Metro Board Unhappy with Proposed Fare Increase

Metro Chief Financial Officer Dennis Anosike (center) briefs the agency's finance committee on Oct. 13 about its $275 million budget shortfall. /Photo by William J. Ford
Metro Chief Financial Officer Dennis Anosike (center) briefs the agency's finance committee on Oct. 13 about its $275 million budget shortfall. /Photo by William J. Ford

Metro riders could face a fare increase to help close a $275 million budget gap for fiscal 2018.

Dennis Anosike, the transit agency’s chief financial officer, said Thursday, Oct. 13 during a presentation to the Metro board of directors’ finance committee that bus fares would jump from $1.75 to $2 as part of a proposal to close the shortfall — an increase that would generate $15 million. For rail service, the proposal increases fares from $0.04 to $0.05 per mile, which would provide a revenue surge of $20 million.

He outlined the three main reasons for the budget deficit: $116 million in expenses, $100 million for maintenance and a $59 million decline in revenue and ridership.

“No decisions have been made,” he said. “But these are potential options” to close the budget gap.

The last fare increase happened in fiscal 2014 and most of the board members aren’t ready for another one.

Another cost-savings idea came from an illustration that suggested closing 20 of the least-used Metrorail stations during off-peak times. Those stations include nine on the Blue and Orange lines east of Potomac Avenue in Southeast.

Five of those stations — Landover, Cheverly, Morgan Boulevard, Addison Road-Seat Pleasant and Capitol Heights — are in Prince George’s County.

However, the photograph didn’t list financial and ridership figures to compare with the other 71 stations, a fact that didn’t sit well with Malcolm Augustine, who represents the county on the board.

“What is that?” Augustine said of the illustration. “I am a little troubled to put up such as a dramatic slide with no numbers. I am very concerned about that.”

Catherine Hudgins, who represents Fairfax County on the agency’s board, said to simply not explore the possibility of a fare increase wouldn’t be fair.

“I don’t agree that we absolutely should have no fare increase,” she said. “There has to be some give and take on all of this.”

Metro board chairman and D.C. Councilman Jack Evans disagrees.

“Fare increases are like tax hikes. They are unfair to people,” he said.

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said he plans to have a proposed fiscal 2018 budget ready by next month. Public hearings on the document will be held in January and February with adoption scheduled for March.

Evans and Weidefeld also spoke to reporters after the board’s several committee meetings. One topic addressed was Thursday night’s Washington Nationals game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park, which began at 8 p.m. but didn’t until well past midnight, the closing time for Metrorail stations.

Wiedefeld, who said before the game that he would not extend the service cutoff time for the night — “We have to set the standard and stick to it” — was excoriated afterwards on social media and sports-talk radio blasted Metro for its decision. Even former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann had a few words for the agency the day after the Nationals lost, 4-3.

“I want to say something about the people who run Metro: You are not very nice people,” former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said Friday on 106.7 FM. “To shut down the Metro at midnight and not [give] the fans the opportunity to get home? My God. Look at the decisions regarding the Metro anyway. Have there been any good ones? It was Game 5. This was one of those rare opportunities for the fans to come out and support the team. I was disappointed for the fans sake.”

SafeTrack Update

Metro officials provided an update on the first eight phases, or surges, of the agency’s SafeTrack maintenance program.

According to internal data, some of the track work included the installation of more than 17,000 crossties, 10,000 fasteners and 3,100 insulators. In addition, about 530 high-voltage cables have been replaced so far.

The ninth surge currently underway, with continuous single-tracking on the Orange Line between Vienna and West Falls Church in Northern Virginia, is scheduled to end Oct. 26.

Riders on the Red Line have received information on the 10th surge set to begin Oct. 29 with part of the line shutdown between the NoMa-Galludet and Fort Totten stations in Northeast and complete work Nov. 22, two days before Thanksgiving. The Brookland-CUA and Rhode Island Avenue stations will be closed during that time.

The 11th surge will start Nov. 28 and run through Dec. 21, with single-tracking to return on the Orange and Silver lines between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations.

Surges 12 through 15 are scheduled to begin next year.

About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 207 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com