Proposed Metro Budget Includes More Peak Service

By Lena H. Sun
Friday, January 11, 2008

Metro is proposing a $1.3 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins in July that includes $19 million in service improvements for Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess, the paratransit service for the disabled.

The agency plans to run more eight-car trains during rush periods and six-car trains during the off-peak, officials told board members yesterday. This winter, Metro cut service by running predominantly four-car trains on weekends and weekdays off-peak. But General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. reversed that decision after complaints from furious riders about packed trains and crowded platforms.

The agency also plans to add more buses to some heavily used routes. Specifics are being worked out. MetroAccess will receive 100 more vehicles and will switch from curb-to-curb to door-to-door service in June.

Even factoring in the latest fare and fee increases, officials project train ridership to grow by 2.5 percent and bus ridership to grow by 1 percent. MetroAccess, which had no fare increases, is projected to grow by 16 percent.

Operations Control Center Efficiencies Planned

Deputy General Manager Gerald Francis also said that Metro hopes to improve on-time performance of the rail system through better coordination within its Operations Control Center. Metro's latest indicators show the agency failed to meet its benchmark of having 95 percent of trains run on schedule during the past 17 months.

Currently, supervisors in charge of disparate departments, such as passenger communications, track signaling and traction power, which provides electricity to run the trains, sit in different areas of the sprawling control center, he said. Clustering them with individual subway line controllers will help them identify problems more quickly when trains break down, he said.

Action on Land Development Program Postponed

Board members also postponed for another month reforms of the agency's program for transit-oriented development. Metro has significant land holdings around its 86 stations. But a task force report in June concluded that the transit agency has failed to encourage developers to build homes, offices and stores at the trains' doorsteps, blaming Metro's time-consuming and cumbersome bureaucratic process.

About a quarter of the stations have property available for development, many of them east of the Anacostia River in Prince George's County.

"We're frustrated that it has been seven months since the task force report was completed and Metro hasn't moved forward on this," said Andrew J. Scott, special assistant to Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari.

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