Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Let WMATA hear your frustrations about the Metro budget and fare hikes

February 22, 2012 - 12:03 PM
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(Photo: WMATA)

Metro has launched a new survey asking riders to assess the system and weigh in on the fare increases, a move in tandem with six different town halls happening at the end of this month and in early March.

WMATA is begging for your thoughts, D.C. riders. The transit agency is struggling through its many repairs all while trying to plan for changes like new alerts, a new Metro map, and the rush hour revolution that is "Rush Plus." The Metro officials are also facing a crunched budget, news of employee theft, and possibly a loss of federal funds if the president's budget goes into effect. How to communicate that to riders?

The real question many riders may now face — how seriously will WMATA take the feedback? Is all this outreach for show or will it really go to inform the strategies and decisions inside the halls of the Jackson Graham headquarters?

I suspect the rider feedback does help guide Metro's actions, personally. The agency has reached out to riders even when it's not for public show, such as with their quietly administered surveys to help prepare for Rush Plus. These surveys and hearings are important gestures that I'm glad to see happening. For those frustrated with WMATA's operations, whether classic dysfunction or the consequences of Metro Forward repairs, take these moments to voice your concerns and offer any suggestions for improving our transit. Show tough love. Our city benefits from a functional, good transit system, and we need all the critical, thoughtful minds at the table.

The survey may also serve to inform and promote how WMATA is conducting itself. Consider this "Budget" slide, the second in the survey:

To plan for the upcoming budget year (beginning July 1), Metro began by identifying cost savings. Without cutting bus, rail, or MetroAccess services, Metro will implement actions this year to save $5 million in administrative expenses. This is in addition to the $200 million in operating costs that has been eliminated over the past four years. Even with these savings, Metro will still need an additional $116 million this year to balance its budget.

The agency's yearly operating budget (paying for day-to-day expenses) is $1.6 billion. Currently, of every $1 received, $0.91 goes directly for services while $0.09 pays for back-office support.

The survey provides a platform for Metro to tout how it handles the budget. You can take the survey yourself here.  The questions allow riders to prioritize different issues, such as whether the stations have station managers on hand or the Silver Line, or the way riders value the pensions of WMATA employees. I like the idea of the surveys, at least, as long as they're used as more than a PR tool. Just yesterday, Metro asked riders to weigh in on the names of Silver Line stations planned for Fairfax County.

The hearings will take place at the following locations, with more information here and here:

Monday, Feb. 27
Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center – Hearing 569
4805 Edgemoor Lane
Bethesda, MD

Wednesday, Feb. 29
Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School Cafeteria – Hearing 570
7130 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA

Thursday, March 1
Matthews Memorial Baptist Church – Hearing 571
John H. Kearney, Sr. Fellowship Hall
2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., SE
Washington, DC

Monday, March 5
Washington Lee High School Cafeteria – Hearing 572
1301 N Stafford St
Arlington, VA

Tuesday, March 6
St. Columba’s Episcopal Church – Hearing 573
4201 Albemarle Street, NW
Washington, DC

Wednesday, March 7
First United Methodist Church – Hearing 574
6201 Belcrest Road
Hyattsville, MD

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