Metro GM says 10 stations and 67 bus routes could be eliminated, 2,000 layoffs possible if budget gap isn't closed – NBC4 Washington

Metro General Manager Randy Clarke warned of dramatic service and job cuts if the transit agency doesn’t close a $750 million budget gap in the first half of 2024.

Metro has been sounding the alarm for months, saying if a solution isn’t found, the transportation system as we know it could change, with stations potentially closing early and the number of trains being significantly reduced.

We’ve known about some of the potential impacts for months, but Clarke gave further details of his proposed “balanced but significantly reduced” budget for next year at this week’s media briefing. It takes into account the massive deficit in its operating budget due to problems with dedicated funding, ridership and inflation. Metro has already cut staff at five stations this month, citing “unprecedented budget challenges.”

“Without a sustainable and predictable source of funding to replace federal relief funding, the FY 2025 budget proposal represents an unrecognizable Metro with unprecedented service cuts required to close the operating deficit,” the GM’s FY 2025 budget proposal states /CEO.

Clarke said he is an optimist and he hopes the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s constant lobbying of jurisdictional partners will do the trick. He said the governors of Maryland and Virginia and state legislatures are well aware of the budget problems. News4 reached out to D.C.-area lawmakers about their Metro funding plans.

Charles Allen, D.C. Councilman and chair of the Transportation and Environment Committee, said in a statement that he has been working with county legislators and WMATA officials for months on possible solutions. He promised to push the council to pass a budget that “fully funds the district’s share of WMATA.”

“The clock is ticking and there must be a solution soon – we cannot be the city we need to be with these service cuts, and we cannot operate our city’s transportation system with this level of uncertainty,” Allen said in the statement. “Regional leaders have been in discussions for some time and I am confident that we all agree that this budget can never become a reality.”

He described this week’s proposed budget as a “worst-case scenario where DC, Maryland and Virginia do nothing else” before the WMATA board votes on a budget in April.

Here’s a look at what could change if Metro doesn’t close its $750 million budget gap.

Subway rail

  • All stations would close at 10:00 p.m. Currently the subway usually closes at midnight at the earliest.
  • Ten stations would be completely shut down. WMATA has not decided which stations will be closed, but the final decision would be based on ridership.
  • The subway frequency would be reduced. Currently most subway trains arrive every six minutes or less, but without a funding scheme from July next year the proportion of trains with headways of six minutes or better would fall to just 10%.

Metro GM says 10 stations and 67 bus routes couldMetro proposed cutting bus service by a third if it couldn’t close a major funding gap.

Metrobus

  • Metro could cut almost half of its bus routes. The proposed budget would eliminate 67 of the existing 135 budget lines. Service would be reduced on a further 41 routes.
  • A third of bus service in DC, Maryland and Virginia would be eliminated.

Fare increases

  • Metro warned of a 20% increase in fares and parking fees. For example, the maximum price for Metrorail is currently $6. Under the proposed budget, a Metrorail fare would be capped at $7.20.

Job cuts

  • In January 2024, Metro plans to freeze salary and wage increases.
  • In July 2024, 2,286 employees would be laid off.

What you should know about Metro’s budget

Metro is essentially the only major transit system that doesn’t have a dedicated funding source like a sales tax or gas tax.

Metro’s financing problems are complex. Dedicated funds have declined and ridership has not yet fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic.

“I think one of the main reasons why the number is so high is the pandemic and its impact. You know, the lack of ridership,” WMATA Board Chairman Paul Smedberg said this summer.

According to Clarke’s budget proposal, Metro will also exhaust federal relief funds provided during the pandemic at the start of the 2025 fiscal year.

The Metro seemed to be getting back on track in many ways, with new stations, more service and new trains on order.

The agency’s budget consists of two pages: the capital budget and the operating budget. The capital budget covers costs such as trains, buses, stations and tracks. The budget is in good condition. The operating budget covers costs such as paying bus operators, train operators and other staff. According to Metro, this is where the big budget deficit lies.

Clarke recently spoke to News4 about the funding issue while touring the new Potomac Yard VT station in Northern Virginia.

“In my opinion, we need to sort out our operational funding once and for all and have a predictable, sustainable source. Because who wants to do these big capital projects that everyone celebrates and then say, ‘Aren’t we going to run so many trains through that?’” he said.


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