WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Washington leaders are working with the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) to find a fix for the Metro transit system’s major budget problems.
Metro officials met with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council Tuesday morning to discuss the system’s $750 million budget deficit.
The biggest short-term impacts are the possibility for major service cuts and layoffs in the coming months if leaders can’t find a funding solution.
Metro cites lower post-pandemic ridership, inflation and government funding running out for the big shortfall in its multi-billion dollar budget.
WMATA General Manager & CEO Randy Clarke laid out several possible budget scenarios during Tuesday’s meeting. Those scenarios ranged from full funding of that $750 million gap to no funding help at all.
The worst case scenario: service on bus and rail could be slashed by more than half next year, with trains coming every 20-30 minutes and dozens of bus lines shut down.
“If we went into the 33 percent cuts scenario or the 60 percent cuts scenario, [Metrobus] is gonna be hit pretty hard,” said Clarke, also adding that D.C. riders would likely be disproportionately impacted by major bus service cuts.
“If I have to sit here for an hour for my next bus to come, I’m not going to be able to get to work today,” said D.C. resident Markus Hodges as he walked past the busy Fort Totten Metro station Tuesday.
Some bus and rail riders with disabilities say they’d be cut off completely if severe service reductions were implemented.
“I’d be staying home. I’d be in big trouble, I have to go to therapy every day,” said Frantz Boulet, a Greenbelt resident who suffered a stroke and walks with the help of a cane.
Boulet takes the bus and the train almost every day.
Riders aren’t the only ones at risk, though. Employees could suffer, too. If Metro doesn’t find funding, layoffs and hiring freezes could be imminent.
Clarke says if Metro has to layoff employees at the start of fiscal year 2025 next July, employees would have to be notified six months in advance in January. He says layoffs at Metro take about six months to take effect.
Service cuts could come during the same time. During Tuesday’s meeting, Clarke said the cuts would have major impacts during DC’s cherry blossom season next spring, one of Metro’s busiest times of the year.
Metro will present its final FY25 budget in December.