Jun 26, 2023 - News

Metro seeks regional solution to $750 million shortfall

A man steps into a Metro train

Metro service is under threat again. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As of today, Metro says that more trains are running than ever before. But Metro's future is — once again — in jeopardy unless it finds $750 million.

Why it matters: The budget crunch threatens to undo the recent momentum of service upgrades, extending the Silver Line to Dulles, and opening the new Potomac Yard—VT Metro station.

What's happening: Metro began an ominous campaign last week calling for help to plug its $750 million shortfall by July 2024 as ridership is still far from recovering to pre-pandemic levels. It'll look to the feds and D.C., Maryland, and Virginia for the money.

Without that funding, Metro wait times would skyrocket to 20-30 minutes, general manager Randy Clarke said last week.

  • That means no trains after 9:30pm and fares could go up.
  • Only 37 out of the 135 bus lines would operate.

What they're saying: "We are going to have to come together as a region to solve this," Clarke told a gathering of the National Landing BID, where the nearby Potomac Yard—VT station is helping fuel the growth of a new Virginia Tech campus and homebuilding.

Zoom out: Metro, like other transit systems nationwide, is facing a fiscal cliff with the end of federal pandemic dollars keeping trains and buses afloat. Clarke noted that New York recently stepped in to save its subway, while California lawmakers face a similar crisis.

Flashback: In 2018 and during the pandemic, Metro faced a fiscal cliff too.

  • But this time is more dire because modest fare increases won't make up the difference.
  • Roughly a third of the $750 million gap is due to inflation and collective bargaining agreements, while 38% of it is due to decreased revenue since the pandemic.

What's next: Regional business and political leaders are planning to huddle in the months ahead to devise a solution.


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