Back in April, I wrote about Metro cuts that would affect access to and from the University of Maryland, and right now further cuts are being considered for the new round of budget reductions. Here is an e-mail I got from the Coalition for Smarter Growth, asking citizens to sign their petition for Metro funding, and to send an e-mail to the Metro board to get public input before they make a decision.
What Metro is Proposing
Metro faces a $40 million deficit in this year’s operating budget (ending June 2010), and to address the shortfall, Metro is proposing serious service cuts. We are concerned about and opposed to:
- Increasing wait times from 20 to 30 minutes after 9:30pm on Orange, Blue, Yellow & Green lines; and from 15 to 20 minutes on Red line.
- Reducing 8-car trains to 6-car trains during rush hour.
- Bus service cuts that will leave many riders waiting long periods in the cold and rain.
Instead we believe Metro should examine other rail and bus service approaches that allow Metro to maintain service while closing the budget gap. For bus service in particular, by giving buses priority on key routes, we can speed bus service and save money. The state transportation agencies need to commit to doing this.
In addition, state, local and federal government should provide funding to help bridge the budget shortfall. The states of Maryland and Virginia should be reprogramming transportation funds to support critical transit operating needs.
You can read more about the proposed cuts and alternative ideas for meeting the budget shortfall on the Greater Greater Washington blog.
Metro Needs Sustained Investment
In the longer term, Metro needs the support of all levels of government to secure the needed funding to:
- Replace track, switches, electrical power systems, and station platforms; and,
- Purchase new buses and rail cars to keep up with growing transit ridership.
Total replacement and capacity needs between 2011 and 2020 is $11.4 billion. In December, Congress approved and President Obama signed an appropriation of a first, one year installment of $150 million for capital investments to address some of this need. This is the first part of a 10-year proposal to match $1.5 billion in federal funds to $1.5 billion in state and local funds. But we will need additional commitments each year from local, state, and federal governments for not just the $3 billion, but the full $11.4 billion in needs.
For comparison, the region has spent about $4.6 billion on the Beltway (Wilson Bridge, Springfield Interchange and HOT Lanes) and $3 billion on the Intercounty Connector in recent years, and Maryland DOT is now proposing $4 billion to widen I-270 to Frederick. Clearly, we have to make choices — we believe that investing in Metro should be a top priority, because of the many benefits it offers.