WASHINGTON — Metro would get $500 million a year in dedicated regional funding for capital projects and could bid out some operations to private groups, under a proposal General Manager Paul Wiedefeld released Wednesday.
Nearly all of the changes focused on fixing Metro’s financial situation would need broad regional agreement to take effect.
Wiedefeld proposes eliminating undefined “inefficient” and “outdated” business functions, opening key roles at Metro to bids from private groups that could operate train or bus stations or lines, and automating more work.
Those bids would include Metro’s unions, according to the proposal, who would have to bid against outside groups for new jobs.
Metro’s unions will likely resist many of those proposals, including a suggestion that no new employees get the benefit. Instead they would get something like a 401(k).
Also, the proposal calls for changing service schedules in a “timely” manner to respond to lower or higher ridership levels. The plan acknowledges that more reliable service could help the system draw more riders.
For workers, in addition to the major proposal to allow private bids for certain operations, Wiedefeld wants changes to arbitration rules that require arbitrators to consider Metro’s financial situation before making decisions related to contracts.
Capital and dedicated funding
The proposal does not take a position on how the region would raise an additional $500 million per year for a capital trust fund, but says it is necessary to prevent service from being cut further as the system deteriorates.
Outside groups have suggested regional sales taxes, property taxes on businesses around Metro stations and other ideas. Wiedefeld praised those other government and private groups that have been working on the proposals, in hopes that a deal can be reached.
In exchange for the dedicated funding, Wiedefeld’s plan promises that current contributions from state and local governments would increase no more than three percent each year.
Wiedefeld said the fund would have to be untouchable for other causes such as balancing the operating budget, so that Metro could use the promise of the money to borrow more funds upfront.
The proposal counts on the federal government renewing or increasing a $150 million dedicated contribution for capital projects such as new railcars. The funding is due to run out next year unless Congress acts.
Read the plan below:
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