May 31, 2010
Washington, D.C.’s Metro board of directors recently approved the largest, most far-reaching fare increase in Metro’s history. Overall, fares will increase about 18%, including both bus and rail fares as well as MetroAccess, which is used by the disabled and the elderly, the people who can least afford fare increases.
Metro says it will have a 1.4-billion-dollar shortfall in its 2011 operating budget. Metro officials claim the gap is largely due to lower ridership, due to the recession and unemployment.
Even if that were true, so what? The point of a public transportation system is to provide transportation that is needed, no matter the circumstances. Modern cities collapse without it.
But the reality is that the big drain on Metro is from cuts in funding coming from D.C., Maryland, Virginia and the federal Government, which together are responsible for Metro. For the six budget years 2005 through 2010, they funded a total of 2.2 billion dollars. For the 14 budget years 2011 to 2124, they expect to fund only 1.3 billion dollars. In other words, there is the deficit.
Moreover, Metro has been trapped by the fancy financing the big Wall Street banks sold public authorities – financing which is just as deadly as the adjustable sub-prime mortgages.
So don’t pretend the deficit is caused by ridership when government cuts funding and the banks gobble up a big part of it.