Union representatives, retail workers, bus drivers and other workers pleaded with Metro’s board of directors to not approve a proposed $1.8 billion budget, contending it would hamper service, stunt the system’s growth and put employees out of work.
Jackie Jeter, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union-Local 689 of Forestville, said it would also hurt low-income residents.
“Attempting to raise fares at this time of flux discourages people from using Metro and also has a profound effect on low-income communities that are already under assault from the wave of gentrification, especially inside the District,” she said Thursday, Nov. 17 at the board’s weekly meeting.
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld has said recommendations to raise fares, trim up to 1,000 positions and request more money from the District, Maryland and Virginia would help close a nearly $300 million shortfall.
The proposed fare increases include one-way bus fares going up from $1.75 to $2 and Metrorail peak fares to board a train from $2.15 to $2.25 with the maximum fare at $6.
The board is mulling whether to hold a public hearing on Wiedefeld’s budget proposal, but some people didn’t wait to express their disapproval.
Jamie Contreras, vice president 32BJ unions workers from Northern Virginia to Baltimore, said the fare increases would hurt members such as Justino Gomez of Hyattsville, who helps clean the World Bank building Northwest.
Project Retail, a group of retail and food service workers, demands Metro provide one affordable flat-rate, 24-hour service and “end racially biased tactics by Metro police.”
Tamia Small, a member of the organization, said it costs her about $12 daily to commute from Fort Washington to her retail job at Athleta, a clothing store in Northwest.
“I don’t have the privilege of going places whenever I want, wherever I want,” said Tamia Small, 19, a retail worker of Fort Washington, while hoisting some petitions toward the board members. “If you don’t get your act together, there’s going to be thousands … of people signing these petitions and we’re going to work against you. We need you to work for us.”
More Metro Problems
The Federal Transit Administration released documents on Nov. 16 that showed Metro committed hundreds of safety violations, including corrosion in a portion of an escalator, damaged emergency trip switch boxes and poor radio communication.
Of the 251 corrective actions issued to Metro that were due to be completed by October 2015, 59 haven’t been addressed or are behind schedule, according to the documents.
FTA inspectors also noted it didn’t receive cooperation from Metro employees in several instances.
“Of the nearly 300 inspections that have occurred as of [Monday], there were 15 occasions when [Metro] denied access to FTA safety inspectors to either the Rail Operations Control Center, or to the operating cab of a train to perform federal inspections,” according to the FTA report. “FTA brought this issue to the attention of the [Metro] general manager and such incidents have been significantly reduced.”
According to an inspection report in September, a heater control box near the Franconia Springfield station in Northern Virginia was smashed.
“The internal electrical components are exposed,” the report said. “The box should be secured when able.”
The administration requested additional information on the status of an edict for Metro to better its interdepartmental coordination and communication in order to improve track maintenance.
The FTA also reviewed the work completed through August in Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance program, which began in July. Some of the projects, or surges, had several deficiencies, such as:
- Lack of coordinator between Metro departments in a surge area;
- Weather affecting productivity; and
- Tracking and completion of punch-list work.
Metro hired William Baker to manage all SafeTrack operations and field crews and oversee the final results of the punch-list work items.
To help alleviate some of those problems, Metro instituted more breaks and cooling tents. Work is suspended during inclement weather.
So far, the estimated cost of the first five phases of the SafeTrack are $80 million, according to the report. The estimated total cost of the SafeTrack project scheduled to end in June is $118.7 million.