Two Fairfax County supervisors who advocate an independent county bus system said this week that a consultant's study estimates the county could save $2 million annually by pulling out of the Metro transit system.
William Kuiper of Cityscope and Moblity Co., an urban planning and development firm based in Pennsylvania, said the county could spend $4.8 billion a year to operate its own bus system, compared with its current $7 million share of the regional Metro transit subsidy.
Kuiper's projections, which he called "highly subjective estimates," were presented to the Board of Supervisors at the request of Supervisor Audrey Moore and Board of Chairman John F. Herrity, both long-time advocates of an independent county or Northern Virginia bus system.
Kuiper is a McLean resident and former financial planner for Metro who contacted Herrity about his ideas for an independent bus system.Kuiper said he would be "interested" in consulting with the county if it decided to study establishing its own system.
"This is something we should have been looking at a long time ago," Herrity said of Kuiper's remarks. "Four years ago, when we came into Metro, we were told the reasons for doing so were the decreasing patronage and bus service and increasing fares. Now the same thing is happening, only we have a $7 million deficit to compound the problem."
Supervisor Joseph Alexander (D-Lee) was skeptical Kuiper's estimates.
"Getting the subway out here along with the buses is what is going to solve the problem," said Alexander, the county representative on the Metro Board. "Nobody's even talking about the costs of buying our own buses, setting up our own maintenance and paying the drivers."
Kuiper said most of the county savings would come from "increased control over labor and management practices." He said the county, because Virginia law prohibits public employe collective bargaining, could not be required to have union contracts with drivers. Metro drivers work under a union contract that Herrity and other Virginia officials often have said is unnecessarily costly.
"Who says we wouldn't be subject to union control?" Alexander asked. "Suppose we're not allowed to drive our buses into the District."
Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield) said the county" is already looking at providing our own service" to supplement Metro bus service in the county.
"We're looking at some sort of 'ride-on' system like Montgomery Country has," she said. Ride-on service is shuttle system that takes commuters from various locations to subway stations.
"An independent bus system isn't something you rush into headlong just because you decide you want it," she said.
In other action, the board decided to hold a public hearing May 30 on whether the county should require minimum training in sanitary practices for handling food in restaurants. The county has proposed that restaurant supervisors be required to take at least 16 hours of training in food handling.
As the supevisors met in the Massey Building, about 120 county school teachers marched outside, protesting the supervisors' announced intention of holding all county employe raises to 5.5 percent. Althouth the supervisors have no direct control over teacher pay raises, the board has said it will cut the School Budget, and cuts could jeopardize the 71.1 percent wage increase the county School Board has requested for its teachers.
Carrying such signs as "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance," members of the Fairfax Education Association sought publicity for the wage increase they claim is due them under a three-year agreement signed between the teachers' organization and the school board.
The wage agreement is not binding on the county because of last year's Virginia Supreme Court ruling outlawing collective bargaining for public employes. The teachers, however, claim the county has a responsibility to bargain in good faith with the teachers.