Metro considering $200M in spending cuts
Move could lead to service cuts, shorter hours, layoffs
The Metro Board of Directors is contemplating $200 million in spending cuts to maintain a balanced budget in the event that federal CARES Act funding runs out, which could lead to service cuts, shorter hours and layoffs.
On Friday, the board for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) voted on potential service cuts, schedule changes and layoffs, which, according to the board, would be necessary to balance the budget, which Metro is required to do. The board estimates it will deplete its share of federal CARES Act funding by the end of the year that has been used to maintain public transit while ridership and revenue has dropped as much as 90% on some lines.
“CARES Act funding has replaced fare revenue,” WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a statement. “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.” Fare revenue typically accounts for approximately 28% of Metro’s operating budget.
“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,” Board Chair Paul Smedberg said in a statement. “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.” According to WMATA, Metrorail ridership is at only 12% of what it was pre-pandemic and is not expected to return to anywhere close to normal until a vaccine is widely available.
In addition to potential service cuts and layoffs, Metro has also delayed capital projects, cut back on contractors and froze vacancies to cover the $200 million shortfall.
“Metro is what drives the region’s economy and moves our federal workforce,” Wiedefeld said in a statement. “Cutting service, shortening operating hours, laying off and furloughing workers – these all run counter to the strong recovery that everyone wants.”
Proposed changes include:
- 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.
The Metro Board of Directors will ask customers and residents to provide feedback on the service reductions during a public comment period, of which further details will be announced later.