Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The death spiral of Washington D.C.'s Metro system

It's ugly, and possibly unrecoverable:
In 2015, fares accounted for $783 million in operating funds, while state and local governments provided $785 million for operations and $430 million for capital improvements (meaning capital replacement; the Silver line was funded out of another budget). In addition, Metro needs to spend about $700 million more a year than it is spending today on maintenance and capital replacement. With 1.8 million households in the region, if all of these state and local funds were instead funded by a dedicated tax, the annual tax would have to average well over $1,000 per household–even more if a Heritage Foundation proposal that the Trump administration zero out federal support to Metro is taken seriously (see p. 130). Will local taxpayers accept that cost when only about 10 percent of commuters take the Metro to work?
Emphasis added by me.

Will local taxpayers step up to this cost when almost nobody takes Metro?  To ask the question is to answer it.

5 comments:

Jeffrey Smith said...

Exactly what geographic area does Metro cover? A couple of years ago, I got to crawl through DC rush hour traffic. It started halfway to Baltimore and was just ending a couple of hours later when we finally took our exit at Fredericksburg. I suspect Metro doesn't serve the places DCers commute from.

Old NFO said...

It will cause a meltdown even worse than the traffic already is, not to mention the lack of parking!

Flugelman said...

Back when I was commuting to DC as a contractor to a government agency the only time the Metro was useful was on weekends when I wanted to go sightseeing. Otherwise, useless. Where is all that money going? Pictures on the passes, perhaps...

Old 1811 said...

During the three years I used the Metro daily as a Beltway Bandit contractor, I could count on getting caught in a Metro Meltdown once a week, always at the end of the day. It was always caused by a breakdown, accident, or suicide on the Red Line somewhere in Maryland and managed to delay my commute on the Blue Line entirely in Virginia* by anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. The Metro motto is, Why spend money on maintenance when you can use the same money to give someone's moron brother-in-law a six-figure no-show job?

*The Blue Line isn't entirely in Virginia; my commute was. But whatever the cause of the Metro Meltdown was, it was never within a mile of the Blue Line.

Nosmo King said...

Metro was the D.C. Urban Planning Wet Dream of the Late 1950s, the planning took most of the 1960s, and dirt started getting turned before the decade was out. The belief was a subway would be less intrusive than an urban freeway system for all those icky cars from the suburbs (understand that urban planners hate cars, and that D.C. has always hated - and that's pure, white-hot, foaming-at-the-mouth, piss-on-their-mothers' graves hatred - the MD and VA suburbs, to the point of several attempts at commuter taxes, higher taxes on anything a commuter might buy, downtown bans on cars in some neighborhoods, etc.

Anyway, it was around 1968-69 that tunnel digging started in earnest, and the infamous Capital Beltway - Rte 495 - had been completed a few years before. Problem became (and don't think for a moment that living through 20+ years of subway construction orchestrated by 3 incompetent governments (WMATA - the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority) is composed of politically appointed reps from DC, MD and VA - the epitome of "all desire / no responsibility" - was anything but a Dream Come True).

Problem was, economic growth, bastard that it is, chose the Beltway to grow itself, and that's where all the development went. Mostly because those icky cars could take one to a business' front door, wherever that business was. Subway tunnels, once dug, tend to stay put.

Metro has been maxxed out for years, if not decades. 6-car trains limit how many people each train can transport, spacing between trains is fixed, and the train stops are pretty much stationary. Turnng all the trains off between midnight and 5 AM seven days/week doesn't help either, because a planned late return home means driving in the morning.

DC's Metro is a mess, always has beeen, always will be. As for 95/66/495 traffic starting in the '80s anyone who could recognize a hammer from across the street became a builder, and all the suburban county governments think "more houses = economic growth" despite the numbers showing each house is a $300-800/year net loser on taxes vs services. So, all the way out to Front Royal on 66, F'burg on 95 South, to Columbia on 95 North, Annapolis to the east along 301, it's cars, cars and more cars.

"Welcome to Washington" the sign says.......