Thought Metro service couldn’t get any worse? Think again.

Faced with a $275 million budget shortfall, Metro is floating a range of unpleasant options they’ll have to employ if they can’t find a way to balance their finances for the 2018 fiscal year.

For one, there will likely be fare increases: As we reported Tuesday, it’s looking increasingly likely that Metro’s budget staff will push to increase bus fares from $1.75 to $2 — a reflection of bus riders’ relative satisfaction with their commuting experience — and may also increase rail fares by several cents per ride.

But there’s another side to Metro’s nuclear option: major service cuts. From our story:

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As for service reductions, there are several strategies on the table, such as eliminating bus routes with poor ridership and the highest subsidy-per-rider. Increasing headways between trains is another option. Among the more drastic options being proposed is choosing the 20 Metro stations with the lowest ridership and closing them during off-peak periods. Most of those stations are at the outer ends of the system.
“We’ve known this is coming,” said board member Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County. “But from our discussions, we knew that all of the options needed to be on the table.”

For Metro, the decision to close 22 percent of stations outside of peak hours would represent a further backslide into the agency’s long-criticized ethos of the past: That it’s a transit system designed to exclusively serve 9-to-5 office workers commuting in from the suburbs, rather than a transportation network meant to serve all riders and their disparate needs at almost any hour of the day.

Which stations would be first to undergo a sizable cut in hours of service? Here’s the graphic that Metro included in its presentation to the Board of Directors:

The map shows seven affected stations in Virginia, seven in Maryland, and six in the District.

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This stark image of the future of Metro service outside the District’s core could put pressure on the region’s lawmakers to come up with extra money for the system. That’s the solution that Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans, a member of the D.C. Council, is seeking.

His answer for Metro’s money woes: more funding from the jurisdictions. Period. And if they don’t want to come up with the money, he said, they’ll have to face painful service cuts.
“This is the time,” Evans said. “They really have to decide what they want to do. Do you want Metro, or do you not want Metro?”

Without more money, Metro would also likely ax a slew of bus routes. They would likely opt for the routes that are “lowest-performing” — i.e. routes with relatively low ridership that are also costly to run and highly subsidized. Using that metric, seven of the 10 most at-risk bus routes would primarily affect Virginia residents.

Here are the bus routes that would be at the highest risk of landing on the chopping block, according to Metro:

It’s not a pretty picture.

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