Metro Proposes Cutting Weekend Service, Closing 19 Metro Stations Amid Budget Shortfall
The Metro system may be forced to make dramatic service cuts and close more than a dozen stations if federal aid doesn't arrive soon.
WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld released a fiscal year 2022 budget proposal Monday that responds to the $495M pandemic-induced funding gap with a series of cuts that include the elimination of weekend service and the closure of 19 stations.
The proposal didn't specify which 19 stations would close, but such a move could have major implications for any transit-oriented development located around the Metro stops.
The service cuts Wiedefeld proposed would fully eliminate Saturday and Sunday trains, and they would reduce the frequency of trains during the week. His proposal also called for an additional 2,400 layoffs beyond the 1,400 jobs the agency has planned to eliminate this year, the Washington Post reported.
The proposed cuts come as the coronavirus pandemic has caused Metro ridership to drop well below normal levels. The agency forecasts that ridership will gradually increase next year and will average roughly 34% of pre-pandemic levels in FY 2022, which begins July 1.
Wiedefeld's proposed budget includes a projected revenue of $264M for FY 2022, an $82M increase from the current fiscal year. It had projected $823.7M in revenue for FY 2021 before the pandemic struck, and that figure fell to $182.6M.
The agency's board is scheduled to discuss the plan Friday, accept public comments through February, and it is scheduled to vote on the budget in March.
The station closures and service cuts could be avoided if Congress passes a long-awaited stimulus bill that provides relief for transit agencies. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a $908B stimulus proposal Tuesday that includes $45B for transportation agencies, the Washington Post reported.
WMATA received $767M in the spring from the CARES Act, and it is stretching that aid through March.
Wiedefeld's proposal relies on the region's local jurisdictions maintaining their previous funding levels, plus an additional 3%, but local governments also face major budget issues. Wiedefeld told the Post that if WMATA doesn't receive the same level of funding from the local jurisdictions, he would have to make more changes to the budget.