Nine months after Fairfax City stopped contributing to Metro operating costs and started its own subsidized bus service, newly elected City Council members are seriously considering rejoining Metro.
Last week an appellate court overturned a federal court ruling that would have forced Metro and seven Washington area jurisdictions to return $2 million in Metro construction money to Fairfax City. City leaders said they will decide whether to appeal the appellate ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court after a meeting with Metro officials next month.
"We have to keep our options open," said Fairfax City Mayor Frederick W. Silverthorne. "We don't want to slam the door on any option."
The newly elected council's willingness to sit down and discuss financing with Metro officials is viewed by some Fairfax City observers as a dramatic change from the previous board, which started the city-subsidized bus service between Washington and Fairfax City and sued Metro to regain $2 million the city had contributed to Metro construction.
Fairfax City Manager George Hubler said Metro officials are scheduled to meet with the City Council Oct. 21 to explain what Fairfax City's share of financing the Metrorail and Metrobus service would be if the city decides to end its independent bus service.
"We want to see what they (Metro officials) are willing to give us in the way of service," said Silverthorne.
The city already is paying $114,00 a year for the independent bus service, less than the $140,000 it would have paid this year if it still were a partner in Metro, Hubler said.
However, Hubler said the city must renegotiate its contract with Gray Line, which provides the independent bus service, early next month. Under the present agreement, seven chartered buses operate between Fairfax City and Washington daily during morning and evening rush hours. Gray Line has been bought by Atwood's Gold Line, a Maryland bus firm.
Hubler said he expects that city officials will try to include a provision in the contract for the independent bus service "so they could get out of it (the contract) if they decide to go back to Metro."
Fairfax City started the subsidized bus service Jan. 2. About 320 passengers use the chartered buses only.
Hubler said he expects any decision to discontinue the independent service or to return to Metrobus would be made after a public hearing.