WASHINGTON – Metro’s chief operating officer and two consultant representatives each have their reasons why Metro should fund the $2.2-million regional bus study of the Washington metropolitan area.
A Metro spokesperson said Metro buses have transported riders along routes that have changed slightly during the last 40 years.
The Metro-funded Bus Transformation Study will not study routes traveled by local jurisdiction buses and Metro buses, however. It’s a study of several other issues pertaining to the regional bus companies’ business models. The consultants will speak to business leaders, local elected officials and riders.
Metro funded a regional bus study in 2007 and another in 1997, a Metro employee said.
Jack Requa, who works for the consultant AECOM, and is Metro’s previous acting general manager, said many funding jurisdictions were developing their bus systems 20 years ago during a previous regional bus study, “so it’s a good time to really get refreshed, and kind of… set a new base from where to work.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld included the bus study, to review Metrobus’ business model, in his proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget.
The bus service providers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia will need to formulate plans about how to operate sustainably, in light of the popularization of technologies such as ride-hailing services and the possible upcoming advent of driverless vehicles.
The regional bus study, which consultants and Metro’s chief operating officer Joseph Lear have said is called the “Bus Transformation Study,” will pull together ideas for helping the bus systems to continue to sustainably exist years from now.
“Hopefully it’ll come up with a good plan for the future,” Requa said of the study.
Metro Chief Operating Officer Joseph Leader said one reason for the study is that key Metro leadership has changed since the regional bus study conducted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in 2007 – including Metro General Manager Wiedefeld and himself, as the chief operating officer and chief safety officer – whom the Metro board and general manager hired during the last three years.
“This is not like the first time we’ve ever done something like this, but it was really time to bring everybody in and kind of just look at it from a regional perspective – how we’re operating, what type of service, is this the [right way] to go,” Leader said.
Rich Davy, of the Boston Consulting Group, which is helping with the study, said many things have changed – including demographics in riders (i.e., income level and age) and ridership levels – during the last 10 years, therefore making it necessary for Metro to conduct a new study.
Leader said the study that began in September will be different from previous regional bus studies that involved WMATA because all the stakeholders are going to be discussing ideas together in one room, instead of Metro employees meeting with funding jurisdictions’ representatives, one by one.
Dozens of stakeholders from local government, transportation, transportation planning, business and local unions will comprise a steering committee, which will help collect ideas for the bus transformation project. They will provide suggestions for a new bus business model for the region to consider adopting, as part of the study.
Jackie Jeter, president of one of Metro’s unions, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, was included in the list of participants in the study, which was distributed by a consultant at the bus transformation study kickoff event, held at American University in September.
Opportunities for public input in the study may begin at the end of this month, according to a consultant involved in the study.