Transit Advocates ask MD, VA & DC to Save Weekend Metro Service
Press release issued by Transit First!, May 16, 2011
With Metro beginning hearings tonight on proposed cutbacks in rail and bus service, the Transit First coalition called on the WMATA Board of Directors and member jurisdictions to solve the 2012 operating budget gap by increasing government contributions rather than cutting service. Transit First is composed of transit riders, environmentalists, labor, and community groups throughout the Greater Washington area.
While the proposed cuts are small in terms of money, the group noted, they would lead to 25-minute waits for weekend trains. Riders who change trains would have to plan on spending more than an hour and a half on train platforms in the course of a round trip.
Virginia and Maryland have offered to contribute their share to close Metro’s $66 million budget shortfall without cuts in service. DC appears to be searching for the funds to pay its share of the gap -- approximately $13 million. Now DC needs to provide its share of the needed money.
“This year’s budget discussion started out on the right foot because Metro’s board set a priority of preserving service,” observed Ben Ross, chair of Transit First. “ Instead of threatening disastrous service cuts or huge fare increases, the board proposed a budget where the gap will be addressed through the entire community, via increases in contributions from state and local governments. Now it’s time for D.C. to get behind this sensible approach,” Ross said.
Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth pointed out that long waits for weekend trains would hurt the entire Metro system.
“Metro offers much more than a 9-5 commute,” Cort observed. “Convenient service on nights and weekends makes Metro a builder of vibrant, livable communities. It isn’t just the riders who depend on the trains; the whole community relies on Metro to meet our environmental and economic development goals.”
Because weekend rail service headways are already too wide to be considered convenient by many travelers, we believe further increasing headways would further depress weekend ridership numbers and, consequently farebox revenues.
Transit First members will testify at the WMATA hearings this week, urging the board and member jurisdictions to find the money to plug the hole in the budget and avoid service cuts.