In order for Metro to survive the next 10 years, officials from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia must allocate revenue, contract certain services and continue to receive federal dollars for capital investments, the transit agency’s chief said.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld made the recommendations in his financial plan — dubbed “Keeping Metro, Safe, Reliable and Affordable” — which calls for at least $15.5 billion for repairs over the next 10 years to keep the agency solvent.
“Metro is still one of the only major American transit systems without funding dedicated to preserve its assets and to invest in safety and reliability,” he wrote in the six-page document.
Some of the actions in his plan are:
• Dedicated capital funding at $500 million with a no more than 3 percent increase from each jurisdiction per year;
• Create a rainy-day fund within its operating budget; and
• Preserve pensions for active employees and retirees, but provide 401Klike plans for new hires.
“Failure to act … could result in cannibalization of capital funding to the detriment of system safety and reliability, erasing the gains Metro has made through SafeTrack and perpetuating the unreliable service riders have endured for too long,” according to Wiedefeld’s plan.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), a major supporter of Metro and Wiedefeld, released a statement Thursday, April 20 after the report was released last week.
“I continue to believe that a sustainable and reliable funding source is the only way to deal with Metro’s long-term capital needs,” Hoyer said. “I am committed to continuing to work with General Manager Wiedefeld as well as my colleagues in Congress to ensure that Metro regains the trust of riders through improved safety and reliability.”
Another part of Wiedefeld’s proposal stems from amending arbitration rules to render decisions that factor into Metro’s current financial situation, specifically regarding operation costs.
The agency and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 continue to negotiate a new deal after the previous one expired in June.
The union called Wiedefeld’s plan for Metro “bad for riders, bad for workers and bad for the region.”
“Instead of offering real proposals to improve the system and win riders back, Wiedefeld has once again pitted riders against workers in an attempt to balance the agency’s budget on the back of [Metro’s] hardworking employees,” the union said in a statement. “His solution is to outsource services … which will make the system less safe, less reliable, more costly and demoralize the workforce in a race to the bottom.”
Meanwhile, Metro continues work on its 14th SafeTrack phase, or surge, along the Green Line between the Greenbelt and Prince George’s Plaza stations. College Park sits between those stations.
Because Greenbelt and College Park are closed as maintenance work resumes through the first phase until Saturday, April 29, patrons such as Keith Williams of Southeast must board free shuttle buses traveling to and from locations.
Williams, who works as a chef at the University of Maryland in College Park, didn’t know about Wiedefeld’s plan when he reviewed the document Friday, April 21.
However, he did have an opinion about SafeTrack.
“It sucks,” he said before he boarded a Green Line train at the Prince George’s Plaza station. “It’s very inconvenient. Metro’s talking about, ‘sorry for the inconvenience.’ How long are you going to be sorry?”