Metro takes service-cut proposal to riders

The transit authority has scheduled six hearings across the D.C. region this week to take public comments on its operating budget proposal for the fiscal year starting in July and potential changes in Metro service. The biggest change would affect weekend rail service. Here’s a guide.

This year is different

Last spring, Metro riders were studying various menus of proposals to either cut service or raise fares. Nothing was simple. Among the fare proposals, for example, was the then-new concept of imposing a surcharge on Metrorail passengers who traveled at the most crowded periods of the morning and afternoon rush hours. That idea caught on with the Metro board, and we wound up with an even more complex fare structure, thanks to the peak-of-the-peak surcharge.

Last year’s service cut proposals turned out to be the least popular of all the budget-balancing ideas. They were dropped from the final plan. After the public hearings, the board members said they believed riders were more willing to accept fare increases than service cuts. That led to Metro’s biggest-ever fare increases.

This year, Metro’s anticipated budget imbalance is not as severe, and General Manager Richard Sarles did not submit proposals for either fare increases or service cuts. However, the budget for fiscal 2012 did incorporate a significant boost in the subsidies paid by the regional jurisdictions that support Metro. That has yet to materialize. The current request for a subsidy increase stands at $66 million.

Meanwhile, the transit authority has offered a list of possible service cuts that would save $5.3 million in fiscal 2012. That’s mostly the rail service cut, and it’s a remarkably small amount of savings considering the potential impact on weekend riders. Metro’s proposed operating budget is $1.46 billion.

By June, the Metro board could adopt the service cuts as proposed, modify them or scrap them altogether. If the board does vote for service cuts, they probably would take effect in September.

Rail service

• Widen the gap between trains on Saturdays from 12 minutes to 18 minutes until 9:30 p.m. and then to 25 minutes until closing.

• Widen the gap between trains on Sundays from 15 minutes to 20 minutes until 9:30 p.m. and then to 25 minutes until closing.

Bus service

• Eliminate the E6, K1 and N8 routes.

• Extend the M4 route to Knollwood Retirement Home to partially replace the E6 route.

• Shorten Routes 70 and 71 to operate between Silver Spring and Archives at all times and reduce peak period frequency. Establish a new Route 74 to operate between Fort McNair/Buzzard Point and Gallery Place on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. Restructure Route V8 to operate via Fort McNair and extend to Gallery Place on evenings and weekends. Discontinue Route V7 after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

• Eliminate the Anacostia special fare, which will increase the fare from $1 to $1.50 for SmarTrip and to $1.70 for cash on Routes 94, A2, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, M8, M9, W2, W3, W6 and W8 as well as for stops at or south of Good Hope Road for Routes 90, B2, P1, P2, P6 and U2.

• Increase the bus-to-rail and rail-to-bus transfer value from 50 cents to $1 for riders transferring to or from Routes 94, A2, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, M8, M9, W2, W3, W6 and W8.

MetroAccess

Riders using Metro’s paratransit service for a trip comparable to Metro’s fixed routes will pay $3, rather than the current $2, if the Anacostia special fare proposal is adopted. The fare for MetroAccess is twice the equivalent fixed route fare. Any fare increase would take effect in September.

Hearings schedule

Each evening’s session is divided into an open house informational presentation, a town-hall-style meeting and an official public hearing with top Metro managers and members of the Metro board. The format provides for more give-and-take between riders and decision makers.

The open houses will begin at 5:30 p.m. The town hall meetings will start at 6 p.m. and the public hearings at 6:45 p.m.

Monday

Treetops Professional Place, Atrium, 8181 Professional Place, Hyattsville.

Tuesday

• George Washington Middle School Auditorium, 1005 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.

• St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church, Fellowship Hall, 4125 Fessenden St. NW, the District.

Wednesday

• Arlington County Board Room, Third Floor, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington.

• First Baptist Church of Wheaton, Fellowship Hall, 10914 Georgia Ave., Wheaton.

Thursday

Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, John H. Kearney Sr. Fellowship Hall, 2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, the District.

Other outlets

Written statements also may be submitted to the Office of the Secretary, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, or e-mailed to writtentestimony@wmata.com. Submissions must be received by 5 p.m. on May 24.

The transit authority also invited the public to fill out an online survey in which respondents can suggest ways to close the budget gap. The site will close at noon on Friday. Find the survey at: survey.wbanda.com/budgetsurvey.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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