- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

The proposed 2004 spending plan for mass transit that Metro Chief Richard White announced on Thursday concedes fiscal realities: States are facing deficits, and regional governments simply do not have the cash flows enjoyed in the late 1990s. Indeed, whereas Metro was able to return $79 million to regional governments in recent years, layoffs, cutbacks in capital programs and fare increases are now on the table, as Mr. White tries to reckon with a $48 million budget gap. Mr. White is on the right track.
His $922 million operating and $291 million capital plans for fiscal 2004 propose "ways of increasing passenger revenue by $24 million," which, in plain English, means increases in fares and parking fees.
Regular and rush-hour Metrobus and rail fares are as low $1.10 and have been that low for eight years. All-day parking fees are only a maximum of $2.25. Since then, costs and services increased. Metro expanded its rail services, built new parking lots, bought new rail cars and so-called clean buses. Disabled riders who use MetroAccess, a door-to-door van service, pay only $2.20, while the cost to Metro is now $35 per trip. Also, Metro has reconfigured bus routes to accommodate shifting demographics, not to mention raises for its 9,000 workers.
If Metro officials had incrementally raised fares and fees as expenses rose which is precisely what we have advocated Metro's budget gap would not exist. Belatedly, Metro officials are beginning to understand that pay-as-you-go is not a bad way to go.

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