Opposing Metro Service Cuts
Have you ever waited 30 minutes for a Metro train? That may become the norm on evenings if WMATA has its way. The transit agency is proposing to close a $40-million budget gap for the current fiscal year with a variety of measures, including the elimination of some jobs, the closure of certain mezzanines (including Shaw’s R Street entrance) at night, and by the reduction of call-center hours among other things. The worst part of the proposal, however, involves the reduction of train frequencies in the early mornings, late-nights and on weekends. One part of the proposal also calls for eliminating the eight-car trains that run on the Orange and Green Lines.
Many transit and urban planning bloggers around town have are warning of the “death spiral” that occurs when public agencies sharply reduce the quality and reach of their core services. Since reducing the frequency of trains reduces the intrinsic value of the transit system, the cuts risk driving away customers, thus ensuring a vicious cycle of ridership declines and subsequent revenue declines and service cuts.
The proposed frequency reductions mean that on Saturdays, Metro will actually run less often than the subway of Los Angeles. Los Angeles!
Our ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01 – LeDroit Park) emailed Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) criticizing WMATA’s plan to close Shaw’s R Street entrance (the south entrance) late at night. Though we see how mezzanine closures will inconvenience a few riders by a few minutes at a few stations, we believe the real disservice is happening on the platforms: reducing train frequency will inconvenience all riders at every station.
Mr. Graham, we should remind you, is also the chairman of the WMATA board, which will hold a hearing and vote on the cuts on January 7. We have already emailed Mr. Graham to alert him to the dangers in some of the proposed cuts. We encourage you to let him know what you think.
Can you imagine waiting 30 minutes for a Metro train to arrive? WMATA’s budget-cut proposal will leave many riders doing just that.
I’m worried that WMATA’s proposal to drastically cut rail and bus service is a terrible mistake that may lead to a “death spiral” in ridership and revenue. The proposed cuts to train and bus frequency will further turn off riders from the system, since reducing service makes the system intrinsically less valuable at a time when the District’s population is rising.
Your constituents in Ward One, a ward with some of the city’s highest population densities and lowest rates of car-ownership, will suffer greatly from reduced mobility options.
I urge you to vote against the proposal and request that WMATA management return with other options (e.g. fare increases, pay/benefit freezes, further staff reductions, entrance closings) that do not sacrifice the system’s core mission of providing decent mass-mobility.
Let us not follow the mistake of New York City, which, when faced with tax revenue shortfalls in the 1970s, reduced basic city services sharply. The reduction in services (park cleanings, street repairs, street sweepings, etc.) reduced the city’s attractiveness and further exacerbated the city’s financial woes— why stay in the city if the services are declining? Please do not let Metro (and DC, by extension) suffer a similar fate. Your constituents (and I am one of them) are heavily reliant on convenient and frequent transit service, which gives the District a competitive advantage over other cities and over the surrounding jurisdictions.
P.S. I am willing to pay a reasonable fare increase to avoid service cuts.
P.P.S. These proposed cuts will make trains less frequent than they are in Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, and New York. I can’t imagine a world in which even L.A. has better train service than Washington.
Let’s hope the board avoids these core-service reductions.