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Arlington Sounds Alarm on Transportation Bill

by ARLnow.com February 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm 2,473 25 Comments

Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes is warning that a transportation bill approved by the House Ways and Means committee on Friday could have significant reprocussions for the Metro transit system and, by extension, Arlington.

The transportation bill would eliminate the dedicated funding stream for federal transit programs and grants — 2.86 cents of the 18.4 cent federal gas tax — replacing it instead with one-time funding.

The federal government contributed about $150 million in dedicated funding to Metro’s budget in the current fiscal year, and more than 50 percent of its current capital improvement budget. Should federal funding be cut, which would be more likely without a dedicated source of revenue, Hynes warns that Metro and Arlington County could suffer greatly.

“Arlington relies on transit. Our whole region relies on transit to move hundreds of thousands of people off our already clogged roads,” Hynes said in a statement. “The gasoline tax supports Metro, the backbone of mass transit in our County and the region. If the House proposal were to become law, it would make budgeting and capital funding for Metro, and for transit systems across our nation, nearly impossible.”

  • Farnsworth

    I thought Metro did not have dedicated funding. Now this article says they do.

    • Ginger

      Having Federal funding that is dedicated to transit is not the same as WMATA having dedicated funding. That would be like saying the dedicated highway funds in the Federal budget equate to dedicated funding to I-95.

    • Driver

      That’s why I drive everywhere.

  • JohnB

    Metro does not have dedicated funding from the jurisdictions (MD, DC, VA) but does receive a formula grant from the Feds that is funded by the gas tax revenue.

  • Fed Up

    Really? How do they think crippling Metro funding will help with road congestion? The savings couldn’t even begin to make up for increased traffic on the roads that an underfunded Metro will cause. I hate this kind of shortsightedness. Is this being done purely out of partisan hatred for mass transit? Don’t Republicans have any idea how important a functioning transportation system for Virginia’s economic growth?

    • Doodly

      Piffle! The money from the Feds is for capital projects and maintenance. Why not just raise fares and get the system to pay for itself? Like they are raising the rates at the Ballston parking garage.

      • Burger

        Because no single mass transit system in the world is self-funded by the fare box (I think Tokyo might) but all the rest of heavily subsidized by local governments.

        • Stitch_Jones

          Then perhaps they (mass transit systems) should only be funded by the fares of the riders who use them. People in Nebraska and Florida should not be paying part of my Metro fare.

          The issue here is federal funds disappearing, not local funds. We could raise the amount of local funding or the fare and it appears we will have to do that.

          • TCE

            funny… i was just thinking there were lots of programs in Florida the feds could cut so they could pay for Metro… why we have to have our fed dollars spent elsewhere… see your argumeent could be made for any project funded by the feds…

    • R. Griffon

      Because mass transit is for communists and hippies who think global warming is real.

      Now go be a real ‘Merican and drive your F150 around town at 12 MPG. The largest profits in recorded history at Exxon aren’t just gonna build themselves, ya know.

      • Zoning Victim

        Right, because those are the only two kinds of people in the world; mass transit hippies and F150 drivers. F150s actually get 15-19 MPG in the V8 version, rivaling a lot of the cars on the road.

        What’s pathetic is that Metro is subsidized and still can’t get me to work any cheaper than driving my Chevy extended cab/long bed pickup truck, and Metro takes twice as long door-to-door. If you monetize the lost time, I could drive a fully loaded dump truck to work and still save money.

        • Ford’s current F150 is listed at 17/23 MPG. Starting at $23K.


          Toyota’s flagship sedan, the Avalon, gets 19/28 MPG. Starting at $33K.


          The Chevy Volt, starts unsubsidized at $40K and offers the following info on mileage:

          EPA MPG Equivalent – City (Electric) 95
          EPA MPG Equivalent – Hwy (Electric) 93
          EPA Est. Fuel Economy City (Gas) 35 MPG
          EPA Est. Fuel Economy Highway (Gas) 40 MPG


          I don’t know about you, but for the money there is not a lot wrong with the F150 from a cost-of-ownership basis.

    • Zoning Victim

      Who says they’re “crippling Metro funding”? Deciding Metro’s funding going to come from somewhere other than the gasoline tax is far from that.

      I’m sure Republicans understand just how important Metro is to Virginia’s (and MD/DC’s) economic growth, which is exactly why they don’t think everybody in the country should have to pay for it. VA, MD and DC should be handling this because they’re the ones getting the economic benefit from it.

  • mickey644

    Do federal funds pay for the METRO? Do they also pay for buses in Orlando or Des Moines or Cleveland? Proportionately?

    • Burger

      1) yes
      2) yes
      3) need to see the subsidization rate based on ridership

  • Southeast Jerome

    This is probably one of Cantors ideas. That dude is dead set on bringing down Arlington.

    • Doodly

      And Arlington is not dead set on bringing him down? Seems fair if you ask me.

  • Jacob

    Why should drivers subsidize Metro riders?

    • Econ

      If nobody subsidized anything we’d have a lot more walkable cities served by privately funded transit (if anything).

    • Michael H.

      Why should non-drivers subsidize drivers? Contrary to what you believe, no major mode of transportation pays for itself. Gas taxes do not cover all the costs of road building and maintenance.

    • GrandArch

      Why should drivers subsidize metro… to reduce congestion on the roads, of course.

    • TCE

      … why should XXX subsidize YYY … oooh how I always love that argument… I don’t have kids… why should I pay for schools… 🙂 I could make a whole list of things like this.

  • db

    You could just as easily ask why should Metro riders subsidize highways? (and no gas taxes no more pay for the full costs of interstates than do Metro fares for the cost of the Metro system). If you want to talk about a libertarian utopia of private toll roads and unsubsadized transit I’m all for it, but that is not the world we live in or that most people want to love in. The fact of the matter is that we live in a world where the federal government subsidizes transit of all types. So the actual problem we face is how best to use those dollars to get people where they want to go. The question of whether to subsidize transit is a red herring.

    Looking at the DC area I think a strong case can be made that more money, even a lot more money on a better Metro will be better for everyone involved (even drivers) than endless billions on wider and wider roads. We are already reaching the limits of what highways can do and the population isn’t going to stop growing. Think of 2030 or 2050. By that time the cheapest, and probably only, way for our roads to be anything other than traffic nightmares will to have a much better mass transit system.

    • Zoning Victim

      The main reason gas taxes don’t cover all of the costs of the highways is because they keep diverting the funds for other means. We can’t divert a significant portion of the revenue from the gasoline tax to projects those funds weren’t earmarked for in the first place and then claim that user taxes don’t work so we should provide federal subsidizes everything transportation related. We should stop operating under any other premise than all forms of taxation basically go into the general fund because the government never sticks to what it says the tax is for in the first place (especially if there is a surplus), and it’s still all tax and spend to the taxpayers.

      The discussion should really be centered on what is prudent to support at the federal level and what is not, and people all across America should have to provide money to help support a metro systems in very rich parts of the nation. Metro systems are designed for commuting to work, which is a very regional issue and has nothing to do with the people living anywhere else in the country.

  • Your Mom

    Metro blows.


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