DC Metro board members unlikely to oppose fare increase, service cuts

WASHINGTON — D.C. could agree to support some type of Metro fare increase, but the transit agency’s board chairman said he hopes it won’t come to that.

Newly reappointed Board Chairman Jack Evans said Thursday that significant service cuts included in a budget proposal set for a public hearing next week were likely to be implemented.

“We are where we are. We have what we have. And my first priority is to not raise fares,” Evans said.

In the past, he had said the District’s members on Metro’s board would block any fare increases.

“I would hope that nobody vetoes the budget, though,” Evans said. “That would be my goal, is that nobody vetoes the budget, so we get a budget passed and move forward. Because I think with the goodwill that Metro has now generated from the successes over the (inauguration) weekend. … I would like us to present a picture of a board that is working together and is moving forward … otherwise it doesn’t serve the system well.”

Evans suggested that Metro could shift some money from its capital budget to its operating budget to temporarily stop or limit any fare increases — an accounting gimmick the transit agency has been trying to eliminate.

“Whether the board agrees with that, I don’t know … my first, and the District’s first, priority is not to have fare increases,” Evans said.

He said he expected that local and state governments would meet the requested funding increase in General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s budget proposal. However, Evans said he had serious concerns about whether increases forecast for future years would be viable.

The budget proposal includes cuts to bus routes and longer waits between trains — changes that Metro projects would cut $40 million from the bottom line because they would lay off workers, lower power costs and bring other cost savings.

Evans said the District is concerned about the longer waits for trains, but he expects he’ll go along with it.

“There’s a ripple effect as far as all these things’ costs, so we’re going to have to take a look at that and see. If we don’t want to do some of the service cuts, can we really afford it. And my view right now is probably not,” he said.

Riders and others can comment on the budget proposal at a public hearing Monday at Metro headquarters or through an online survey.

Evans said he would continue to be outspoken this year on what he sees as a significant need for increased funding from a dedicated regional tax, additional federal funding or some other source.

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