Pony Up, D.C. Or Else!

Uh, oh, the Metro funding deal isn’t sealed yet. The Washington, D.C., city council could be the spoiler. While Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has asked council to back a $178.5 million annual increase in funding for the commuter rail system to go along with $154 million from Virginia and $150 from Maryland, a council faction by Chairman Phil Mendelson is balking.

Reports the Washington Post:

Mendelson (D) and five other council members sent Bowser a letter late Wednesday saying the city should give Metro only $167┬ámillion a year. The letter also says the District should contribute no more than Virginia and Maryland, contrary to the Virginia plan that stipulates each jurisdiction make a proportional contribution based on a funding formula that takes into account things such as ridership, population and number of Metro stations. …

Repeating arguments made by city officials in the past, Mendelson and the council members said that formula is unfair to the city, partly because the District has a smaller population than the Virginia and Maryland suburbs served by Metro.

But, as the Post points out, the District has 40 Metro stations, compared to 26 in Maryland and 25 in Virginia.

Furthermore, I’d add, the reason Metro finances are a wreck is that D.C. representatives on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) board have insisted on not increasing fares and have been supportive of labor agreements that have run up operating costs and built up massive unfunded retirement liabilities. Virginia needs to stick to its guns, and D.C. needs to pony up $178.5 million.

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5 responses to “Pony Up, D.C. Or Else!

  1. The thing is , if you underfund METRO’s actual costs – you end up forcing METRO management to rob Peter to pay Paul as an institutional process and bad stuff happens… including under funding of pensions and putting off “good repair” maintenance which eventually “explodes” downstream in an accident or other crisis/disaster.

    METRO needs a regular base of funding that cannot be screwed with on an annual or semi-annual basis. Keep them accountable. Do the inspector general stuff… keep their fiscal feet to the fire but don’t set them up for failure on a discretionary budget basis.

    It’s ludicrous to talk about Uber or autonomous cars as competitors when metro runs 500-800 people every 4-5 minutes at rush hour – that’s almost 10,000 people an hour. Imagine how many Uber or Autonomous cars would be needed to transport that many people – at rush hour road congestion.

    What METRO shows – is a very similar thing to what other metro areas in Virginia that consist of multiple jurisdictions wo cannot and will not collaborate on transportation needs.

    Look at Hampton Roads – who could not figure out how to agree over a decade on more on what to do about bridges and tunnels and finally VDOT had to step in and impose a plan.

    The same thing is true of NoVa. None of the jurisdictions had any real solution that they’d all agree on for commuting congestion so VDOT steps in with dynamic tolling.

    There is a stark difference between how VDOT is able to take leadership when localities won’t – and METRO – which is essentially held hostage to petty politics and just plain irresponsibility and willful ignorance of what must be done to keep a system running.

    If the jurisdictions had that kind of control of VDOT – roads would be a disaster similar to METRO.

  2. This probably exposes that DC was part of the funding problem. DC was looking for a formula (1 cent sales tax increase to the whole region) that would increase the Va./Md. portion of total funding. Now it makes more sense.

    On WTOP they said 43% of ridership is federal government, but the Feds are not prepared to pony up any more funding right now. Gov Hogan said it was not easy to get Va. and Md. funding, so now DC needs to step up to the plate.

  3. re: Feds ponying up money…

    I dunno guy… you might want to read this:


    Mass Transportation Benefit Program

    Program Summary
    The Mass Transportation Benefit Program was established in October 2000 and is offered to eligible employees and military service members….

    Under this program, participating employees in the National Capital Region (NCR) receive “transit passes” in amounts equal to their personal commuting costs, not to exceed $260 per month ”

    that’s pretty substantial Federal support…

    • It’s not all money for federal employees to take Metrorail or Metrobus. An employee can chose free parking too. That’s what my wife does. With her Prius and with time considerations built in, she’s better off driving.

  4. DC’s coffers have run dry, all drained to empty by the costs of building statutes in DC public squares in honor of DC’s Mayor of Life Marion Barry.

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