Even with cuts to rail and bus service, the elimination of 500 more Metro employees, and fare increases, Metro is still asking Alexandria for $32.5 million more in FY2018 than they did in FY2017. To help close the Metro’s $290 million operating budget gap, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has requested a contribution of a $39.5 million, a $6.5 million increase from FY 2017. To help fund the $1.25 billion capital budget, WMATA has requested Alexandria pay $37 million, a $26 million increase from FY 2017.
At the Jan. 10 City Council meeting, city staff presented WMATA’s proposed budget to the council. According to Allan Fye, acting division chief of Transit Services for the City of Alexandria, said that the operating budget gap was largely due to declining ridership and reduced reliability over the last year of SafeTrack. Fye also noted that Metro now faces competition from a greater number of transportation options and trends, like Uber.
Mayor Allison Silberberg noted that Metro itself had encouraged riders to find other modes of transportation during SafeTrack work, and that apparently people had listened. The major cost on the capital budget side is rail and bus replacement. Sixty percent of the capital budget is dedicated to the acquisition of new 7,000 railcars, replacement of old buses, and the rehabilitation of current buses and railcars to improve service.
According to Morgan Rout, director of the Office of Management and Budget, the proposed contributions would have an eight- or nine-cent impact on the city’s tax rate if cash funded, or two cents if debt funding is included.
“WMATA has made it clear that their approach to the budget gap is one of shared sacrifice,” said Yon Lambert, director of Transportation and Environmental Services.
Funding levels for WMATA are still to be determined as part of the Alexandria City Council budget process. Silberberg made it clear that the city expects greater levels of accountability and responsiveness than in the past.
“We need accountability [from the Metro],” said Silberberg. “There is a reason 500 positions have been eliminated, and why 500 more will be. Without accountability at all levels, things have really gone off track.”