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Metro Holding Public Hearings Regarding Budget, Fare Increase

by Katie Pyzyk — February 27, 2012 at 9:45 am 1,365 14 Comments

Metro has has drawn up a fiscal year 2013 budget and has plans for another fare hike this summer. But before pushing forward with these two measures, the agency wants to hear your input at a series of meetings.

Meetings start tonight and will be held throughout the region, with Arlington’s taking place next Monday, March 5. An open forum will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the cafeteria at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford St), and the public hearing will begin at 7:00 p.m.

The open forum will have several stations to provide information to the public. Tables staffed by senior workers of Metrobus, Metrorail, MetroAccess, SmarTrip and police will be set up to give specific information and answer individual questions. In another area, a video presentation will be shown regarding Metro’s rebuilding program. There will also be a station with computers where participants can take an online survey and submit comments about Metro’s priorities.

Metro’s $1.6 billion FY2013 budget is an increase of $116 million over the last fiscal year. It shows a net decrease in revenue of $3 million over last fiscal year. The proposed fare increases are expected to generate $66 million. An additional $53 million increase in funding would come from jurisdictions.

In looking at the breakdown of the $116 million increase in the budget, Metro reports that $61 million is needed for higher expenses for existing operations. Half of that is due to the higher cost of fringe benefits, such as health care and pension benefits. The other half is due to an increase in contracted labor costs. The remaining $55 million is for improvements in safety, security and reliability.

The budget would cover projects designed to bring Metro in line with some NTSB recommendations, such as upgrading the signal system and replacing the oldest rail cars. Track rehabilitation and replacement of the system’s escalators and elevators is also planned.

Along with the fare increase, Metro plans to simplify the fare structure and do away with the current “peak of the peak” pricing, which was deemed too confusing. The Metro Board is expected to act on the budget in June, and fare changes are expected to go into effect on or around July 1.

Along with detailed information about the budget and fare increases, information about registering to speak at the public hearing or submitting written comments can be found online. There’s also an online survey regarding the budget and fare increases.

  • anywaybacktome

    “Half of that is due to the higher cost of fringe benefits, such as health care and pension benefits.”

    You are going to read that over and over again, in the next 20 years for every government agency. They are not going to be able to pay the benefits they have promised to people without placing a unfair tax load on everyone else. They need to redo the contracts.

    • or….

      without having some kind of socialized medicine like every other developed country in the world.

      • Autoexec.bat

        Socialized medicine would only eliminate (or shift) half of the cost equation. I believe pension benefits are the bigger long-term problem. Hopefully pensions are being completely eliminated for new hires.

    • drax

      Why is it “unfair”?

    • b0rk

      Work for 20 years, collect half your salary for another 40. Go government!

  • anywaybacktome

    You don’t need to eliminate pensions , they just need to be less generous like 30% of salary not 55% and more years worked (more money put in ) to collect them. The 401(k) program will be a disaster for most people as they do not understand the amount of management fees they pay and how long they will live.
    The problem with pensions is that they are difficult to reduce, people kick and scream, that is why private companies got rid of them. Metro has to reduce the payouts, as people are living longer, simple as that.

    • Thes

      It’s true that statistics show people are living longer. In 1941 a 60 year old white male could expect, on average, to live to age 75. Now a 60 white male can expect, on average, to live to age 80. A 60 year old white female in 1941 could expect, on average, to live to age 77. Today a 60 year old white female can expect to live to 84. For white men, this is offset by moving the retirement age from 62 to 67 — leaving the same number of years of retirement. But having more women in the government workforce means higher pension payouts to make up for their much longer life expectancy.

      • Arlingtonian

        You are using the wrong data set. You need to compare the life expectancies of people who reached working age (21 years) in 1941 with those who reach that age today.

        People contribute to retirement systems throughout their working years. If they live and work longer, they contribute more.
        If they die before retiring, they receive nothing.

        You need to account for such age-related increases in contributions and decreases in receipts before drawing conclusions such as yours.

        • Thes

          The data set I linked to has the information you asked for. For whites, a 20 year old in 1941 could expect to live to age 68 if male and 71 if female. In the most recent year on the table, those figures were 77 and 82. So the median 20-year old male in 1941 could expect to work for 42 years and then retire for 6. Now a median 20-year old male can “expect” to work for 47 years and then retire for 10. For females in 1941 it was 42 work years followed by 9 retirement years, and now it’s 47 work years followed by 15 retirement years.

          By the way, my “conclusions” in the post above were 1) that people are living longer 2) that more women in the workforce means longer pension payout periods, and 3) that men living 5 years longer was offset by moving men’s retirement age 5 years later. Those three statements were supported by the data I cited.

    • Autoexec.bat

      Agree on being less generous going forward. I do think pension obligations should be honored if already agreed to but employers should NOT be created new pension obligations, esp. if they, like Metro, can extract higher fees from customers absent the direct effects of supply and demand.

      I would only agree with keeping pensions alive if they were actively managed by outside companies in a way that would not allow the sponsoring company/agency/organization to raid the fund when times got tough. So many pensions get in trouble this way. Also, eliminate the PBGC.

    • Josh S

      How about simply starting them later? I don’t understand why the standard retirement age has not moved later and later as the life expentancy has increased. There was no expectation that a pension or retirement fund or Social Security payment needed to last decades when they were first created. In fact, as I recall, the life expentancy when Social Security was created (for example) was less than 65. The idea that we all get to have this multi-decade period of leisure at the end of our lives is a very, very recent development. It is remarkable how quickly it has taken hold in the collective mind as being the norm. (Madison Avenue certainly has something to do with that…..)
      Raise the retirement age. Don’t lower the monthly benefit.

      • Arlingtonian

        Some of your readers are not fools. They can recognize fallacious conclusions drawn from inappropriate sets of data.

        You should do not cite irrelevant data when writing messages such as this one. You have misinterpreted data because you used the wrong database.

        Life expectancy has has indeed risen since Social Security began. However, most of this increase has occurred because of decreases in infant and child mortality. Life expectancy has not risen very much since that time for people who have survived long enough to reach adulthood.

        You need to cite data from life expectancy tables of people who have reached the age of 21 years in messages such as yours that relate to working-age populations.

        • Thes

          Dude: Josh S. didn’t but I did. Third column. 20-year old men can expect to live 9 years longer than they could expect to in 1941, and 20-year old women can expect to live 11 years longer.

  • John Andre

    In my younger days, the promise of generous benefits was what drew a person to a job, or influenced a decision re one job or another…simply eliminating benefits implies a “bait & switch” attitude, something today’s conservatives just don’t seem to realize! If you can’t afford something being promised to new hires, shouldn’t you be up front with this during the initial interviews?

    As for “socialized medicine” everyone’s goal seems to be accessible, inexpensive health care, something which seems to be MIGHTY SCARCE these days! On the other hand, all this emphasis on “preventative medicine” can have a bad effect…namely that of being “tethered” to a series of continual appointment commitments. In addition some procedures [e.g. colonoscopies] can require being tied down to a regimen of preparatory steps which can interfere with one’s freedom of action for an extended period of time. We should be free to evaluate a procedure against both its cost and the impositions it can make on our personal lives.

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