Americans now know what Obama transportation chief Ray LaHood thinks should be done with the D.C. region’s primary transit authority.
In short, Mr. LaHood proposes more public funding, a condensed governing body and smaller pensions in the future. He also suggests commercial advertising to bring in new revenue.
In other words, the Earth is still round and Thor remains noble to earthly sensibilities.
There’s something else that Mr. LaHood proposes that likely will upset special interest folks in D.C., Maryland and Virginia — “re-examining the entire system of [Metro] bus routes, schedules and operating practices.”
“We can find opportunities for things like more efficient routing that save money and improve service,” Mr. Hood said in his study of the Metro system.
Well, considering Mr. LaHood was responsible for mass transit funding when he served in Congress, and his hands were always in the federal coffers when it came to mass transit issues, let’s assume he knows the nitty-gritty of busing.
Fine. But Mr. LaHood also knows the politics of busing and government spending in the hands of liberals versus the hands of fiscal conservatives.
Ditto the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents more than 13,000 current and retired Metro employees who also work for the paratransit MetroAccess and the DC Streetcar.
The union made it clear the LaHood report is standing up for labor.
“Metro’s management over the years has allowed the system to fall into its current state and the jurisdictions served by Metro — Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and the federal government — have refused to take responsibility for adequately funding the system,” Local 689 President Jackie Jeter said Monday. “It’s time for WMATA to stop pitting riders against workers and start looking for a way to provide the necessary funding to give riders the world-class public transit system they deserve.”
Mr. LaHood, Ms. Jeter and the other big spenders don’t provide the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, however. And that is that everyone who pays federal taxes to the United States contributes to funding public transit.
A little granny who lives in Mr. LaHood’s native Peoria, Illinois, helps to fund Metro but may never ride it.
A wheelchair-bound veteran in Phoenix who has never ridden Metro or used MetroAccess pays for Metro.
And all those Wall Street sharks, rich folks who are bashed by New Yorker Chuck Schumer and Vermonter Bernie Sanders, the Senate’s ballyhooers in chief? They pay for Metro, too.
See, that’s why Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan struck the right chord this summer when he challenged D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to meet him at the one-third mark for funding Metro.
Mr. LaHood proposes $500 million in dedicated funding, but he shouldn’t be proposing any dollar amount. The governments of the three jurisdictions should confer with each other and the federal government, and then each should go their own way. Separate and unequal, if that’s the case.
Also, Mr. LaHood left a lingering pee-yew odor after he stepped deep inside Metro and said General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is “the right person for the job at hand.”
Guess Mr. LaHood keeps up with the media here in Washington, because, disappointingly, there was nothing startling in Mr. LaHood’s report.
And as for the job at hand, Congress and the White House should respect the advice of D.C., Maryland and Virginia leaders, but they don’t have to follow it. Besides, the federal government has far more and far bigger fish to fry across the country.
Regional leaders can reform Metro without “dedicated” funding and tax increases. That’s why they are paid the big bucks.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.