- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2017

This is the perception: At long last, officials are getting down to the real nitty gritty about the region’s mass transit woes.

The reality is this: They’re trying to tether the solution to a “dedicated,” Metro-only funding stream.

Keep in mind, though, once you get the facts, that they don’t want to solve the transit problem. They merely want manage the problem, because if they actually solve the problem, they manage themselves out of a job.

See, the D.C. region’s transit problem is the transit authority itself.

Technically, there are only 16 members on the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro, as the agency is commonly called. D.C., Maryland, Virginia and the federal government get two voting members and two alternates apiece. Some of those members are elected officials, and some are appointed. But that governance structure in and of itself is not the problem.

The problem is that the board’s 16 members and the higher-echelon powerbrokers, including Metro General Paul Wiedefeld, also have to answer to regional officials in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, and those regional authorities have to report to state authorities, and those state authorities all look to federal authorities for policies, laws, regulations and, of course, the mother of all transportation policy-making, funds.

All authorities also have to consider trends and projected trends in business, transportation and housing, as well as social, economic and cultural data.

As for unions, they have their say, too, and they tap dance only after dollar signs are guaranteed in red ink.

Voters? Well, all they want is for voters and other citizens to pony up — and that’s the real nitty gritty.

Ten Democratic lawmakers in Maryland have proposed not only overhauling/reforming Metro’s board but also establishing a special pot of money in each of the three jurisdictions served by Metro.

The amount? Each would be required to pay $170 million. A year. Every year.

Where would the money come from? Taxes. Gas taxes. Car rental taxes. Property taxes. Sales taxes. (Heck, why not kick in bicycling taxes? Oh, right. There are none.)

Metro is not a broken bus, subway and paratransit system. Metro has been a poorly managed system whose board didn’t pay attention. Grow the system was the board’s No. 1 priority.

Now that Mr. Wiedefeld has delivered that clear picture, tax-and-spenders have their hands out.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe should just say no.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser won’t go it alone, and it’s difficult imagining the Trump administration giving two thumbs up.

Time is not of the essence regarding any new funding proposal. Logical, apolitical deliberations and continued oversight are, however.

Metro trains are mostly running safely and on time, buses are clogging up the roads as usual and people can still use paratransit as their personal taxis.

If Metro authorities really want to know how to effectively and efficiently run a transit system, they should study New York City’s — one of the largest, oldest and most widely used urban public systems in the world.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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