- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2001

Metro's 3-week-old expansion of the Green Line subway appears to be a bigger hit than the well-paid planners at Metro anticipated. Officials reported last week that 30,000 riders are boarding the trains every day, 10,000 more than expected. The increase in ridership forced Metro to add three six-car trains to accommodate frustrated riders. These are not new rail cars to go along with the new rail stops. Indeed, that Metro failed to anticipate and accommodate means Metro has a one-track mind.

Commuters and occasional riders began complaining last spring about feeling like sardines packed in moving cans, and the usual crush of summer tourists made those travels even less pleasurable. By summer's end, Metro said don't worry dozens of spanking new rail cars were on the way, and many of them would arrive before the Green Line began its runs from Prince George's County into Southeast Washington. Metro failed to keep that promise.

Metro officials (and their friends on the editorial page at The Washington Post) will tell you the problem is, ta-da, money. They want you to think transit subsidies are too modest to keep pace with Metro's ambitious $12 billion, 20-year price tag. They also want you to think those new rail cars aren't online because of a revenue shortfall.

Do not be fooled. Metro can certainly be applauded for finally opening those new stations. But, please, no drum roll. Metro's "latest trackside turmoil," as The Post characterizes it, has more to do with poor planning and management than money. If money were the issue why hasn't Metro raised parking fees? If money were the issue why hasn't Metro raised rail or bus fares? If money were an issue why is Metro proposing to open several additional stations if it doesn't have the money to accommodate what's already up and running?

Consider an average commuter who rides the rails into Washington for convenience and economic reasons. For $65 a month, a commuter gets what Metro calls a "guaranteed" space all day at the Shady Grove Metro lot on the Red Line. He parks, cruises into work and has the advantage of staying late and meeting friends for drinks and supper without worry. Afterward, Metro cruises him homeward, he jumps in his car and rolls out. Sweet and easy, eh?

Pity the average taxpayer and average non-commuter; that is the commuter whose job doesn't require that he travel during morning or evening rush. He can't find a parking space at Shady Grove and, if he did, he'd have to wait longer for a train. This commuter, this taxpayer, is cheated thrice: His taxes subsidize Mr. Easy Rider's ride, parking and shorter wait for a ride. Seems Metro officials need to rethink their "Metromath."

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