D.C.’s Metro needs $500 million a year more than it presently gets to ensure the safety and reliability of the regional transit system, according to General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. Jack Evans, who represents Ward 2 on the District Council and chairs the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board, has been fighting for at least two years to have the governors of Maryland and Virginia help provide dedicated funding for Metro, presumably from state tax sources.
But last year, even as Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s outgoing Democratic governor, promised to come up with a tax to fund Metro if Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, would match it, the negotiations fell apart. There was even a hue and cry for Evans to resign. To make matters worse, some analysts say the federal budget passed by the Republican-dominated Congress omits the final installment of a $1.5-billion transit grant that has gone toward repairs to D.C.’s Metro system. All seems dire indeed for the system’s future.
Yet, on Feb. 4, Evans told The Georgetowner: “I’ve never been more optimistic that we’ll get matching funds for the Metro from Virginia, Maryland and the District.
“Both states have bills on their legislators’ floor that are being considered to fund the Metro at $125 million each annually,” Evans explained. “Virginia is expected to vote positively on the proposal in March. That would propel Maryland to follow suit in April. Then the District would definitely provide matching funds. While that would not get us completely to the needed $500 million, it would be close.
“We’ve never had a better opportunity, been so close to the solution,” Evans said happily at the annual Winter Glogg party of the Burleith Citizens Association.
A key to the new effort is flexibility, according to a Jan. 8 article in the Washington Post. But Evans said: “I have to give myself a pat on the back for the change. I have been pushing this for the past two years and I’ve been successful in doing a little shaming for it.”
As for the Metro funding cut from the federal budget, Evans smiled. “Oh, we’ll get that. Congress would never let that drop.”
The Washington Metro is the only major transit system in the country that does not receive a significant part of its funding from a tax or another dedicated source of revenue, a shortcoming that has been identified as a weakness as far back as 1979.