Metro approves $2.5 billion budget


Passengers on the Red Line wait April 25 for a southbound train to stop as it pulls into the Wheaton station. (Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Metro’s board of directors unanimously passed its proposed annual budget Thursday, adopting a $2.5 billion spending plan that, despite protests from riders, increases fares systemwide and requires larger subsidies from area jurisdictions.

The transit agency’s budget includes $1.6 billion to operate and maintain its regional network of trains and buses, to pay about 11,000 employees, to hire more police officers and to prepare to open the Silver Line in Northern Virginia.

It also will help pay for a major change in rush-hour service along Metro’s Orange Line. The change, known as Rush Plus, goes into effect June 18 and will add more trains per hour on the Orange Line to try to deal with overcrowded trains.

The crowding is known as the “Orange Crush” because trains between Court House and Rosslyn carry more passengers per train than anyplace else in the system.

The other chunk of the fiscal 2013 budget is the agency’s $905.2 million capital budget, which pays for a range of obligations, including replacing and rehabbing escalators, elevators and buses, and fixing platforms at some stations.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said in a statement that the budget “reaffirms our strong commitment to building a better Metro system — one that is safe and more reliable.”

Earlier in the process, the budget had a gap of more than $103 million. To address the deficit, Metro asked area jurisdictions for $47 million in additional subsidies.

Metro also hit riders with across-the-board fare increases that averaged about 5 percent, depending on the destination and the time of day. Those who park at Metro’s facilities will pay 25 cents more. The new fares and parking rates go into effect July 1.

As part of the fiscal 2013 budget, Metro kept the $7 maximum fare for disabled customers who use its MetroAccess service. It is also rolling out a 28-day pass for riders. In an effort to push riders to use electronic farecards, Metro will charge customers who use paper farecards $1 extra.

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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