Residents, Advocates Attend Town Hall on Proposed Metro Improvements

About 100 residents, transit advocates and others attended a town hall in Silver Spring last night to hear about proposed budget and service changes for the Metro system from representatives of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The meeting was organized by the County Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee, chaired by Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5), who noted it was the first T&E Committee meeting held in Silver Spring.

Hucker emphasized the need to end the “turnback” of Metro cars at Silver Spring to provide a better level of service to the Forest Glen station and beyond to Glenmont.

A similar turnback at the Grosvenor station on the other side of the Red Line was ended last December, and Hucker noted the eastern portion of the line needed and deserved the same level of service.

Councilmember Evan Glass (D-At Large), a committee member, reminded attendees of the commitment that Maryland made to provide about $500 million per year in dedicated funding for Metro improvements and operations, which he referred to as “just the beginning.”

Now, he said, “We need dedicated, reliable service.”

Councilmember Hans Reimer (D-At Large), the third committee member, referred to Metro as “our most important transit investment” and added his voice to the call for improvements in service, noting, “there’s a lot of room to expand service in Montgomery County.”

The primary changes WMATA is proposing to improve that service include:

  • Expanding weekday peak service hours by 30 minutes in the morning (to 5-10 a.m.) and 90 minutes during evening rush (to 3-8:30 p.m.), when peak fares would be charged
  • Ending the Silver Spring turnback during weekday peak times and weekends, running all trains to Glenmont
  • Running all eight-car trains instead of the six-car trains used for those that turn back at Silver Spring, and
  • Charging a flat $2 fee for weekend trips.

WMATA board member Michael Goldman, one of Maryland’s representatives, reviewed the draft budget of about $2 billion, of which Maryland would contribute about $456 million.

However, he said, adding the proposed service changes would cost about $20 million more, above the 3 percent annual subsidy cap the jurisdictions had agreed to maintain.

In addition, he said, the D.C. board members are pushing hard for a return of the late-night service (e.g., to 3 a.m. on weekends), which would cost another $45 million. Complicating the discussion is that the D.C. representatives could veto any proposal to continue the shorter hours of operation.

Adding the late-night service, Goldman warned, would mean cuts in service and Metro employees, as well as daytime track work, including single tracking trains.

The Federal Transit Administration also has threatened to withhold $1.6 billion in funding for the region, including money for the Purple Line, if Metro extends its service hours, according to several recent reports.  

Goldman said he’s pushing WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld (who was unable to attend the meeting due to a personal matter) to come up with $10 million from the current budget proposal as a down payment for the additional service proposals.

Following Goldman’s presentation, two panels made up of transit advocates, civic and business community representatives testified about the proposals, then the floor was opened for questions and comments from the audience.

From left, Councllmembers Hans Reimer, Even Glass and Transportation and Environment Committee chair TomHucker were joined by WMATA board member Michael Goldman and alternate member Kathy Porter (former Takoma Park mayor and WMATA board member) for last night’s Metro town hall. Photo by Mike Diegel.

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