January 06, 2010 - 8:28 am

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.

Eric Fidler
LeDroit Park

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.

November 01, 2009 - 7:08 pm

Our Park in Limbo

On Friday the City Council held a joint hearing on the contracting dispute that has now ensnared the forthcoming park in LeDroit Park. The Post reported that Councilmember David Catania (I – at large) insisted the contracts are illegal, but Attorney General Peter Nickles (a Fenty appointee, we should note) insisted the contrary.

Our own ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01) submitted testimony on behalf of the neighborhood and the LeDroit Park Civic Association imploring the Council not to delay park construction. She noted in her testimony that the park design was the product of a transparent and exhaustive community process that developed a plan that is both affordable and popular in the neighborhood.  She further noted that the park plan had been discussed with several members of the mayor’s cabinet and with Councilmembers Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) and Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5); the park plan was no surprise.

At the previous LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting, Mr. Graham noted that the Council had specifically set aside money for the project.

There’s still no word on what will happen next, but we certainly hope that certain members of the Council do not take the matter to court; litigation could delay the project for at least a year, if not several. Rebidding the contracts, we have heard, could delay construction by several months.

Alternatively, the Council could simply review the contracts as the law demands and approve the current plan (at least for our park and for other parks that have significant popular backing). We see this as unlikely since this would require the mayor to admit that his administration broke the law and it would require Mr. Nickles to backtrack on his current position that the contracts are legal.

It is also possible that the mayor and Council could come to some sort of lawful agreement to let work continue without delay. We hope the last option prevails and we suspect certain member of the Council are working to that solution; Mr. Graham is well aware of his constituents’ justified impatience.

One last thing: we thank Ms. Moss and the Civic Association leaders for their testimony.  This sort of advocacy requires a significant personal commitment of time and energy.

October 27, 2009 - 11:10 am

Two-Sided Nickles

We wrote yesterday about Attorney General Peter Nickles’s determination that park construction contracts, including the contract for the new park in LeDroit Park, should have received approval from the City Council. Well, somebody in the mayor’s office must have paid Mr. Nickles a stern phone call; the Post reports that he is now recanting his previous statement.

Mr. Nickles now insists that Council review should be reinstated henceforth, but not retroactively for current construction contracts.

The Council, however, is not too pleased.

Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D) is annoyed and told the Post,

For the attorney general to give a carte blanche green light to these questionable contracts, even before council hearings or any legislative action, is inappropriate and not in compliance with my reading of the law. If they are required to be submitted, we make no distinction between the past and the future. We expect to receive these contracts.

Councilmembers Kwame R. Brown (D – at large) and Harry Thomas Jr. (D – Ward 5) will hold a hearing on the matter on Friday and are threatening to sue to halt the contracts.

However, ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01 – LeDroit Park), in an email to Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1), wrote that the park project in LeDroit Park

was reviewed and discussed before the Council during the last round of appropriations negotiations at which time the Council voted to allocate funds for the project.

While a bidding process was absent this project was not only transparent, it also involved inter-agency and inter-governmental collaborations.

When we spotted Councilmember Graham at last night’s streetcar open house we didn’t realize the urgency of this issue or we would have strongly expressed our opposition to further delays (while of course chastising the mayor for his illegal maneuverings).

The Council and the mayor’s office are at odds; let’s hope that LeDroit Park doesn’t fall victim to this clash of titans.  In fact there’s something better than hope: you can email Mr. Graham your opinion.

Also, you can attend the LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting tonight; Mr. Graham and Ms. Moss will discuss the issue.  It’s at 7:00 pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (623 Florida Avenue).