A Metro committee cleared the way yesterday for approval of a $423 million operating budget for the next fiscal year that is designed to hold the line on bus and subway fares.
After three months of debate, the Metro board's budget committee voted to trim $2 million from the spending plan recommended by General Manager Carmen E. Turner for the fiscal year starting July 1. Turner had described her proposal as "probably the tightest budget" ever drawn up by the transit agency.
The budget committee appeared to have completed action yesterday on all major issues, but it postponed a final vote until next week. Most cuts reflected lower estimates for wages and diesel fuel costs because of reduced forecasts for inflation.
The proposed budget is to be reviewed by county and city governments before it is adopted by the transit authority's board of directors. Under Turner's plan, bus and rail fares, which were raised last June 30, would not be increased again before mid-1986.
The committee settled one controversial issue yesterday by rejecting Turner's proposal to reduce sharply Metro's staff of telephone information workers, who answer calls about routes and fares from patrons. Turner said the move would save nearly $500,000 a year, The committee settled one controversial issue yesterday by rejecting Turner's proposal to reduce sharply Metro's staff of telephone information workers, who answer calls about routes and fares from patrons. but committee members balked at reducing the service.
In another development yesterday, the transit authority released a public opinion survey indicating more favorable views about subway service than about bus service.
The survey, which was conducted by the Alexandria firm of James Lauer & Associates, found that 85 percent rated rail service excellent or good, while 9 percent said it was fair or poor. In contrast, bus service received positive marks from 58 percent, while 31 percent described it as fair or poor.
Major complaints about transit service dealt with high fares and overcrowding, the survey found.
In other developments yesterday:
* A Metro committee authorized further study of a long-debated plan to publish timetables for the subway system. Advocates have argued that timetables would be helpful to riders who travel at night and other times when rail service is infrequent and to those who transfer from trains to buses. The study is expected to be completed in several months.
* A Metro committee gave preliminary approval to a $500,000 plan to expand the parking lot at the Huntington rail station in Fairfax County to provide 202 spaces more by next fall. Fairfax officials have contended that the lot, which now has 2,059 spaces, is frequently jammed. Officials said further expansion at Huntington is under study.