Last Passenger on the Titanic

by James A. Bacon

The good news regarding the Silver Line extension of the Washington Metro rail system to Washington Dulles International Airport is that the service is fiiinnaally scheduled to commence in October after four years of construction delays.

The bad news is that Metro might not have enough rail cars in service to run on the line.

“The rail car shortage arose last year when more than half of Metro’s fleet — 748 of its most modern cars from the 7000-series — was removed from service owing to a wheel-widening malfunction that caused a derailment,” reports The Washington Post. “More than three-quarters of them remain out of service, pending review by the system’s regulatory agency.”

The really bad news is that Metro’s operating deficit, estimated to run $185 million next year, is projected to hit $738 million in Fiscal 2024 and reach $924 million four years after that. With those deficits, it’s hard to imagine service getting any better.

The Metro has been a slow-motion train wreck for years now. Extending the commuter rail system to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport seemed like such a good idea at the time. After all, every world-class city needs a quality commuter rail system to link its major population and activity centers. But the rail system has run chronic deficits, deferred maintenance, suffered from safety and on- time-performance issues, and hemorrhaged ridership during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ridership remains severely depressed.

Northern Virginia taxpayers and Dulles Toll Road commuters are getting stuck with the tab for building the $6 billion rail extension just as the rail system seems to be sinking under the waves. At least riders of Phase 1 to Tysons, which opened in 2014, got a few years of regular service out of this boondoggle. But the suckers who paid for finishing the extension out to Dulles are like the poor bastard who was the last passenger to buy a ticket on the Titanic.

The residents of Northern Virginia localities are notable for having the highest educational attainment anywhere in the country. The government workers and private contractors are the epitome of America’s educated, technocratic elite. These people run the country. And the Silver Line is what they have spawned.

As the old saying goes, our ruling elites are often wrong… but never in doubt. Is there any wonder that the plebs in the provinces have no faith in central government?