- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2020

Officials with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority might finally be facing reality: Metro cannot meet all transit needs most of the time.

Opening in 1976, it was chiefly designed as a commuter convenience for closed-in Virginians in bedroom communities and wealthier, single-home Maryland environs such as Rockville and Bethesda.

And on the sports and entertainment front, there’s no question that things began changing after the NBA moved its team from Prince George’s County to Chinatown and the NFL moved the Washington Redskins to Prince George’s County. Now all major sports team call D.C. home, and Washingtonians have their fingers crossed that the Redskins will come home, too.

Yet that won’t be a roadblock. What’s front and center on Metro’s agenda is one question: How can Metro continue paying for current services and prepare for two new rail lines?

Here are the current plans for Metrobus:

⦁ Eliminate or reduce service on 40 bus lines.

⦁ Charge passengers an additional 25 cents for paying in cash.

⦁ Offer free bus rides if passengers transfer between bus and rail within two hours.

⦁ Reduce the seven-day regional bus pass from $15 to $12.

D.C. schoolkids would still ride Metrobus for free, and no changes are planned for MetroAccess, a discount service for seniors and the disabled to and from medical appointments.

Here are current proposals for Metrorail:

⦁ Setting a flat $2 fare on weekends.

⦁ Hiking fares between 10 cents and $1, depending on the length of the ride.

⦁ Running weekday trains until midnight.

⦁ Making weekend trains until 2 a.m.

⦁ Operating more trains available on Sundays.

Those are pretty good deals for rail and bus passengers who work, shop, visit and sip special cocktails during all hours of the day and night. And for people who motor about, perhaps Metro’s proposal will stem the D.C. anti-driving efforts of traffic-clogging bus-only lanes, and the unsightly bicycles and scooters that are strewn in quiet neighborhoods.

Important, too, is the fact that Metro is considering cutting expenses now because of what lies ahead — how taxpayers are going to fund the new Silver Line to Dulles airport, which is expected to open by late summer 2021.

In addition, Maryland is building a separate, 21-station Purple Line in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, which apparently are bursting at the seams with local and state leaders seeking to build more schools.

Metro officials, including General Manager Paul Weidefeld, deserve applause for improving the safety and planning apparatus of the aging Metrorail. He quickly understood that sometimes you have to spend money to make money and that, here again, Metro cannot be all things to all people all the time.

Now comes the hard part: convincing taxpayers, transit-dependent folks in three jurisdictions, elected officials in three jurisdictions and Congress.

It’s never been easy politically, and that won’t change an iota this election year.

The House, which constitutionally gets the upper hand on appropriations, might be tempted to dish out more dollars if, say, President Trump doesn’t take to Twitter late one night to endorse Metro’s proposal.

Don’t laugh. President Trump knows he won’t flip the D.C. blue streak to purple, let alone to red, but what fun it would be if he rankled the region’s congressional delegation.

Ponder, ponder.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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