Another week brings yet another damaging news cycle for Metro.
This time, it was a series of scathing reports from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). FTA found Metro was not operating trains on a clear traffic pattern during SafeTrack surges. FTA officials were denied access for inspections. Metro officials delayed repairs identified by FTA. And earlier this summer, FTA found some Metro inspectors had been inadequately trained.
Despite the best efforts of Metro’s new General Manager to implement a culture of safety, the message has clearly not permeated through the ranks. And the FTA’s findings are just more bad news for the system.
Metro also announced in August ridership was down 11 percent in the preceding quarter. That’s 8 million trips fewer than the same quarter the year before. For the entire fiscal year, ridership was down 6 percent.
And Metro reported only 42 percent of riders viewed the system as reliable. That number would almost certainly be lower if those who had not already abandoned the system were also surveyed.
Some dissatisfied individuals have simply returned to their own vehicles as fares increased while gasoline prices have decreased. Many have turned to services like Uber and Lyft. Uber launched a carpooling service where multiple individuals share rides at a price that is comparable in some cases to riding Metro, in in most cases much more reliable.
The ridership losses accounted for $58 million in lost revenue for the 2016 fiscal year. And, the agency did not actually have an overall budget shortfall for the year. Yet, Board Chairman Evans called for $300 million more from Congress, and $1 billion overall, to bail them out.
The facts continue to point to mismanagement of the system and a broken culture as the primary reasons for its woes. But WMATA Board Chairman Evans continues to say all would be solved with “more money.”
At some point everyone should say enough is enough and demand a total reboot of WMATA. The last thing we should do is give the current leadership an additional $1 billion with no strings attached.