- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2020

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton announced some unfortunate news on Thursday.

“The 2021 #inauguration of @JoeBiden will be historic for many reasons, and unfortunately the pandemic is one of them. For public health reasons, no tickets are being allocated,” she tweeted.

You know what that means for the D.C. region in general and its Metro system in particular: A day off is likely, and losses in revenue are certain.

So now the burning question: Does the buck stop at Joe Biden’s desk, with Congress or the ambitious Pete Buttigieg, the boy wonder slated to hold the reins of the Department of Transportation?

The leaders of D.C., Maryland and Virginia are hedging their bets on Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg, having addressed a letter to the two Democrats the day after Mr. Biden named Mr. Buttigieg as Transportation Department secretary-designate.



Their request? Money to bail out Metro.

They make the usual arguments, saying: “Without additional federal support, WMATA faces major budget shortfalls that will force layoffs and additional service interruptions, further hindering our region’s economic recovery When pandemic relief funding runs out, WMATA will be forced to make draconian service cuts and eliminate more than 3,800 positions. This is more than one-third of its workforce, when combined with this year’s layoffs.”

The bottom line: “an operating budget shortfall of $176.5 million for FY2021 (through June 2021), followed by a $494.5 million budget shortfall in FY2022.”

In other words, they’ve dug two budget holes and want federal funds to fill up both — despite the pandemic, despite small businesses drying up and despite rising unemployment claims.

Kids aren’t even utilizing mass transit because schools and recreational facilities are shut tight.

What D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam are doing to stop the red ink is unknown.

What they should be doing, however, is hardly a secret, and that’s cutting Metro’s losses before they get any deeper.

Some layoffs are inevitable. Some Metrorail stations should be temporarily closed. Some Metrobus lines should be trimmed. And fare increases must be on the table, even if they don’t take effect until fiscal 2022.

Even as vaccines are in the immediate future, taxpayers won’t have a full grasp of “normal” life within the first 100 days of a Biden administration. Wish that weren’t true, of course, but that’s the reality.

Getting rid of Donald Trump and watching Mr. Biden being inaugurated via television or internet won’t change those circumstances.

No Inauguration Day throngs, no need for Metro bailouts.

The leaders of the DMV have to do their jobs, make the hard choices. Pronto.

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

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