Metro could cut number of stations and staff in 2024 amid budget shortfall – NBC4 Washington

Metro General Manager Randy Clark warned of significant service and job cuts if the transit agency doesn’t close a $750 million budget gap in the first half of 2024.

Metro has been sounding the alarm for months, saying that if a solution is not found, it could change the transit system as we know it, with the potential for early station closures and significant reductions in the number of trains running.

We’ve known about some of the potential ramifications for months, but Clark provided more details in a media conference this week about his proposed “balanced but significantly reduced” budget for next year. It takes into account the huge shortfall in its operating budget amid problems related to allocated financing, number of passengers and inflation. Metro has already cut staff at five stations this month, citing “unprecedented budget challenges.”

“Without a sustainable and predictable funding source to replace federal relief funding, the proposed FY 2025 budget presents Metro unrecognizable due to the unprecedented service reductions needed to close the operating deficit,” the CEO/Director General’s FY 2025 proposed budget said. .

Clark said he is optimistic and hopes that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority’s continued pressure on legal partners will achieve the goal. He said the governors of Maryland and Virginia and state lawmakers are well aware of the budget issues. News4 reached out to lawmakers in the D.C. area about their metro funding plans.

D.C. Councilman Charles Allen, who chairs the Transportation and Environment Committee, said in a statement that he has been working with area legislators and WMATA officials for months on possible solutions. He pledged to push the council to pass a budget that “fully funds the district’s share of WMATA.”

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“The clock is ticking, and there has to be a solution soon — we cannot be the city we want to be with these outages, and we cannot operate our city’s transportation system with this level of uncertainty,” Allen said. In the statement. “Regional leaders have been in talks for some time, and I am sure we all agree that this budget can never become a reality.”

He called the budget proposed this week a “worst-case scenario where D.C., Maryland and Virginia don’t do anything else” before the WMATA board votes on the budget in April.

Here’s a look at what could change if Metro doesn’t close its $750 million budget gap.

Metro Rail

  • All stations will close at 10 p.m. Currently, the earliest the metro usually closes is midnight.
  • Ten stations will be completely closed. WMATA has not decided which stations will close, but the final decision will depend on ridership numbers.
  • Metro frequency will be reduced. Currently, the majority of Metro trains arrive every six minutes or less, but without a funding reform by July next year, the proportion of trains with a service of six minutes or better will fall to just 10%.
Metro has proposed cutting a third of bus service if the massive funding gap cannot be closed.

Metrobus

  • The Metro could cancel nearly half of its bus routes. Under the proposed budget, 67 out of 135 existing items will be eliminated. Another 41 lines will see service reductions.
  • A third of bus service across D.C., Maryland and Virginia will be cut.

The fare increases

  • Metro warned of a 20% increase in fares and parking fees. For example, the maximum fare on Metrorail is now $6. Under the proposed budget, the maximum Metro Rail fare would be $7.20.
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Job cuts

  • In January 2024, Metro plans to freeze salary increases.
  • In July 2024, 2,286 employees will be laid off.

What do you know about the metro budget?

Metro is essentially the only major transit system that does not have a dedicated source of funding such as a sales tax or gas tax allocated to it.

Metro’s financing problems are multifaceted. Allocated funding has declined and ridership has not fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic.

“I think one of the biggest reasons the number is so high is the pandemic and its effects. You know, low ridership, WMATA Chairman Paul Smedberg said this summer.

Metro is also scheduled to exhaust federal relief funding allocated during the pandemic early in fiscal year 2025, according to Clark’s proposed budget.

The subway appears to be back on track in many respects, with new stations, more services and new trains on demand.

The agency’s budget has two aspects: the capital budget and the operating budget. The capital budget covers costs such as trains, buses, stations and tracks. This budget is in good shape. The operating budget covers costs such as wages for bus operators, train operators and other employees. Metro says that’s where the huge budget deficit lies.

Clark recently spoke with News4 about the funding issue during a tour of the new Potomac Yard – VT station in Northern Virginia.

“We need to solve our operating finance problem once and for all, and have a sustainable and predictable source. Because who wants to do these big capital projects that everyone is celebrating, and then say, ‘Well, aren’t we going to run that many trains through there?’ “.

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