Photo by Barbara Krawcowicz
“Today the Metro Board of Directors voted on potential service cuts, schedule changes, and other cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, that will be necessary to balance the budget if federal CARES Act funding runs out without new revenue. Metro is required to have a balanced budget, essentially forcing the Board to consider $200 million in spending cuts in the event that federal relief ends.
Metro has estimated that it will deplete its share of CARES funding by the end of the calendar year. The funding has been used to maintain essential public transit service in the region at a time when ridership and revenue has dropped as much as 90 percent on some lines.
Last week, the Board authorized a return to front-door boarding and fare collection on Metrobus starting in January, and affirmed that the new extension of the Silver Line would not open during the current budget year – meaning July 2021 is the earliest possible opening date once the Airports Authority completes construction.
“CARES Act funding has replaced fare revenue. If that funding isn’t there after December, Metro will need to implement measures that hurt the region’s economic recovery and adversely impact essential workers,” said General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld.
Fare revenue from Metrorail trips typically accounts for about 28 percent of Metro’s total operating budget. Weekday Metrorail ridership is currently at approximately 12 percent of pre-pandemic levels and is not expected to return to levels anywhere close to normal until a safe, effective vaccine is widely available, leaving Metro’s Board with difficult financial decisions.
“As tough as these choices are for this fiscal year, much deeper and more painful cuts will be required for the next fiscal year if federal relief doesn’t arrive in time,” said Board Chair Paul Smedberg. “We hope people who depend on Metro will come forward to share their views about the proposed changes before the Board makes a final decision in November.”
While Metro is delaying capital projects that are not safety related, cutting back contractors, and freezing vacancies, covering a $200 million budget shortfall is not possible without service cuts and corresponding layoffs.
“Metro is what drives the region’s economy and moves our federal workforce. Cutting service, shortening operating hours, laying off and furloughing workers – these all run counter to the strong recovery that everyone wants,” Wiedefeld said. “I want to thank Board members for their approach to this extraordinary challenge, as they have advanced proposals that protect critically needed bus and rail services, transit dependent customers, and essential workers to the greatest extent possible.”
- Reduced Metrorail service: Standardize weekday train frequencies to 12 minutes on each line.
- Reduced Metrorail hours: Close Metrorail at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday (Friday and Saturday closure would remain 11 p.m.).
- Turnbacks: On weekdays, half of Red Line trains would operate between Grosvenor-Strathmore and Silver Spring only. All Yellow Line trains would operate between Huntington and Mt. Vernon Square only, seven days a week.
- Continue reduced Metrobus service levels and hours, instead of adding service in early 2021 as planned.
Public Comment Period
Metro’s Board of Directors will be asking customers and residents to provide feedback on the proposed service reductions online or at a virtual public hearing. Details on how to provide feedback will be announced soon.”