Metro's problems stack up despite rise in ridership
Metro ridership is up, but revenues are down — complicating a $750 million budget gap.
What I'm hearing: Problems are compounding for Metro general manager Randy Clarke.
1. Fare revenue between July and September missed projections by 16.5%.
- Total Metro revenue during the last fiscal quarter was $108.4 million. That's $17.7 million less than projected, as the Washington Post reported last week.
- The drop comes after the first fare hike in five years. And it's despite rail and bus ridership increasing 30% over a year ago, mostly thanks to weekend riders returning to 90% of pre-pandemic levels.
2. A D.C. powerbroker wants an independent commission to take charge of Metro's future.
- The talk of the town last week was a splashy letter from former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams. He denounced Metro leadership for recently forcing out the agency's inspector general, who resigned a day after publishing a critical audit.
- "I am resigning under duress and threat," the former watchdog, Rene Febles, wrote in a resignation announcement to the Metro board acquired by the Post. "You should all be ashamed of yourselves."
What they're saying: "The IG departure is a blow to public trust at the wrong time," Williams, who leads the influential Federal City Council group, told me this week.
- Given the resignation fiasco and Metro's history of safety scandals, Williams says new funding should be tied to "top-to-bottom reforms." No reforms, no $750 million.
The other side: Clarke is set to unveil a proposed budget to the Metro board on Dec. 14, spokesperson Jordan Pascale said.
Between the lines: There's been little to no headway on solving the $750 million ticking time bomb.
- D.C., Maryland, Virginia and the federal government jointly fund Metro. Clarke has been campaigning since the summer to convince everyone to contribute hundreds of millions more.
- The state legislatures in Annapolis and Richmond convene early next year, meaning lawmakers will have just a few months to decide whether to chip in any help.
💬 Town Talker is a weekly column about local politics and power. Send me tips: [email protected].
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