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Metro Use A Rarity For Half Of Board
The District, with "an insurmountable lead," was the unofficial winner, Zimmerman said. But even friendly competition was too sensitive for specifics. Graham, Zimmerman and Metro Inspector General Helen Lew, the scorekeeper, declined to provide details about who rode and how often.
"I think that information is between me and the board members," Lew said.
With Metro facing a $29 million deficit in its $1.3 billion budget, riders fear that $21 million in proposed bus and rail service cuts will be used to shrink the gap. Fare increases haven't been discussed. But only Metro's board can make those decisions. For the non-riding members, riders had tips.
"They should know how it feels to stand at a bus stop and the bus doesn't come," said Josh Silver, a Bethesda resident who takes the bus and subway. Or how it feels when his Red Line train is delayed, he misses his T2 bus and then has to pay for a $10 cab ride home to pick up his daughter from school.
"If a Metro board member had a schedule like mine, it might get them a little more concerned about keeping the service reliable," Silver said.
Metro's board is a mix of elected and appointed officials. They usually meet twice a month. They don't get paid by Metro. District members receive no compensation. Some Maryland and Virginia members receive nominal compensation from the communities they represent. The exception is the alternate representing Prince George's County, Marcell Solomon, who has held the post since 2003. For the fiscal year that ended June 30, the county paid him about $73,000 for Metro work and other county service, according to a county spokesman.
The jobs come with a free hot lunch on meeting days. The lunches cost Metro about $8,000 last year. And unlimited travel on bus and rail.
The members who say they ride regularly are: Peter Benjamin and Gordon Linton, representing Maryland; Zimmerman, Catherine Hudgins and Jeffrey C. McKay, representing Virginia; and Anthony R. Giancola of the District, the only daily commuter. Hudgins got caught in Orange Line delays Thursday on her way to a Metro meeting.
Infrequent riders, in addition to Graham, are Maryland representative Betty Hewlett, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, Neil O. Albert, a deputy D.C. mayor, and D.C. Council member Michael Brown (I-At Large). Brown, sworn in last month, said he couldn't remember the last time he took Metro. Taking transit is not convenient for their jobs, they said.
Solomon rarely uses the system, current and former colleagues said. He did not return several calls to his office and cellphone.
Board members are supposed to pay for parking at Metro-operated lots and at the headquarters. At the headquarters, two blocks from Verizon Center, they park in daily spaces set aside on board meeting days. But some members haven't paid their bills in more than two years, officials said.
The headquarters garage started charging in July 2005, and a parking machine was installed ($1.50 an hour, with a $12 daily maximum). But the machine didn't always work, so then-District member Gladys Mack asked Metro to bill the city's members monthly, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. The typical invoice was $25.
"At first, board members paid their invoices regularly," she said. "As time passed, they began to pay sporadically, until it came to be that those billed monthly stopped paying at all." Only the District members requested bills, she said.
That was in June 2006. Metro declined to provide copies of invoices. Graham is the only member of that original group that was getting billed who is still on the board. Assuming that he attended every meeting since then, he owes Metro about $800.
Graham said he used the machine initially, then stopped when the District members requested that the city pick up the tab in recognition of their Metro service. But then-District transportation director Emeka Moneme declined to pay the bills. "We sent them directly to the council members' offices," he said.
Graham said he never received an invoice. He said he wasn't trying to avoid paying and will pay whatever he owes: "I assumed this was all being taken care of."
Nobody at the employee garage enforces the parking fee with regard to board members.
Euille, a member since 2000, said he thought board members got free parking and has never paid. Hewlett, appointed two years ago, said she didn't know she was supposed to pay for parking at Metro headquarters.