Photo by Medmoiselle T.

A Washington Post editorial today endorses the message advocates have been promoting: that local jurisdictions must pay their “fair share” to stop crippling service cuts to transit.

Metro is facing the threat of service cuts — shorter trains, much longer daytime and weekend waits, and other drastic curtailments, including to bus service — whose effect would be to further sap an anemic transit system already losing ridership and facing the prospect of a long-term death spiral. If Metro has any hope of pulling out of its nosedive, it will be badly undermined by the $44 million in service cuts proposed for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Virginia jurisdictions have taken steps to leave room in their budgets for WMATA funding, but in yesterday’s Post, reporter Ann Scott Tyson quoted Maryland and DC officials saying it’s unlikely they will follow suit. Tyson also cited (correctly, this time) with a link. Unless all jurisdictions chip in, none will.

Tomorrow, Mayor Fenty will release his proposed FY2011 budget. If it contains room for added transit funding, it will continue the momentum and pressure Maryland to come along. If not, it will be difficult to add the money to DC’s budget. The WMATA Board must make its service cut decisions before the DC Council completes its budget process. Any new cuts or revenue increases the Council might endorse could come too late.

Jim Graham sent an email to Ward 1 listservs yesterday expressing his vehement opposition to eliminating the Yellow Line to Fort Totten, but he still has not endorsed DC providing more money to maintain Metro service. In the Post article, he said, “The challenge that we face is, assuming the mayor does not come up with the money, what do we forgo?” The Post’s editorial addressed the issue head-on about whether it’s right to cut other services to maintain transit:

State and local governments nationwide have been forced to make painful cuts to services in recent years, but Metro is a service of a different sort: It’s the region’s vital strategic linchpin. If people can’t get where they want to go with relative ease and affordability, the basic functioning of the region itself will falter, along with its prospects for prosperity. Metro is the priority on which other priorities depend. Given that basic truth, it shouldn’t be so hard for the District, Maryland and Virginia to find an extra $50 million or so among them, which is what it would take to maintain an essential regional resource.

Thanks to Dennis Jaffe who took the lead in reaching out to the Post editorial board.

Advocates have continued to pressure local officials through emails and flyering at numerous Metro stations. WJLA covered last week’s flyering:

The Arlington hearing on the WMATA budget is tonight, followed by Montgomery (in Rockville) and Northwest DC (in Columbia Heights) tomorrow. These will likely be the most heavily attended, given their locations in more politically connected areas and their

locations atop Metro stations, unlike the others.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.