Metro new budget proposal tackles tough cuts

WASHINGTON — With questions surrounding flat ridership and subsidies, Metro
General Manager Richard Sarles introduced an operating and capital budget with
no fare increases.

But the budget also calls for budget cuts and deferments. For example, Sarles
proposes eliminating 50 unfilled positions that were open in communications,
IT, finance administration, bus and rail. The agency hopes to save $5 million
from those cuts.

The budget would put off bus and station cleaning and a second emergency
response team, among other items.

Metro must make tough choices, because revenues are expected to drop $15
million, to $933 million, in fiscal year 2016, while expenses are expected to
rise $69 million, to $1.8 billion. To make up for that, Metro is asking the
local governments of the areas they serve to kick in $103 million more in
subsidies.

But from Montgomery County to Fairfax and Arlington counties, there is concern
about whether the counties can afford that.

If the jurisdictions were to ask for $15 million to be cut from the $103
million increase, then it could affect passenger service. Metro says it would
have to increase the time between times during rush hour 6 minutes to 8
minutes. During non-rush hours, the wait between trains would be 12 minutes
to 15 minutes; on Sundays, they would be up to 20 minutes. Metro also says the
crowded trains would become more crowded, especially at Rosslyn and Metro
Center.

But Sarles adds that service cuts are just one possibility if the agency
doesn’t get the full subsidies it wants. It could look at changes in
accounting costs or delaying some improvements for passengers.

Several key projects remain in the pipeline, though. Metro plans to still
replace the 1000-, 2000- and 3000-series train cars with the 7000-series,
although this would require D.C., Maryland and Virginia to commit before Aug.
1, 2015 to funding, over six years the purchase of another 220 rail cars.

The new rail cars would also help expand the fleet, so all rush-hour trains
would have eight cars.

Metro will hold public hearings in February about the fiscal 2016 budget.

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