Metro customers will see fare discounts and an increase in service as part of the $4.5 billion fiscal 2023 budget unanimously approved by the transit agency’s board of directors Thursday.
The spending plan that goes into effect July 1 includes $2 Metrorail fares for one-way trips for the entire weekend and seven-day regional bus passes dropping from $12 to $6 for seniors and disabled riders.
To boost travel frequency, the nation’s third-largest transit agency will increase service on 22 bus routes. Rail stations plan to operate two additional hours on Fridays and Saturdays until 1 a.m. and open an hour earlier on Sundays at 7 a.m.
“This is a fiscally responsible budget,” said Matt Letourneau, who represents Virginia on the board. “It’s one that reduced the general manager’s original request by over $40 million during the course of the board’s work.”
Letourneau reminded his colleagues the agency still faces a “several hundred-million-dollar deficit” in fiscal 2024. Fortunately, Metro received $120 million from the American Rescue Plan that will help offset that deficit in the agency’s operating budget.
Roughly 50 additional 6000-series trains are scheduled to return by May as part of the budget. The agency anticipates increasing service on the Green and Yellow lines by 15-minute headways.
With confirmed COVID-19 cases decreasing through the D.C. region, Metro officials said there’s been a slight increase up to 30% and more trains would help decrease wait times.
However, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said the more modern 7000-series previously scheduled to return to service this spring may not happen until at least the summer.
All 7000-series trains, which account for 60% of Metro’s entire fleet, were taken out of service after one of them derailed in October along the Blue Line near the Arlington Cemetery station in Northern Virginia.
Wiedefeld and board chairman Paul Smedberg sent a letter Thursday outlining plans for the 7000-series to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, which must grant the approval.
Part of the process will include inspections utilizing digital equipment as part of the phased return to service.
“As Congressional and regional leaders have made clear, our ability to work together toward our common goal is crucial as our customers, businesses, employers, and governments are counting on us to get back to work and restore normalcy following the worst public health crisis in a generation,” Wiedefeld and Smedberg wrote in the letter.
Wiedefeld also said Thursday the Silver Line extension into Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia won’t open this spring. He provided no exact timetable.
He gave several reasons for the delay, including no certification of occupancy for buildings, which remains the responsibility of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Equipment called “orange boots,” where power cables connect, must be installed and fitted properly.
“We will not be cutting a ribbon together on the Silver Line this spring,” said Wiedefeld, who plans to retire later this year.
Smedberg summarized the setbacks on the 7000-series and Silver Line delay as “sobering, but it was an important update.”