The service cut proposals that the transit authority is preparing to present to the public in May hearings include some relatively minor changes in D.C. Metrobus routes, but a significant change in weekend train service.
The potential Metrorail cuts, widening the gaps between weekend trains and leaving them more crowded, will be reviewed by the Metro board’s Finance and Administration Committee at its Thursday morning meeting in Metro headquarters. If they survive that, they’ll be sent on for a final review by the full board on April 28.
At that point, the board would be committing only to the presentation of the service cut proposals at public hearings on May 16 through 20. Under the transit authority’s tentative plan, any changes would be adopted by the board on June 23, to take effect in September.
Budget crises have become an annual event at Metro, but this year’s scenario is different from last year’s, when the public was asked to review an enormous menu of potential service cuts and fare increases.
One big difference is that fare increases are not on the table. While that sounds reassuring, it was the fare increases last year that staved off a long list of potential service cuts.
This year, the list of potential service cuts is down to one element: the weekend train times. Riders won’t be asked to consider shorter hours for the train system, closing some station entrances at off hours or eliminating dozens of bus routes regionwide.
On the other hand, Metro won’t have the escape route of increasing fares. That’s the tension right now.
Metro board members hate to vote for service cuts. They even hate to vote for putting service cut proposals on the docket for public hearings. They know riders will howl, and rightly so.
But if they don’t develop a financial alternative this month — like a significant increase in the subsidy provide by the jurisdictions — that’s what they and the riders will face.
These are the routes that could be eliminated: K1 (Takoma-Walter Reed), N8 (Tenley-Glover Park Loop), E6 (Chevy Chase). The M4 (Nebraska Avenue) line would be extended to partially replace the E6.
These are not part of a budget-balancing proposal. Rather, they are part of Metro’s routine process of making adjustments in routes and schedules. The changes affect enough riders to require public hearings under Metro’s guidelines.
Weekend trains would arrive much less frequently, if the Metro board adopts these proposals. These cuts, for a net savings Metro estimates at $6.1 million, would be part of the budget-balancing for the fiscal year that starts in July.
* The gap between trains could increase from 12 to 18 minutes during the day on Saturday and to 25 minutes after 9:30 p.m.
* On Sunday, the gap between trains could increase from 15 minutes to 20 minutes during the day and to 25 minutes after 9:30 p.m.
Station naming rights
Board members have decided — at least for now — to drop the idea of selling the naming right to rail stations to raise money. Board members said last week they want more information from the transit authority staff on the impact of name-selling.
The board members also are reluctant to grant anyone a long-term lease on a station name when the rights probably wouldn’t go for much in today’s weakened economy.
Union Station surcharge
Metro board members are inclined to use the public hearings to discuss something that doesn’t require a public hearing: The imposition of a 5-cent surcharge on any rail trip that begins or ends at Union Station. This would help pay for improvements to the platform and the entrances and exits to the Metro station there. The board voted last year to allow such surcharges. The board can now vote anytime to impose the fee at Union Station.