Metro Committee Set to OK Cuts, Fare Hikes

WASHINGTON — The Metro Board’s Finance Committee is set to give preliminary approval Thursday to fare hikes and service cuts as part of what Metro’s largest union calls a “death spiral budget.”

The plan would cut rush-hour service at the ends of all rail lines to a schedule of every eight minutes rather than the every-six-minute schedule that trains currently run. It would also raise rush-hour fares by 10 cents and off-peak fares by 25 cents.

In addition, the service change would increase scheduled rush-hour service on the Blue Line from every 12 minutes today to every 8 minutes by cutting the Yellow Line “Rush Plus” service between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt.

The changes would also cut a number of bus routes and raise bus fares by 25 cents.

A final budget vote by the Metro Board is expected March 23. If the board approves the plan, the fare hikes — which would begin around July 1 — would be Metro’s first fare increase in three years.

A number of transit advocacy groups worry that the combination of fare increases and service cuts could cut people off from crucial transportation and dissuade other riders from using the system.

“While we understand the fiscal crisis the agency faces, and the General Manager’s intention to close the gap by sharing the burden between staff, riders, and jurisdictions, further fare hikes and service cuts will only exacerbate ridership declines and financial challenges,” wrote Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth’s executive director, in a letter to the Metro Board last month.

“We urge the Board and leaders in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia to come together and close 100% of Metro’s operating gap with jurisdictional funding.”

And Metro’s largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said in a statement that the budget plan and the risk of additional cuts next year illustrate the need for a new regional, dedicated funding source for Metro.

“We stand with the riding public and continue to encourage the leadership at WMATA to reject this death spiral budget,” the union said.

The union and Metro have been squaring off in contract talks, which have spilled out into vocal public disputes since late last year.

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