The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) runs the second-busiest local rail system and the sixth-busiest local bus system in the nation. In 2012, Metrorail had a ridership of 723,000 a day and Metrobus had a ridership of 465,000 a day. In a metropolitan area with a population of 5.7 million, Metro makes a huge difference in easing mobility, facilitating commutes to work and minimizing pollution.
WMATA is governed by an interstate compact between D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The three jurisdictions (along with the federal government) have seats on WMATA’s board and are responsible for funding it. Metro riders pay more than 60% of the system’s operating cost at the farebox, which is higher than most public transportation systems in the United States. The remainder of the operating costs and the capital costs are divided between the three participating jurisdictions and the federal government.
Metro has no dedicated funding source. Each year, its general manager and board propose a budget and the funding jurisdictions must agree to it. In Maryland, funding for Metro competes with money for other transportation projects through the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. Unfortunately, the Transportation Trust Fund is almost broke. In a few years, the state will not be able to afford any new projects and Metro funding will be at risk.
Metro’s funding needs are becoming more desperate. Its broken escalators, water-filled stations, crowded trains and occasionally busted air conditioners are painfully apparent to its riders. Metro’s General Manager has proposed a $26 billion plan to fix these problems as well as expand the system’s future capacity, upgrade the system’s creaky electrical grid and buy more buses and trains.
Without Metro, our region would come to a standstill. Metro’s continued status as a world-class transportation system is critical to Maryland and the entire Washington region.