The MetroNow Coalition submitted the enclosed letter in response to the Proposed FY 2021 Budget
To: General Manager Wiedefeld and members of the WMATA board
From: MetroNow Coalition
Date: February 28, 2020
RE: WMATA’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget
The MetroNow Coalition is made up of regional leaders from the business, non-profit, and advocacy communities in the Washington area including the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Federal City Council, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Greater Washington Partnership, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and The 2030 Group. We came together in 2018 to ensure that action was taken to put Metro on a safe, smart and sustainable path forward, advocating for the historic $500 million annual dedicated funding deal between the District, Maryland and Virginia. To maximize the impact of the historic investments made by the Washington metro area in 2018, the MetroNow Coalition continues to urge our elected leaders to adopt accountability reforms needed to fully implement the changes necessary to deliver the Metro system that our region deserves.
Last year, the coalition expanded our focus to include the regional bus network. The bus is critically important to the economic health and vitality of the Washington area and to combat congestion-related costs to the economy and quality of life. 600,000 riders rely on the regional bus network each weekday and the system provides access to jobs, opportunities, and connects more communities to the Metrorail system. WMATA’s Metrobus represents about two-thirds of the Washington area bus ridership.
The bus system today is underperforming and has been losing ridership for several years. In December, the MetroNow Coalition launched our Better Bus Campaign to reverse the decline in ridership and create a faster, more equitable and more reliable bus system. The campaign builds on the recommendations of the Bus Transformation Project by offering specific targets the region can aspire to including 60 miles of dedicated bus lanes by 2025, free transfers between bus and rail, and a regional bus network redesign. The campaign focuses on four priority areas to grow ridership: bus prioritization on roads, equitable fare policies, regional coordination, and measuring success.
As the largest provider of bus service in the Washington area, we believe WMATA has the ability and responsibility to lead the transformation of our regional bus system. We are encouraged by several measures included in the proposed FY 2021 budget. Specifically, the MetroNow Coalition supports:
- Free transfers between Metrobus and Metrorail
- Improved weekend service for Metrobus and Metrorail
- Restoration of some late-night Metrorail hours
- Continued prioritization in the FY2021 Capital Budget and FY2021-2026 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to deliver investments that focus on safety, system preservation, and a state of good repair
- Reintroduction of project level detail in the FY2021 Capital Budget and FY2021-2026 CIP, but we request each capital investment provide detailed performance outcomes for each dollar spent
However, the MetroNow Coalition requests that you reverse course on the following measures:
- Increasing the cash fare for Metrobus without (1) a radically improved Metro SmarTrip Retail Outlet program, (2) establishment of an off-board fare payment option for Priority Corridor Network routes, and (3) a new integrated payment and trip planning system
- Charging peak fares after midnight, an inequitable fare policy for late-night workers
The MetroNow Coalition believes that the region should create a rational, cost effective and equitable fare and pass strategy that should inform and be adopted in future budgets.
The proposed FY 2021 budget includes several service changes to eliminate routes considered overlapping or redundant. Cutting bus service harms riders who depend on those routes and will reduce ridership. While eliminating redundant routes can improve operational efficiency, service changes should be considered in the context of a regional bus network redesign rather than on a piecemeal basis.
We strongly encourage the Board to move forward with initiating a bus network redesign process as soon as possible to maximize the regional benefits of the bus network. Coordinating regional fare and pass strategies, adopting integrated payment and trip planning technologies, and the regional bus network redesign should be led by a new or revamped regional coordinating task force. Unfortunately, the current budget lacks funding to standup the regional task force which was a key recommendation of WMATA’s Bus Transformation Project.
The MetroNow Coalition would like to thank General Manager Wiedefeld and the entire WMATA Board for their leadership and we look forward to continued dialogue about how the business, non-profit, and advocacy communities can support the creation of a fast, reliable, and equitable transit system that supports our growing and thriving Washington metropolitan area well into the 21st century.
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About the MetroNow Coalition
The MetroNow Coalition is a group of regional leaders from organizations representing businesses and non-profit advocates who came together to ensure that action was taken to put Metro—the backbone of Greater Washington’s transportation infrastructure—on a safe, smart and sustainable path forward. We are dedicated to securing comprehensive improvement of Metro’s governance, funding and operational structures. We are doubling down on our commitment to regional mobility by expanding our focus to the region’s bus system. Visit www.MetroNow.com for more information.