The state of the Washington D.C. Metro has greatly deteriorated over the course of the past several years. Within this time, the heavy rail transit system has become prone to frequent safety and performance issues, leading to incidents such as when the Metro experienced an emergency one-day shut-down last March. Moreover, this was not an isolated incident, indicating, unfortunately, the unreliability that the Metro has begun to embody.
These problems are ultimately a result of budget shortages, as, unlike most other transit systems in the United States, the Metro does not receive any funding from a dedicated revenue. Most governments collect taxes or property assessments specifically for the upkeep of their transit systems. However, Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. do not, leaving the funding of the Metro to rely heavily on fares and local, state, and federal subsidies. In light of the recent deterioration of the system, these sources of funding are clearly not cutting it.
Metro general manager Paul J. Wiedefeld has reported that the Metro will continue to degenerate if an annual revenue of at least $500 million cannot be secured. Although these pronounced fiscal shortage has been brought to the attention of local leaders, they have had some issues agreeing on a viable solution.
D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed the implementation of a penny-per-dollar sales tax as the solution to the fiscal problems of the Metro system. However, Maryland governor Larry Hogan and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe have rejected the idea. According to the Washington Post, Hogan wrote, of Bowser’s proposal, that “[t]he sales tax is a regressive tax, which disproportionately hurts the poorest of our citizens.”
While Hogan dismissed the idea of creating a tax to solve the fiscal issues of the Metro, he has not forgone planning a solution. Despite originally claiming that Maryland provided more than its fair share of Metro funds, Hogan has now agreed to pay an additional sum of money after changing his stance on the issue. In the same letter in which he criticized the proposal of the penny-per-dollar sales tax, the Maryland Governor offered to contribute an additional $500 million towards the Metro for the next four years. His sole condition was Virginia, Washington D.C., and the federal government agree to do the same.
Hogan views this as the optimal solution to the problems regarding the safety and reliability of the Metro and how much each government should be obliged to pay. The proposed plan would also allow politicians and leaders in the community to allocate more time in devising a permanent solution to the fiscal problems that the Metro seems to be facing.
As of now, while no plan has been agreed on definitively, it is the hope of many that a decision will be made soon. If the Metro were to deteriorate much more, Paint Branch High School junior Emily Kirk theorizes that people “would be more likely to use other transportation, creating a myriad of issues. An increase in traffic on the roads could lead to more accidents, a longer commute, and a wear on the roads and highways.” The Metro’s fiscal problems would augment with disuse, and eventually the program might have to be terminated altogether. Given the economic and social repercussions that the further degeneration of the Metro would engender, it is imperative that politicians, local leaders, and the general public as well actively participate in dialogue to resolve this issue.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Megan Rawlings of Paint Branch High School