Transit specialists in the eight Washington-area governments that participate in Metro yesterday gave the bus and subway agency a detailed list of more than $33 million in suggested cuts for next year's operating budget, saying the trims "should not adversely affect service."
The local governments, which have complained louder than usual this year about Metro's proposed $365 million spending plan and the record $206 million in operating and debt subsidies they have been asked to pay, said the suggested cuts would "reduce the necessity for very large fare adjustments which may erode our passenger base and our public support."
Metro officials said they would study the recommended cuts, but have already said they believe the reductions would cut into Metro's efforts to improve the transit system's reliability and cleanliness and boost stagnating ridership.
The panel of transit specialists, handing the Metro board a 55-page report filled with charts on the cost of operating various Metro divisions, said that at least $32.4 million in cuts should be made.
The panel said the cuts would compensate for new, lower estimates of farebox collections and lower than expected federal, state and local government subsidies of Metro's operations.
Some of the suggested cuts stem from changed circumstances since Metro General Manager Richard S. Page released his draft budget last December, while others hinge on different assumptions made by the local governments on how much money Metro needs to adequately run its buses and trains. Among other items, the panel said Metro could:
* Trim $7.5 million from wage and benefit payments for unionized Metro workers, whose salaries are geared to the rise in the cost of living. That would be possible because the rate of inflation has dropped in recent months.
* Cut $4 million from its diesel fuel bill as the cost of operating Metrobuses declines because of lower pump prices.
* Save $3.4 million by estimating that an average of 2 percent of its job positions will be vacant throughout the year starting July 1 rather than the .9 percent figure used in Page's budget.
* Pare $6.4 million in subway operating costs, partly because the opening of the Yellow Line between Gallery Place and National Airport and the Blue Line extension to Huntington is now not scheduled to open until July 1983, which is in the 1983-84 budget year.
* Reduce maintenance costs by $4.4 million, largely by keeping the maintenance staff at its present level of 589 workers.
The local governments particularly feel the pinch of high subsidies this year because federal operating aid, which covers 8 percent of Metro's costs, is about to be phased out while costs continue to rise regularly. The Metro staff is expected to send its analysis of the recommendations to the board's budget committee in about two weeks.