An alliance of Washington-region business groups is calling for a fix for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) that would create dedicated funding streams for the Metro rail system and a restructuring of the authority’s board.
Twenty-one chambers of commerce and employers groups outlined the proposal in a letter to the region’s political leaders, reports the Washington Post. The proposal is expected to have influence, the Post says, noting that executives with the signatory businesses are frequent campaign contributors.
WMATA has said it needs at least $500 million a year to restore to functioning condition the commuter rail transit system, which has been plagued by maintenance issues, safety incidents, and declining ridership. The letter signatories did not specify a particular funding mechanism.
“We’re not trying to get into the weeds,” said Bob Buchanan, founder of the 2030 Group, told the Post.
One commonly floated proposal is a region-wide, penny-per-dollar sales tax, but Northern Virginians have objected on the grounds that Northern Virginia would wind up paying more than Maryland and the District of Columbia combined.
Describing the Metro as in a state of “crisis,” the letter linked the creation of a dedicated revenue source toward a revision of the tri-state governing compact and a restructuring of the board. States the letter:
We reiterate our strong conviction that any reform effort must include reforms to WMATA’s governing, financial and operational structures. Reform of any one structure alone will not be sufficient. For instance, additional funding for Metro will only be beneficial if it is accompanied by structural changes that give WMATA’s board the flexibility to effectively allocate resources and staff the flexibility to leverage additional resources to make operational improvements.
Governance reforms include “right-sizing” the WMATA board and requiring directors to have expertise in specialized areas, including transit operations, management, finance and safety.
Bacon’s bottom line: WMATA is critical to the functioning of the Washington metropolitan region. After decades of short-changing maintenance, WMATA needs billions of dollars to remain a viable transportation mode. There is no avoiding the necessity for regional taxpayers to cough up more money to restore the rickety system to health. Washington-area residents have been enjoying the benefit of a heavy-rail transit system for years without paying its full cost — now it’s time to pony up. But given WMATA’s dismal history, the NoVa business leaders are absolutely right to demand reforms that will ensure that any new funds are not mis-spent or frittered away in concessions to WMATA labor unions.
Working out a compromise with Maryland and D.C. won’t be easy, but Virginia’s political leaders need to hang tough.There are currently no comments highlighted.