- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has approved a 10-cent fare increase on buses and trains through June.

The board of directors approved the hike on Thursday as it looked to close a nearly $40 million budget deficit. The fare increase is scheduled to begin in March.

Officials considered the fare increase among other proposals that included tapping into maintenance funds and service cuts, and heard from hundreds of people on the issues.

Metro is already covering about $24 million of the gap by laying off workers, using $10 million in stimulus funds, cutting back customer service center hours and tapping a rainy day reserve fund.

On Thursday, the transit agency proposed a new budget that begins in July and includes another $190 million shortfall

The agency also said it’s improving worker safety through new rules, training and consequences for those who violate safety procedures.

Acting Chief Safety Officer Michael Taborn told the transit system’s board of directors on Thursday that several changes are in the works, including a new section in the employee handbook detailing right-of-way clearance for track workers.

The steps to improve safety are in response to several worker deaths in the past year, including two workers who were killed this week when a truck on the rails backed into them.

Mr. Taborn said officials are reviewing proposals for technology that alerts operators when workers are present, such as blue lights or GPS tracking.

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe said front-line workers and managers will be held accountable if they don’t follow safety rules.

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