A story in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post incorrectly identified the sponsor of the regional gasoline tax passed by the 1980 Virginia General Assembly. The sponsor was Del. Warren Stambaugh (D-Arlington).
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors yesterday joined a Northern Virginia movement to impose more cost controls on the Metro bus and rail system, informing Metro management that it intends to place a tight lid on spiraling transportation expenses.
"Enough is enough," said Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) about increases in Metro operating expenses that are expected to boost Fairfax County's share of the bill by 31.3 percent in the next fiscal year. "Something's got to be done about these [labor] contract provisions and [Metro] management down there."
The board's unanimous vote, calling on Metro to adopt stricter accounting procedures and pledging to keep a tighter rein on county outlays for Metro, could bring about reductions in Fairfax County bus service of up to 20 percent, county officials said.
Only last week Alexandria officials clanged the door shut on rising Metro operating fund requests, Voting to contribute $800,000 less to Metro than it had requested. Earlier, Arlington lopped $2 million off an $11 million Metro fund request for next year.
Official from Montgomery County and the District, as well, have indicated their unwillingness to foot the bill the rising labor and energy costs.
The actions by the Northern Virginia jurisdictions aimed at forcing Metro to become more cost conscious -- not putting a stranglehold on the regional transportation authority, said state Del. Martin Perper (R-Fairfax). Perper this year sponsored a graduate 4 percent regional tax on gasoline that will raise approximately $11 million for Metro by mid 1981.
Perper said it was likely, although not certain, that the Northern Virginia gasoline tax will offset the impact of the localities' recent fund-cutting moves.
Northern Virginia officials have voiced increasing opposition to Metro pay policies that grant bus drivers beginning salaries higher than those paid to many teachers. They also have objected to policies allowing for an absenteeism rate of more than 17 percent. An estimated 80 percent of Metro operating costs are eaten up by salaries.
Bill Boleyn, Metro's assistant general manager for finance, said yesterday that the regional transit system had been placed "in a box" by the Northern Virginia funding revolt. "We have only three choices," Boleyn said. "Either costs to be reduced, new revenues found, or services adjusted."
Metro is in the process of negotiating a new two-year contract with its 4,800 unionized workers, following a $2.2 million pay increase early this month that translates to 18 percent annually.
Acting on a set of proposals by Acting County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, the Fairfax board voted to require that Metro speed up its quarterly reports on subsidy requests, and directed county staff members to draw up a comprehensive set of Metro performance standards.
In addition, the supervisors voted to require that Metro officials seek their approval before adding new bus service within the county and sticking them with the bill.
Also approved by the supervisor was a measure pledging their intent to fund Metro cost overruns within one fiscal year of when they occur, rather than continuing to use a two-year grace period offered by Metro officials.
The effect of the board's action, said county transportation director Shiva Pant, was to take more of a consumer approach to a mass transit system that costs the county approximately $1,000 a year per rider. "We're trying to put a lid on Metro as a program," Pant said. "To date, it has been an unconstrained program in terms of both services and funding."
Wading through stacks of figures prepared by county staff members the supervisors reacted with dismay to news that the county's share of Metro operating expenditures is expected to rise from $14.4 million in fiscal 1980 to $18.9 million in 1981. Revenues of the cost of an average Metro trip in Fairfax County, and up to 20 percent of the buses on the county's roads are significantly underfilled.
Just like American long-distance railroad service, said Board Chairman John F. Herrity, Metro is "being destroyed by featherbedding and other absolutely irrelevant union rules and regulations and bureaucracy.
"I hope that Americans who will soon be facing $5-a-gallon gasoline will rise up against this kind of stupidity," he said.
A call by Supervisor Martha Penino (D-Centreville) to raise fares in an attempt to cover costs drew fire from some of her Democratic colleagues on the board.
"If you continue to raise fares to the point where people cannot afford to ride the system then you have cut out a public service and have made a public service too expensive for people to afford," said Supervisor Joseph Alexander (D-Lee).