Metro Cuts Back on Cuts
After months of review with transit authority staff, talks with regional leaders and six public hearings with riders, the Metro board decided Thursday to empty the piggy bank it keeps for a rainy day. That operating reserve of more than $13 million covered almost all of the expenses for the dozens of bus routes that the transit authority was considering either eliminating or consolidating to balance its $1.3 billion budget. The board still must take a final vote on the budget.
Bottom Line: Four routes are slated for elimination. Another would be consolidated, and one would gain service. Fares would increase on three routes.
Fare Increases: Riders on the J7, J9 I-270 express buses in Montgomery County and the W19 Indian Head express in Prince George's County would pay the express fare, $3.10 cash or $3 with a SmarTrip card, rather than the regular fare.
Eliminated Routes: L7 (Connecticut Avenue-Maryland Line); C7 and C9 (Greenbelt-Glenmont), some off-peak service on Z2 (Colesville-Ashton).
Modifications: Buses would be added to the L8 route (Connecticut Avenue-Maryland Line). The 21 A, B, C, D and F (Landmark-Pentagon) routes would be consolidated into a single route.
The board and staff whittled down a budget shortfall originally estimated at $154 million for fiscal 2010, which starts in July. The board had a few options for closing the remaining gap: Cut bus service, as proposed, raise bus fares by a nickel, find other cuts, including cuts in Metrorail service, use federal stimulus money or the operating reserve, or get local governments to increase their subsidies.
What Riders Said
The proposed service cuts were concentrated in Maryland. Other jurisdictions had contributed extra money to avoid most of theirs.
The pleas from the public reflected the importance of bus service in their lives. Here are a few of their voices, drawn from hearing transcripts.
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A lot of bus service in communities of color are being cut and we urge you to restore this critical service, service between Prince George's County and Montgomery County going east and west. . . . Now I am not fan of fare hikes, but I'd rather my fare go up by five cents than watch these drastic service cuts take place.
-- Josh Silver, Bethesda