Democratic Reps. Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin introduced a handful of proposals to improve Metro during a press conference Tuesday to unveil legislation they say would help fine-tune the transit agency.
Among the lawmakers’ suggestions are establishing a dedicated funding source, instituting a flat fare of $2.50 and examining the current contract for Metro’s paratransit service.
“Few regions in our country rely on transit more than the national capital region,” said Brown, who represents the 4th Congressional District in parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties. “In many ways, it is America’s transit system, moving thousands of men and women who work in the federal government every day.”
Brown and Raskin, who represents portions of Montgomery County, stood outside the New Carrollton Metro station to announce a bill titled the “WMATA Flexible Funding and Safety Improvement Act.”
Because of constant safety concerns on Metrorail and Metrobus, the legislation proposes to create two safety task forces named after two Metro employees killed in the line of duty.
The bill also seeks to establish a one-year pilot program for a $2.50 flat fare. Metro would select three Metro stations to participate in the program — one each in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.
After completion of the program, Metro officials would submit a report in 90 days to all three jurisdictions that include each governor, presidents of each state Senate and House of Delegates, D.C. mayor and city council chair.
If the report indicates an increase in ridership, then Metro would consider a systemwide implementation of a flat fare.
With Republicans currently in control of Congress, Raskin said the bill offers a bipartisan approach that helps everyone, including Republican officials and staff who use the Metro system to travel.
“We can’t allow partisan and political division to continue to make life worse for people,” he said. “Let’s reinvest in public things and start with the Metro.”
Virginia Reps. Gerry Connolly and Barbara Comstock and Metro board chairman and D.C. Councilman Jack Evans didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
A Metro spokesman said via email the agency doesn’t have a comment on the proposal.
However, its largest union did.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 President Jackie Jeter said the legislation represents the first proposal from elected officials that offers substantial action to improve Metro.
“You wait to find out whether or not it’s going to have traction [and] whether or not it is going to make a difference, and it does,” Jeter said. “I’m glad Congressman Brown and Congressman Raskin listened. It has been conversation after conservation after conversation, so it paid off in a big way.”
Afterward, Raskin headed north to the Hotel at the University of Maryland in College Park, where dozens of state and county officials, community leaders, business owners and residents celebrated an agreement on the Purple Line.
Led by the Purple Line Community Corridor, a group composed of more than 40 local organizations, the document ensures those who currently reside and own a business along the east-west route “aren’t priced out” during and after construction of the 16-mile light-rail project.
The Maryland Transit Administration will oversee the project to build 21 stations from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County. Four stations will connect as transfer stations with Metro’s Orange, Green and Red lines.
“There were moments on this project that it felt like it derailed, but we are here today,” said Prince George’s County Council Chairwoman Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park. “When the project is built, all of our communities are thriving and even stronger in the future and those folks along our corridor are lifted up.”