Metro FY 2013-14 budget — The Transit Activist’s Overview

I am no budget guru. Really all I do is read reports, view presentations and ask questions. No great mystery. But transportation funding tends to make folks want to run for the hills. I mean, the brave and stalwart Damien Newton at the prospect of making sense of Metro’s budget plaintively asked in re Metro’s fiscal year 2013-14 proposed budget “Dana, you’re going to look through the budget for me, right? RIGHT?”. OK, I’ll take a shot at it Mr. Newton, just as I did last year.

A Metro news release on the new budget notes Metro CEO Art Leahy has asked the Board to begin considering options for fare restructuring in future years. To understand why examine the graph titled Ten-Year Forecast — Operating Deficit (above). This shows that what happens to the projected deficit starting in fiscal year 2016 if the current 26% farebox recovery ratiois maintained. Basically the deficit in the following years balloons alarmingly.

Frank Shapiro, Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer for Finance, made an informative presentation at the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Metro Citizen’s Advisory Council including details about added service to the Orange Line and various rail lines.

Regarding the the cost of the day pass and senior, disabled, Medicare and student passes Shapiro informs me the budget assumes those will not change.

One other issue that is somewhat vexing involves the deferred maintenance program. Shapiro when questioned by the Council members noted Metro has budget for rail deferred maintenance but did not assign sufficient staffing at that time to fully implement it because the program was not clearly defined. Metro has maintained an extensive bus deferred maintenance program for a number of years. Another cause of delay is for years the agency has been undecided whether to rehabilitate aging rail vehicles or order new ones. My understanding is the original Blue Line cars are to be retired in a few years while the Red Line cars will get what is known in the transit industry as a mid-life rebuild.

My thanks to Mr. Shapiro for some very helpful clarifications.

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