To the Editor:
Two bills (SB 1210 and HB 2152) before the Virginia General Assembly would give the state two more votes on the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Operations Board. The board strongly objects because it was not consulted in advance and state taxpayers contribute just 16 percent towards its budget. They were shocked by this request because the state’s lone representative has never complained about this 20-year arrangement. They feel that this matter should be negotiated instead of forced down their throats.
Over the last 20 years, the railway has grown by leaps and bounds. Station parking lots have been massively expanded numerous times. Seventy new coaches and 20 new locomotives were purchased. Ridership records are routinely broken to the point that close to 20,000 trips are made per day. On-time performance now reaches an astonishing level of 97 percent. This transit system passed the stress test of 9/11 with much praise.
All local members of the current board are selected from a pool of elected officials. If they make bad decisions they could lose their bids for reelection. This “club” works fine because board members keep getting reelected, and VRE’s ridership and on-time performance keeps rising.
What the railroad really needs is more money. The funding amount in the transit portion of the governor’s plan needs to be greatly expanded so VRE can be extended to Gainesville/Haymarket and can build a new mid-day train storage yard.