Getting to Yes on Metro

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Carol Inman Glover was a mother of two and a grandmother of three. Like thousands of people in the D.C. region, she used Metro to commute to and from work every day. On Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, Ms. Glover rode Metro’s Yellow Line. She died from acute respiratory failure due to smoke inhalation at the L’Enfant Plaza station.

This should have been the region’s wake-up call that the Metro system was at a breaking point. Sadly, it was not.

When I was appointed to the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in January of 2015, I found a system that was rapidly deteriorating. Since my appointment, I’ve focused on safety. Making repairs and implementing long-awaited upgrades have been Metro’s number-one priority. From the 30-hour emergency shutdown to the yearlong SafeTrack program, which completed about three years’ worth of repairs in one year, the system is better today.

But almost three years after the L’Enfant Plaza incident that sent many riders to area hospitals, there has been essentially no movement by regional and federal leaders to address the core issue at Metro: dedicated and long-term funding for the aging system.

It seems that everyone acknowledges that there should be dedicated funding. From the mid-2000s to today, there have been 11 published studies or plans focused on everything from governance reform to funding for Metro. Within the last month, we’ve added three new funding plans on top of the growing pile of proposals.

These proposals are noise in the background.

Metro has been studied to the point of exhaustion and it is now time for action. We are the only major transit system in the country that does not have a dedicated funding source in the form of a tax. Now, why is that? Why hasn’t a tax been put in place for Metro? The answer is, we’re perceived as a system that provides a service to three separate jurisdictions. But Metro needs to be recognized as a uniform, regional system.

To quote former Metro board member Carlton Sickles, “Sometimes principle rises above politics.”

We need to move past our partisan political positions. It is incumbent on everyone to take responsibility and realize that we are about to walk off a cliff next year.

I want Metro to thrive and become the vibrant, futuristic system it was intended to be. I want it to be reliable, safe and affordable. This can be done — and I want to get to yes on dedicated funding for the sake of everyone in the region.

Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.

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