Metro riders and transit activists demanded Thursday that the agency’s directors and management provide better service, a continued public outcry made for more than a year.
This time, the message pushed seeks several objections that includes incorporating a $2 flat fare rate, free transfers within two hours of paying and expand late-night service when the board begins work on the fiscal year 2019 budget.
Sigute “Siggy” Meilus executive director of Americans for Transit, helped place boxes of 11,000 signatures around a podium to demand those requests.
Riders and transit advocates “have had enough of the anti-rider decisions made by this board,” Meilus said. “We are here today for a fair system. We want our service back.”
Several people spoke during the meeting and went beyond the two-minute time limit, but only Trupti Patel, 39, had a Metro police officer whisper to her to complete her comments.
Patel, who resides in D.C. and works as a server at two restaurants in the city, chose to speak even though she felt ill.
“I was actually shocked and did not think I was over my time,” Patel said to a few reporters after her testimony. “I was trying very hard to stay focused. I felt compared to come here … because I have to be the voice for my fellow industry brothers and sisters about the [fare] hike. It is inhumane and I expect Metro to do better by its riders and residents of the District of Columbia and the immediate DMV area.”
After the public comment period that lasted at least 30 minutes, Peter Donohue presented an idea for Metro to implement tax assessment districts (TAD) on property that adjoins any owned by Metro.
Donohue, an economist for PBI Associates of San Francisco, gave a presentation on behalf of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said the proposal would generate $1 billion in new funding for the District.
According to an outline of the plan, a TAD “reduces transit funding’s dependency on fares, passes, contract services, sales taxes and government subsidies.”
The union offered this proposal this year prior to the board’s approval of this year’s fiscal budget.
Meanwhile, former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams spoke on behalf as executive director of the Federal City Council that Metro must change the governance structure of its board. In other words, decrease the 16-member panel.
The nonprofit organization that seeks to improve and highlight interests for the city, had nearly two dozen businesses join in a June 22 letter for Metro to require jurisdictions to help pay for operations, secure an allocated amount from the federal government and implement service and operation changes to improve safety.
Ed Walter, chairman of the council, said the board structure may happen first and then work on a dedicate funding source next year when the Maryland and Virginia legislatures resume back in session next year.
However, he said long-term funding solutions for Metro may not happen until 2019.
“Ideally, you’d rather want to solve it all at once, but I think being somewhat practical it feels like where we are in the calendar year and in the political year that’s a most likely result,” Walter said. “We recognize we need to be part of building support across the whole region for the funding solution. We have to have that.”