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Metro Union Presents Proposal to Improve Transit System

One day after Metro’s top official briefed members of Congress on the agency, its union released a report Thursday on how to improve the beleaguered transit system.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and its representatives held a teleconference to offer suggestions to generate revenue that include a $2 flat fare similar to New York City’s, as well as tax districts and expanded service.

“We think the best way to generate more revenue is to get more people on the buses and the trains,” said Jeff Rosenberg, director of governmental affairs for ATU International. “You do that by lowering the fares and making the fares [simpler], rather than increasing fares as Metro just proved this past week.”

Regarding a funding district, the report (http://bit.ly/2oCqF6D) states taxing land near Metro stations would bring in revenue. In California, about one in three properties are part of an assessment district that funds not only public transit, but also water, gas and lighting infrastructure.

Another revenue-driven idea for Metro is a rental car tax at Ronald Reagan National and Dulles International airports in Northern Virginia. A Metro station already exists at National Airport and a future station is scheduled to open at Dulles.

ATU President Jackie Jeter said Metro’s board of directors should revisit its March 23 vote on the fiscal year 2018 budget that increased fares and service cuts. The $1.8 billion spending plan increases fares by 25 cents for buses and off-peak Metrorail, and 10 cents at peak hours and for daily parking.

The new fares, which would go into effect July 1, would bring the agency $21 million. In addition, the agency would save an additional $2 million by eliminating 300 positions, which would go toward creating a “lifeline” late-night bus service that would replace the hours of operation cut on Metrorail.

The last fare increases approved by the board of commissioners were three years ago.

Besides funding, the union also had ideas on improving safety, including:

• Implementing policies that clearly describe the safety-related responsibilities in all functions throughout the organization;

• Creating a joint union-management committee to identify and resolve safety issues; and

• Empowering front-line employees to restrict or stop operations based on unsafe conditions.

“I can’t tell you we have all the answers, but we will take part in the discussion,” Jeter said. “We are a very vibrant part of this system and this company.”

On Wednesday, Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld appeared before a House Subcommittee on Government Operations on Capitol Hill to provide an update on the agency’s budget and SafeTrack maintenance program.

Committee members such as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), who chairs the subcommittee and the House Freedom Caucus, pledged support to Metro and Wiedefeld.

Meanwhile, Metro issued a statement through spokesman Dan Stessel regarding the union’s 13-page proposal titled, “WMATA: Fund It, Fix It, Make It Fair.”

“We welcome the union’s engagement and ideas and will carefully review the plan they released today,” the statement read. “We look forward to working together on Metro safety, service reliability and financial improvements.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

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