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Metro GM Pounds Drum for More Funding

After a six-week summer break, Metro board members returned Thursday for several committee sessions that included a presentation calling for more money to keep the nation’s second-largest transit system safe and reliable.

During a finance committee meeting, Metro General Manager Paul Weidefeld said the three encompassing jurisdictions — Maryland, D.C. and Virginia — must contribute $15.5 billion over the next 10 years and limit subsidy growth by 3 percent starting next fiscal year. However, new services such as extension of the Silver Line in Northern Virginia, a new Potomac Yard Metro station in Alexandria and expanded bus service would not be affected by the 3 percent cap.

“This is not a budget. This is high-level programming, just a framework,” Weidefeld said. “We need a stable source of revenue.”

A once-staunch critic of providing Metro more money, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, now supports the move.

In a letter dated Monday, Sept. 11 to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Hogan supports the need for state to provide $500 million if their jurisdictions and the federal government joins that effort.

“There is absolutely no separation between us on how critical Metro is and that action needs to be taken to guarantee its short-term and long-term future,” Hogan said in the letter. “However, there is very clear separation between us on how we collectively meet this $500 million funding challenge.”

Metro board members are encouraging colleagues and residents in their jurisdictions to realize that additional money helps the entire region and respective states.

Christian Dorsey, who represents Arlington County in Virginia, said a recent study concluded the state receives $600 million comes from sales and incomes taxes from Metro activity. That’s the combined amount the state spends on higher education and police, he said.

“Metro is key and I can’t say that enough,” he said after the sessions ended.

Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County, Maryland, said he’s pleased Hogan agreed to put more money toward the agency.

“The state of Maryland wins when we invest in Metro,” he said. “It does tremendous growth for Maryland and the whole Metro area.”

Meanwhile, the Metro Transit Police report overall crime throughout the transit system from January through June decreased by 17 percent, compared to same time last year.

Violent crimes such as robberies and aggravated assaults decreased by 25 percent.

The crime decrease comes at a time when ridership also fell at 6 percent. Also, no killings or rapes were reported this year, according to the report.

Police Chief Ronald Pavlik Jr. noted assaults on bus operators increased about 20 percent the first six months of this year compared to 2016. He said the main causes are fare disputes that lead to verbal altercations.

Pavlik credits video for capturing several assailants, including a woman charged last month with tossing urine on a bus driver.

“Strategies to reduce bus operator assaults are high visibility and targeted patrols, fare evasion details, investigations of operator complaints, seminars for bus operators [and] MTPD attendance at bus division safety meetings,” the report said.

Pavlik agrees with Metro’s union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, that “stronger enforcement” should be implemented to deter future assaults.

Meanwhile, two more incidents took place Friday, Sept. 15 after two bus drivers on routes in the District were threatened with firearms, according to a statement from the union.

The union has requested Metro increase its police presence to ensure safety of employees and passengers.

“Furthermore, we are calling on each jurisdiction, starting with Washington, D.C., to enhance protections for transit workers by classifying assault against workers as a felony,” the statement read. “Transit assaults are at an epidemic level and Metro’s lazy response has put its employees and the riding public at risk. It will no longer be tolerated by this union or the riding public.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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