- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The costs to oversee, operate and maintain Metrorail, Metrobus and paratransit services are ticking upward.

Earlier this week, officials gave a wink and a nod to a quasi-independent safety panel — partly because of federal oversight, partly because of state oversight and partly due to politicians’ love of bureaucratic entanglement.

Of course, that doesn’t mean passenger safety isn’t a front-burner issue.

On Wednesday, for example, a potential passenger in a wheelchair seemingly grew impatient with the arrival of an elevator at the Columbia Heights Metro Station and decided to take the escalator. As the man in his wheelchair neared the top steps, he and his chair came tumbling down. He died.

So whether he died on a train, on a platform or merely inside the station, the proactive “safety first” rule is applicable.

Funding for the new Metrorail Safety Commission will cost local, state and federal governments, which will pass the costs onto local, state and federal taxpayers. That all means Metro fares should rise to the occasion.

To know, as well, that Metro authorities are considering allowing vendors to sell food and beverages at stations is a bit concerning.

Moreover, as a frequent rider pointed out Thursday, nowhere in Metro’s proposal does it say that passengers will be allowed to “consume” food or beverages in the stations or on trains.

Indeed, if Metro permits food and beverages to be sold only outside its gates, what happens to the passenger who nibbles on french fries? (A D.C. teen was handcuffed and arrested several years ago for doing just that.) Or what about the young mother who pops a grape or two into her mouth after her toddler?

That fresh hot cup o’ joe is mighty tempting during the morning commute, and Metro wouldn’t dare order a passenger, however clean-cut he may look, to get rid of his obviously booze-spiked Red Bull, right?

If Metro decides to enforce its no eating, no drinking policy, then food and drinks only would be sold outside the fare gates. I checked a bunch of tweets and websites, and the only conversation was about selling the food.

If Metro is going to allow eating in stations, the mass transit agency must prep for an onslaught of costs. Who will the vendors be? Are regional health inspectors prepared to take on the new responsibilities? What happens if a middle-schooler is caught drinking a homemade smoothie? A dad gnawing on a bagel?

To deliver even an austere, reasonable project, Metro will have to launch an educational campaign for parents, passengers and folks of all ages; a safety/security campaign; and a new signage campaign in several languages — all of which cost big bucks.

Metro also would have to train/retrain its employees and its contractors. Regional police agencies will have to be in on the particulars, too. Bigger budget.

Moreover, who’s going to make sure that Metro remains clean and sparkly? Oh, that’s right. The unions will see to that. A litter-free Metro. Cha-ching!

Buckle up, taxpayers. Last year’s plea for a dedicated stream of revenue for Metro is so last year.

If you support pay-as-you-ride policies, speak now in support of higher fares or forever let Metro treat you like a cash cow.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]


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