D.C. Metro's budget shortfall estimated at $40 million

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 18, 2009

Metro's projected budget shortfall for this fiscal year has shot up from $22 million to $40 million, officials said Thursday, prompting the transit agency to consider reducing rail and bus service.

"Metro is in what might be the worst financial crisis of our existence," General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. told Metro's board of directors during a regular meeting.

According to a memo Catoe sent the board Tuesday, actions being reviewed include lengthening the waits between trains to up to 30 minutes; reducing peak rail service (which would create more crowded trains); closing some station entrances; and cutting service on some bus routes.

The deterioration in Metro's financial picture is attributable largely to the recession and the increase in unemployment, which means fewer riders and less revenue, officials said. Rail revenue is 6 percent less than expected and bus revenue is 10 percent less, for a total of $35 million less revenue than projected.

"There has been a decline in transit ridership nationally based on the economy," Catoe said.

At Thursday's meeting, Metro Chief Financial Officer Carol Kissal outlined several steps to make up the $40 million budget shortfall, including some that Catoe can begin taking immediately. Proposed rail service changes that will be addressed in a special session of the board Jan. 7.

Recommended savings include:

-- $12 million by shifting some parts purchases from the operating to the capital budget.

-- $10 million by canceling some preventative maintenance.

-- $2.2 million by eliminating about 125 positions (100 vacant operating positions would not be filled and 25 administrative jobs would involve layoffs).

An additional $6 million is available from insurance reimbursement for the June 22 crash on the Red Line that killed nine people, and $5.6 million could be drawn from Metro reserve funds.

About $4 million in savings would come from bus and rail service reductions, Kissal said.

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