After sounding the alarm that dramatic cuts would be needed to keep Metro afloat, the transit agency’s leader is painting a less bleak budget picture as he proposes his spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
General Manager Randy Clarke said promises of additional funding, totaling $480 million from Maryland, Virginia and D.C., and more fare dollars from riders have taken the shuttering of 10 Metro stations, along with big staff and service cuts off the table — for now.
Maryland is promising an additional $150 million and Virginia an additional $130 million. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced last week the District would provide $200 million more to Metro. This would be on top of the current $1.29 billion in funding the jurisdiction already provides.
“It’s one region’s success, and no one can be successful without Metro,” Clarke told reporters on Monday.
Along with the jurisdictions, Metro hopes ridership will also help to fill a portion of the original $750 million deficit. Clarke is calling for, at least, a 12.5% increase in Metro fares for rail, bus and Metro Access. That’s down from the 20% fare hike Clarke said was possible in December.
Also, late night and weekend fares will go up 25% if the budget is approved.
For rail, the proposed hike would mean that between 5 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, riders would pay anywhere from $2.25 to $6.75. Late nights would cost riders $2.50 with rides capped at that fare.
While the proposal doesn’t call for layoffs, it does say $38 million in cost cutting will come by freezing the salaries of personnel, including some union workers.
Some money will also come from funds being transferred from the preventative maintenance budget to the operational budget.
While stations will stay open, Metro may look at running more six-car trains when it can. It also plans to continue redesigning the bus network.
Clarke is hopeful the additional money from the jurisdictions won’t hit any snags as they move through the legislative process.
“We are as optimistic as we can be,” he said.
And while ridership is up, it’s forecast to still be down 25% from pre-pandemic levels as more people work from home.
“There’s no scenario where everyone’s going in the office five days a week again,” Clarke said.
But he did say he remains bullish that more development throughout the region will bring more riders to use Metro.