Metro to start rationing services

Come one, come all. Public transportation advocates. Health Care Reform advocates. Let’s sit around the table and discuss the latest and greatest in one of the country’s most heavily subsidized systems, WMATA, and how they’re about to ration their services to the DC area.

My sister posted a link on her facebook page, saying:

“so wmata, you propose cutting service btw king street and huntington on the weekends as well as after 9:30 on weekdays. great effing idea.”

One of her liberal friends commented “that sucks,” so I responded “Wait, you mean that the government can ration services? Who knew?” I was just trying to make a pointed remark alluding to health care, but given my hatred of WMATA, this got me thinking that I had to delve further.

Sorry, Vice President Biden, we can talk about how AMTRAK has never made a profit another day. But let’s ride the rails of metro down memory lane.

First off, I took a brief look at the history of metro fares since metro was created. They’re behind the cost of inflation on most fares. If you’d charged us correctly the entire time, people would be less likely to bitch about a dime increase, even if they’re not paying for it. People usually assume they’re being ripped off. But I guess we’re being ripped off when a bunch of dipshits are running our public transportation system and aren’t charging riders adequately, thus increasing the cost to taxpayers who may/may not use the system.

I looked at the history of metro fares, and used the first and last years for comparable data. 1984 and 2008. In its infancy, WMATA was pretty much just the red line and a few small versions of the current lines. They’ve expanded their services dramatically, at great taxpayer expense, and they haven’t done a good job at pricing. Maybe they hired too many people from AMTRAK?

As you can see, metro has only had fare charges above the 1984 charge’s inflation adjusted numbers in boarding charge, maximum possible fare, and maximum possible fare to metro center (a no longer relevant statistic I am sure). Metro drastically expanded service and didn’t keep fares consistent with cost. I am not an expert on their historical ridership, but even I know this is a bad idea.

On metro’s webpage, their response to “What are the economic pressures on the Metro operating budget?” is…. (get ready for this)

It’s very important to understand that virtually no transit agency in the country, or in the world, makes a profit or even breaks even. Each year, Metro customers pay only a portion of the actual cost of each ride they take. The remainder comes from state and local government, often referred to as a local subsidy, and other revenue such as advertising. Metro and the state and local governments have kept fare increases below the inflation rate for more than a decade, and even with fare increases, customers still do not pay the full cost of their transportation.

Yes. That’s really their answer. Well, nobody seems to make a profit with this whole public transportation scheme, so why should we? Break even? Ha! I do not give two shits about whether you’ve kept costs under inflation. I know you have. I did the math myself. My question is, why did you do that? Were the local governments not burdened enough, so you thought they could use the extra expenses? Jesus.

Some other observations from their FY10 budget. Metro has more than half of a billion dollars in bond debt, in addition to their current budget shortfall! Each year, they spend over $1 billion dollars on labor costs.  $1.03 billion, in fact.

The average annual pay for metro employees is $66, 756. This is higher than the average pay every state in the country and the national average.

Metro bus’s cost per passenger is $3.62. $2.50 of that is subsidies. Average passenger fare for buses is $.86. There is something wrong with that. Every time I hope on a metro bus, cha ching! $2.50 disappears, just not directly from my wallet, but from the federal subsidies and local government “contributions.” My friend who walks to work, my friend who drives to work, my friend who bikes to work, in effect, are paying that $2.50 through their taxes.  (I don’t actually take buses, though.)

Metro needs to charge the passengers more, plain and simple. They’ve been screwing this up for far too long.

Here are some ideas for how metro can raise money, and maybe even break even.

  1. Charge more for general fares. People value consistency, and if they’d been paying the right price all along, you wouldn’t have to propose massive cuts to the system.
  2. Charge more for parking. $4.50 a day at Huntington equals about $90 per month. My dad pays more for parking in Cleveland.
  3. Sell more ads. Let people sponsor entire metro cars. I’ve seen enough stupid political ads for the rest of my life. Call me crazy, but letting the National Resources Defense Council run their stupid polar bear ads isn’t going to allow you to bring in a lot of money. Let Google pimp out entire cars with wifi or something. All of these non-profits are probably getting a huge deal, you can get better people to increase revenue in ads. Plus, we’re all sick of political ads.
  4. Get rid of unions. I’m sick and tired of reading how the local transit union is pushing for second chances for drivers who have messed up left and right. Plus, union labor costs more. The average full time station manager makes $27.65 an hour. I see them sleeping all of the time. King Street has 2 station managers. I see that’s on your proposal to close some entrances. Good. Do that, and get some non-union labor to do the work.
  5. Fire people. More over, fire the entire escalator fixing department. One of the main escalators at Gallery Place China Town was fixed this week. Only, it had been closed since November. Look, I get it. Overtime costs more money, these employees are unionized and cost a lot of money. Fire all of them and hire contractors. You’ll save a boatload of money.
  6. Fine the bejeezus out of people. Not once in three years have I ever seen somebody fined. I see people eat, spit, and play music without headphones all of the time. Why not give the ability to fine people to every WMATA employee? I saw a kid at Gallery Place throw about 50 twizzlers onto the tracks. Fine that kid $100 for every twizzler. People drinking coffee. Every morning, every train. Nobody gets fined. Similarly, kids love playing music aloud through their cell phones. It annoys all of us. Please fine them the most.
  7. Eliminate discounts / free rides. Students, disabled people, and seniors all get discounts. Metro employees, law enforcement, and metro retirees ride for free. Nobody should ride for free. Nobody should get a discount. It’s like at McDonald’s, during your shift you typically get a free lunch, but you don’t get free food when you’re not working. If you’re not taking the train or bus to work, you’ll pay like the rest of us. Many airlines don’t even give unlimited free travel these one rides for free
  8. Fine people who take up two seats. I am serious. The dude who takes up two seats should have to pay for two seats. Airlines do it. Ask Silent Bob. If you’re too big to fit in a single seat, find a good place to stand. Otherwise you get fined. Similarly, the person who feels he/she deserves both seats should be fined. I don’t care if you think you are important, if that you have space issues. You’re riding in a telescoping death trap with up to 150 of your closest friends. If you really cared about personal space, you’d drive.
  9. Charge more for people with large bags. Oh, you bring your entire office to and from work every day? That’s your fault, not mine. Can’t carry a normal backpack or satchel like the rest of us? Have to have a roll bag that takes up space. Double fare for you. Traveling? Same thing. Double fare for you. Hey, it’s still cheaper than a cab, and you’re utilizing more space than a commuter. Seems fair to me.

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3 Thoughts on “Metro to start rationing services

  1. Andrew Wilson on April 6, 2010 at 12:12 pm said:

    May I humbly ask how much money the state and local highways of DC made last year?

    The same highways that subsidize sprawl and that cost even more money than Metro/Amtrak. You can blame all that on auto makers that destroyed public transit by illegally dismantling it.

    St. Louis County is voting on an increase for our Metro system today (the City already passed it), and I hear the same things…Many of our socialist conveniences provided by the government and attached agencies are provided and paid for by taxpayers as a whole and not necessarily the individual fares or point of use fees.

    If it’s not already painfully obvious from the above statement, most utilized highways and roads systems charge $0! Leaving the bill on taxpayers like you and me- which is exactly how it was set up by our government.

    I guess it’s good that Metro systems at least charges some type of fare…all that being said, you are always right on your points of efficiency. Just because we as citizens pay for it does not mean it has to be unwieldy and inefficient.

  2. 10. Get local governments to provide greater subsidies.

    (It’s the only one that will make a meaningful improvement in service. Transit is like roads. You get what you pay for.)

  3. You can see my response on facebook.

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