Metro chief’s budget asks no fare hikes or service cuts

No fare hikes. No cuts in service.

That’s the headline on the $3.1 billion budget that Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is proposing for the fiscal year that starts in July of 2018. But the budget will require local governments to pony-up an additional $165 million over what they spent to support Metro this past year. Wiedefeld’s plan also calls for continued strict management cost controls and increased funding for safety and reliability capital improvements.

“This proposal builds on our success in investing capital to deliver projects that improve safety and reliability, which is critical to winning back riders,” says Wiedefeld. “This budget also doubles down on management cost controls to ensure we have squeezed the value out of every dollar that we spend delivering service to the region.”

Repairs and new cars

The General Manager’s proposed capital budget for FY19 is $1.279 billion. That will pay for the delivery of the remaining 7000-series rail cars to replace older, less reliable trains and new buses and paratransit vehicles. It will also address the backlog of track and structure, rail power, and radio and wireless system projects. And it will fund the new preventive maintenance program that supports improved safety and rail service for riders.

Parking charge boosts and overtime cuts

The proposed FY19 operating budget of $1.837 billion is less than 1 percent ($12 million) higher than the current budget of $1.825 billion. But Metro says costs that it can’t control, including pensions and health care for employee, mandated paratransit services and inflation, will require some budget balancing. This includes reduction in overtime for workers, increases in parking charges, more outsourcing and more management cuts.

Some things will be delayed

The proposed operating budget contains no money for service increases, such as a proposed extension of all Red Line trains to Shady Grove (eliminating the Grosvenor turn back), additional staffing for Silver Line phase 2 service, and new bus service. The proposal also includes no wage increases for the workforce, even though they may later be imposed by an Arbitration panel reviewing the collective bargaining agreement for Metro’s largest union.

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About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C. He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.