January 04, 2008

CARDIN, MIKULSKI AND WEBB RENEW CALL FOR DEDICATED FEDERAL FUNDS FOR METRO SYSTEM

Funding Could Minimize Future Rate Hikes

WASHINGTON - Maryland Senators Benjamin L. Cardin, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, and Virginia Senator Jim Webb renewed their call for dedicated, federal funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit System (WMATA) on the eve of the largest rate hike in the system's 30-year history.  They urged the Senate, when it reconvenes this month, to take up consideration of the National Capital Transportation Amendments Act (S.1446). This bipartisan measure was introduced last year by Senators Cardin, Mikulski, Webb and Warner. 

"As the employer of nearly half of all rush-hour Metro riders, the federal government has a responsibility to its workers and the region to support the revitalization of Metro's aging infrastructure," said Senator Cardin, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "After 30 years of unprecedented growth, Metro has proven its value to the federal government in easing the burden on our region's over-crowded roads on a daily basis and during major crises. As Metro trains and buses become overwhelmed, the federal government must pay its fair share rather than allow fare increases that disproportionately hit suburban riders with higher rail and parking fees."

"Metro means more than just transportation - it means residents and visitors to our nation's capital can live, work, worship and play throughout the metro area without ever getting in their cars.  As commuters prepare for the biggest fare hike in Metro's history, riders need our help," said Senator Mikulski, a member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. "I will continue to work with my colleagues to increase our investment to this critical resource and to keep people on the go in Maryland and the entire National Capitol Region."

"There is no question that traffic in Northern Virginia is a quality of life issue. Better and more reliable public transit means fewer cars on the road and less anxiety for Virginia commuters," said Senator Webb. A good Metro system, backed by a dedicated source of federal funding, is a vital first step toward easing the Washington region's traffic congestion."

Maryland and Virginia commuters will be the hardest hit by the fare hike that takes effect Sunday, January 6. While bus passes for regular riders remain unchanged and cash fares for buses increase 10 cents, nearly all regular rail fares and parking fees go up. The base fare for all rail passengers increases 30-cents per trip. And since the Metro fare system is based on distance traveled, commuters who traveler farther are also affected by increases to per-mile charges. For example, a daily commute from Maryland's Largo Town Center to Metro Center on the Blue Line will cost $4.25 for parking (up from $3.50) and $3.55 each way for the train (up from $2.95), for a total of $11.35 per day. In Virginia, a commuter who starts at the Vienna/Fairfax Station on the Orange Line will see parking increase from $3.75 to $4.50 per day. If he or she travels to Union Station, the one-way fare will increase from $3.80 to $4.50, for a daily cost of $13.50.     

The National Capital Transportation Amendments Act also will require all state and local governments provide for a dedicated funding source for Metro.  The legislation also establishes an Office of Inspector General of the Transit Authority and expands the WMTA Board of Directors.

A 2005 report by the Metropolitan Council of Governments, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Federal City Council found that WMATA faces an average annual operating and capital shortfall of approximately $300 million between FY 2006 and FY 2015. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the Greater Washington Board of Trade have endorsed this bipartisan measure.