Press Club

The Right Note: Metro Memo States the Obvious

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Last week, it came to light a memo had been produced in May by someone at Metro outlining the system’s ridership woes and some possible solutions. According to the Washington Post, this memo never made it all the way up to the general manager or the WMATA Board.

From the memo: “The fundamental factors — fares, location, speed, frequency, and reliability — matter most and Metro’s recent actions have put downward pressure on ridership.” And it found the group driving the ridership decline the fastest are those who had used the system the most.

Worsening service at higher prices is driving riders away, especially in a world filled with ride sharing, bike shares and now scooters. Metro is losing long time riders in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Leaders were surprised that the memo existed, but not necessarily surprised by the findings. WMATA Board Chairman Jack Evans used it as another opportunity to call for more taxpayer funding for the system in order to add back service. The biggest union used it as an opportunity to blame the general manager. All in all, it was a series of predictable responses.

Recently, Christian Dorsey was given a voting seat on the WMATA Board. Now we know it is the intention of WMATA to rotate voting and non-voting board members. At the end of the day, though, it is hard to paint a scenario where the person voting matters. Representatives from the District, Maryland and Virginia and the federal government all seem to have differing approaches and political realities to take into account.

The Board as a whole seems content with the overall strategy of simply asking for more money. No one appears to be committed to a major structural overhaul. So, the memo serves as a reminder that it will be tough to get Metro back on track with the same people making decisions.

A Final Note on Redistricting? 

Over the past few days it came to light that Gov. Ralph Northam backed out of a political fundraiser for a fellow Democrat. Why? The delegate had the audacity to say Democrats in the General Assembly should have worked with Republicans to redraw the district lines.

With Gov. Northam’s veto threat and Democrats in the General Assembly acquiescing to it, the new House of Delegates map will be drawn by the courts. The Democrats are betting on judges to produce a better political map for them than they could get through a compromise with Republicans. So, they decided not to do the jobs they were elected to do.

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