Metro is proposing eliminating weekend service, slashing bus service, and closing 19 stations as part of the agency’s FY2022 budget, set to take effect in July.
The possible cuts come in the wake of WMATA facing the worst budget forecasts in its 50-year history.
“In the face of a historic budget shortfall, the Proposed FY2022 Budget preserves barebones service to sustain essential travel and to ensure the network is in place to serve regional recovery,” reads the presentation that the WMATA board will receive this week. “Preserving even this limited service requires contributions from all stakeholders. The Proposed FY2022 Budget includes salary freezes, layoffs, limited service for customers, and jurisdictional subsidy above FY2021. Proposed Operating Budget savings were also achieved through a one-time, significant increase to capital support for operating maintenance activities.”
The plan also calls for trains to run every 30 minutes, closing 19 stations, further cutting bus service to a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, and closing the system at 9 p.m. daily.
Metro’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said the cuts are the opposite of what he hoped to do for the system, but Metro is legally required to have a balanced budget.
“When you have limited dollars, you have to prioritize based on needs and [ridership is lowest] on the weekends,” said Wiedefeld in a media briefing yesterday. “Any cut is painful.”
According to DCist, the drastic service cuts hinge on if Congress passes a new relief package that includes public transit funding. The American Public Transit Association says that the industry needs $32 billion to stay afloat, and Metro has been sustaining itself with about $800 million from the CARES Act in May, but that funding runs out early next year.
The proposed cuts include:
- Metro would eliminate weekend train service. Weekend bus service would increase slightly to help meet demand.
- Reducing train service to every 30 minutes on weekdays.
- Metro would close 19 stations that have had low ridership during the pandemic. The closures list will look similar to stations Metro had previously temporarily closed during the pandemic to save money. The stations would reopen when finances improve.
- Rail service would end at 9 p.m. on weekdays instead of 11 p.m.
- Increasing wait times by bringing back turnbacks. Half of Red Line trains would turn around at Grosvenor-Strathmore and Silver Spring.
- Reducing the current bus service from 60 routes to 41 routes.
Wiedefeld did say that if additional federal funding arrives before April or May, they would be able to make less drastic cuts. The proposed budget will be presented to the WMATA board on Friday, after which they will accept public comment on the cuts from January until March. The proposed service changes would then go into effect in July.