FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2021
Contact: Lindsey Longendyke, Greater Washington Board of Trade, firstname.lastname@example.org
MetroNow Offers 10-point Plan for Improvements to WMATA’s FY22 Budget
Washington, D.C. — The MetroNow coalition submitted comments on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Fiscal Year 2022 Budget. The comments include ten specific actions that WMATA should take to significantly improve transit service in the region. These improvements will accelerate our economic recovery and allow Metro to benefit a larger and more diverse portion of the region’s population.
The comments argue that WMATA should act quickly to take advantage of conditions that support investment and change. The recently signed American Rescue Plan Act will provide $1.4 billion of relief for transit in the DC region, sparing WMATA painful service reductions and layoffs and creating an opportunity for new investments. Additionally, the continued low numbers of 9-5 commuters frees up resources that the agency can use to capture new riders at other times of day.
“Many of the things we are asking Metro to do, especially a number of items put forward by the Bus Transformation Project, are low-hanging fruit,” said Bob Buchanan, President of The 2030 Group. “The impact they will have, both in terms of benefiting riders and strengthening Metro’s financial position, should incentivize Metro to move quickly. Advancing bus priority projects will signal to the region that WMATA is serious about getting all of the region, especially our low-income and unemployed residents, back to work as quickly as possible.”
Recognize WMATA’s Central Role in the Economy
MetroNow stressed the importance of WMATA’s role in our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency should be prepared to meet the needs of travelers as our workplaces, schools, and public amenities reopen, and it should communicate its timetables for service expansion clearly. Failure to do so may slow a regionwide return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity.
“We’ve always known that transit is critical to our economy and quality of life. If that’s true in good years, it’s certainly true in years when we are bouncing back from one of the most serious social and economic crises of our lifetimes,” said Tony Williams, CEO and Executive Director of the Federal City Council. “Our region’s business leaders have an essential role to play to ensure public transit’s long-term success. By supporting employees returning to work via Metrobus, Metrorail, walking, biking, and exploring solutions like flexible and off-peak commuting, we can improve the experience for everyone.” The Federal City Council is asking employers to take a pledge to return employees to worksites when it is safe.
“As the region emerges from the pandemic and begins returning to the office, it is critical we make the kinds of infrastructure investments that ensure a safe and equitable transit network,” said Julie Coons, President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “WMATA can serve the 9-5 commuter, the late night worker and the daytime traveller. Our regional economy will need to innovate to ensure our recovery and WMATA will be central to that innovation.”
The recommendations emphasize that improvements to the bus network can create a more equitable, robust, and integrated transit system region-wide. These improvements should be accompanied by efforts to make transit more affordable and accessible for low-income travellers. The coalition believes these changes can improve social equity as more individuals from all backgrounds can meet their transportation needs via transit.
“Investing in the bus is key to building a more inclusive region and reducing transportation inequities,” said JB Holston, CEO of the Greater Washington Partnership. “Employers understand the urgent need we have in this region to build the talent and transportation ecosystems to accelerate inclusive growth, and improving our regional bus system is one piece of that puzzle.
Rethink Transit’s Historical Focus on the Commuter
The recommendations also ask WMATA to rethink its historical focus on serving commuters with 9-5 schedules. If WMATA increases service during “off-peak” hours, it would benefit workers with alternative schedules and make transit more viable for non-commute trips.
“Back when it was built in the 1960’s, Metro was about getting federal workers from the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland into the District and back again in time for dinner. Today, a lot of those people are working from home and it’s grocery store workers, nurses, restaurant staff, and others who depend on Metro and deserve to be centered in the conversation,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG). CSG recently released a complimentary set of transit equity principles in partnership with Greater Greater Washington and the DC Transportation Equity Network.
Continue the Focus on Transit Safety
The budget comments submitted by MetroNow also call for the continuation of COVID-19 safety measures and improved ventilation, which MetroNow recommends WMATA extend through FY22 to promote rider confidence. The comments also praise WMATA’s accelerated Capital Improvement Program.
“The people at Metro did hero’s work over the past year,” said Jack McDougle, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “From the frontline drivers to the back office. They didn’t just keep Metro running in a pandemic. They made it safer, they focused on service for essential workers, and they kept their long-term capital improvement goals in focus.”
The recommendations in summary:
- Accelerate the Bus Transformation Project’s recommendations.
- Create low-income fare products.
- Eliminate the bus-rail transfer penalty.
- Create a robust, frequent, and reliable 24-hour bus network.
- Move quickly to offer pre-pandemic levels of service, but reallocate some service away from rush hour peaks to better accommodate the majority of travel needs.
- Clearly communicate a timeline for more frequent, reliable service.
- Continue COVID safety measures and investments in ventilation.
- Continue the accelerated preventative maintenance and capital rehabilitation work
- Create a bulk transit pass program for employers.
- Pilot new rail maintenance practices during the low ridership period that have proven successful in other metros around the world.
Read the full submitted comments here.
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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.