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Metro to hold public hearing on closing $40 million shortfall in current budget

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. has proposed several strategies to fix budget woes.
Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. has proposed several strategies to fix budget woes. (Jahi Chikwendiu/the Washington Post)
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By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Metro will give the public a chance to comment on proposals to help close a $40 million shortfall in its current budget during a hearing scheduled Wednesday at the transit agency's headquarters.

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. has proposed closing the gap for this fiscal year by several means, including shifting $12 million in parts requirements to the capital budget and using stimulus funds rather than operating funds for $10 million worth of preventive maintenance.

The options being presented at the public hearing are an additional step. Board members decided to seek public input after riders and transportation groups expressed concern about proposed service cuts and fare increases.

Among the choices being presented to the public are:

-- Option 1: Cut service by $4 million and transfer $12 million from the capital budget.

-- Option 2: Use $16 million from the capital budget.

-- Option 3: Impose a 5-cent surcharge on all fares and take $11.2 million from the capital budget.

-- Option 4: Impose a 10-cent surcharge on fares; take $6.4 million from the capital budget.

The board plans to decide on a course of action at its meeting Thursday. However, the board must almost immediately face the possibility of additional fare increases and service cuts to help make up a deficit of at least $175 million in the $1.4 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Metro has blamed revenue shortfalls on declines in ridership. Metrorail ridership is 6 percent lower than projected for the current budget year, and bus ridership is about 9 percent lower, officials have said.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Metro headquarters, 600 Fifth St. NW. Written comments can be e-mailed to public-hearing-testimony@wmata.com or sent to the Office of the Secretary, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. Be sure to reference Hearing No. 547. Submissions must be received by the end of the hearing.


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