The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors signed a regional letter to Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton on Tuesday, June 19, objecting to the administration’s attempt to circumvent the efficient transit funding system used successfully in Northern Virginia for decades. This move is being done in the name of transparency but, as the authors of the letter lay out, it only complicates the process that Northern Virginia uses to fund transit and could undermine vital services like Metro and the Connector.
"[The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission]’s current formula is the result of significant regional negotiations and collaboration to develop effective transit operations that does not stop at jurisdictional boundaries. Unfortunately, this unexpected [Department of Rail and Public Transportation] action occurred without any consultation, which would have quickly identified some serious concerns," the authors write.
At issue is a change in the way the Commonwealth directs distribution of its financial assistance for transit to Northern Virginia localities. Currently, the DRPT forwards that money to the NVTC, which allocates it based on the decades-old Subsidy Allocation Model (SAM). The SAM is in state code, and failure to allocate state assistance to WMATA using the SAM (as DRPT is attempting to do) would violate state law. SAM has been used by NVTC since 1974, and no state representative has ever voted against it.
The letter’s authors say that the SAM helps "cushion the impact" of unexpected changes in state transit aid, especially for smaller jurisdictions. The mayors and chairs also decry the short notice for this change.
"It is not reasonable to change NVTC’s successful and long-standing process with only ten days notice after FY2013 local budgets have been adopted and after NVTC had complete applications for the state aid [at issue]," they write. ""The new policy will create local winners and losers with no time to identify other workable solutions to achieve DRPT’s objectives. NVTC is not aware of any factor that necessitates a rush to action."
The signers of the letter are Chairman Sharon Bulova, NVTC Chairman Jay Fisette, Arlington Board Chairman Mary Hynes, Falls Church Mayor Nader Baroukh, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, and City of Fairfax Mayor Robert Lederer.