. Other proposals to deal with their budget shortfall include fare hikes and massive layoffs.

Declining ridership and SafeTrack repairs are leaving Metro strapped for cash, and many localities appear reluctant to allocate additional funds to the transit agency.

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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