Public hearings begin on proposed Metro cuts

Metro officials kicked off the first of six public hearings Monday night in Hyattsville, as riders voiced their concerns about the impact of cuts in the proposed operating budget on bus and rail services.

Metro faces a deficit of about $66 million in its budget next fiscal year and is considering extending the weekend wait times between trains to generate a small portion of the savings. General Manager Richard Sarles has asked jurisdictions in the District, Maryland and Virginia to make up most of the difference, but the agency is considering $7 million in service cuts for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Last year, Metro implemented a complex set of fare increases after examining several options to help close a $189 million deficit. The final plan included a surcharge on customers who travel during the subway’s busiest periods, as well as an increase in regular fares for train and bus riders.

This year, with a smaller deficit in a $1.466 billion operating budget, there are no proposals to raise fares for regular bus and rail service. Any service cuts would begin in September, Metro has said.

Among the proposed changes:

l Widening the gap between trains on Saturdays from 12 minutes to 18 minutes until 9:30 p.m., and then to 25 minutes through closing. The gap on Sundays would be from 15 minutes to 20 minutes until 9:30 p.m. and then to 25 minutes through closing.

l Eliminating and shortening some bus routes, mostly in the District.

l Getting rid of a special fare for selected bus routes in Anacostia.

l Increasing the fares for riders using MetroAccess.

At a public hearing and town hall-style meeting in Hyattsville, about three dozen people told Metro officials and two board members — Alvin Nichols and Marcel Acosta — of their concerns about cutting some bus lines’ services and making wait times between trains longer.

“Weekend train service is something more and more people are relying on as D.C. is becoming a place where you can live without a car,” said Ben Ross, who lives in Bethesda and rides daily to his job as an environmental consultant near the Farragut North station. “With train and bus, D.C. is an area that provides transit all week, making it attractive for new building that will revive the economy.”

Jackie Jeter, president of Local 689, which represents Metro’s 11,000 employees, said she doesn’t agree with the cuts and changes to some bus lines because “cutting those lines will hurt someone in those neighborhoods.”

Vasiliy Kisunko, an organizer for the Sierra Club, said that longer wait times between Metro trains would be “devastating.”

Staff writer Robert Thomson contributed to this report. Metro’s budget sessions continue this week. A full schedule is available at washingtonpost.com/drgridlock.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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