WASHINGTON – The Metro Board of Directors Finance Committee approved the general manager’s proposed operating budget that includes service cuts and fare increases at a committee meeting Thursday, bringing it one step closer to board approval.
Board member Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County, voted against the budget. He opposed the fare increases and called them “a bad business move” given that customer satisfaction fell in 2016 and continues to fall.
Metro last raised fares three years ago, in fiscal year 2015, Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel said.
Board member Tom Bulger, who represents the District, said Metro needs to increase fares for the next year unless it can find another funding source.
“Unless we start printing money in the basement, this is inevitable,” Bulger said.
If the board approves the budget, Metro will increase fares by 10 cents per trip during rush hour, or “on peak,” for rail and 25 cents per trip outside of rush hours and on weekends. Bus fares would increase by 25 cents to $2 per ride.
Trains will also operate less frequently outside of rush hour, according to General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s revised budget. Riders would have to wait an additional three minutes between trains during non-rush hour and weekend service.
Metro is slated to terminate every other Red Line train traveling toward Shady Grove at Grosvenor-Strathmore Station on weekends and during non-rush hour service, according to the revised proposed budget.
Blue Line riders will have to wait less time for trains during rush hour. Trains will operate every eight minutes during rush hour rather than every 12 minutes.
In the amended proposed budget, Metro would leave the cost of a seven-day bus pass at $17.50. Chief Financial Officer Dennis Anosike said Metro addresses the concern of cost to low-income riders by not increasing this price. The general manager amended his proposed budget to include this, which will increase the total budget by $1.5 million.
The committee approved amendments proposed by Maryland, D.C. and Virginia board members to re-add bus lines and frequency of service in each of the jurisdictions.
Maryland, proposed by Board member Keturah Harley:
? Restore T14 Rhode Island Avenue-New Carollton Line service
? Restore Route F1 and F2 Chillum Road Line service
? Restore Route C8 College Park-White Flint Line service
? Continue to operate buses on Route J7, J9 Interstate 270 Express Line service until October 2017
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Metro will continue to have financial challenges to address in fiscal year 2019 but that he believes Metro is far from a crisis.
The committee agreed to wait to vote on the Capital Improvements Program until the day of the the fullboard vote so that committee member D.C. Councilman Jack Evans (D-2), the board chairman, could participate in the conversation.
Spokesperson Stessel said Metro will provide an updated cost of the operating budget incorporating the committee’s amendments to the Metro Board of Directors members vote on it in two weeks.