Photo by infosnackhq on Flickr.

Several transit advocacy groups, working together in the Transit First! coalition, asked the WMATA Board to try to avoid widening Metrorail weekend headways to close the budget gap, and instead to consider a $1 parking charge at stations which already reach full capacity.

Jurisdictions have agreed to contribute substantial additional funding in order to forestall most service cuts. However, the docket being proposed for upcomings hearings still includes widening weekend headways to 20 minutes during the day and 25 minutes after 9:30 pm.

However, no revenue increases were proposed, even as options. In order to even let the Board consider them, they have to be part of the docket for the public hearings. Yesterday, Michael advocated for including fare increase options. The Transit First! letter asks for an option to raise parking rates by $1 at those stations where average weekday occupancy reaches 100%.

Here is the full letter:

April 13, 2011

Ms. Catherine Hudgins
Chair, Board of Directors
Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority
600 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Subject: FY 2012 Operating Budget Hearing Docket

Dear Ms. Hudgins:

The Transit First coalition is representing transit riders, environmentalists, labor, and community groups throughout the Greater Washington area. We commend the WMATA Board of Directors for the thoughtfulness it has demonstrated thus far in preparing the FY 2012 operating budget hearing docket.  We are pleased to see that cutting back late night rail service hours is no longer being considered.  However, we are concerned by the remaining proposed bus service cuts and proposed significant widening of rail headways on weekends that were discussed at the Board’s most recent meeting.

While the widening of rail headways on weekends might at first glance appear innocuous, we believe it would be devastating to weekend travelers.  This is because many travelers take more than one rail line to get to their final destinations.  Thus, widening of headways would not only extend the wait on two legs of passengers’ trips (i.e., origin to destination and then destination back to origin); it would also result in the compounded effect of extending the wait on four or more legs of passengers’ trips (i.e., origin to transfer point, transfer point to destination, destination to transfer point, transfer point to origin).

Not only would the round trip be significantly lengthened in this manner, but the likelihood of missing one’s transfer would also be significantly impacted.  Thus, what appears to be an innocuous increase in travel time of a few minutes in a person’s trip could result in an increase in travel time of over 30 minutes, for example.  Because weekend rail service headways are already too wide to be considered convenient by many travelers, we believe further increasing headways would further depress weekend ridership numbers and, consequently farebox revenues.

Therefore, we urge that in addition to encouraging increased jurisdictional contributions to close the $72 million operating budget deficit, the Board propose additional revenue-generating options. We recommend establishing a $1 increase in parking fees for those Metrorail stations that have a weekday average occupancy of 100%.

Increasing the parking fee by $1 for those rail stations that have a weekday average occupancy of 100% would not only have the benefit of raising additional revenues, but would also better align parking fees with market demand, in turn resulting in better utilization of parking spaces system-wide.  As you know, however, this measure must first be included in the hearing docket in order to be considered for enactment by the Board.

Again, we thank you for your thoughtful consideration and discussion of how to address the FY 2012 operating budget deficit.  We urge you to include revenue-generating measures in the hearing docket such as the aforementioned $1 parking fee increase for facilities with a weekday average of 100% occupancy.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Action Committee for Transit
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689
Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Greater Greater Washington
Montgomery County Sierra Club
Prince George’s Advocates for Community-based Transit

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. 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 here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.