Metro board members continue to probe the public for feedback as they address how to close their budget gap.
In a public forum Wednesday night in Reston, the Virginia members of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board discussed their $3.1 billion proposed FY2018 budget.
Board members estimate $17 billion will be needed over next decade “just to maintain a state of good repair,” but also acknowledge that the impact of delays associated with the SafeTrack program are significant.
DC CFO estimates Metro delays led to:
— lost productivity between $153 million and $235 million annually in the region
— ridership declines that reduce Metrorail’s fare box recovery
— NVTC (@NoVaTransit) January 26, 2017
Proposed investments, totaling $1.25 billion, outlined by board members to help make Metro more safe and reliable include new 7000 Series railcars; replacement buses and paratransit vehicles; rehabilitation and maintenance of existing railcar and bus fleets; rehabilitation and replacement of track and structures, rail power, radio/wireless and bus garages; and reinvestment in station escalators, elevators, lighting and platforms.
— NVTC (@NoVaTransit) January 26, 2017
Proposed capital funding from Fairfax County for the FY2018 Metro budget is $101 million, up $66 million from FY2017. Increased contributions in FY2018 include funds to repay short-term debt projected to be used in FY2017.
Proposed operational funding from Fairfax County in FY2018 is $138.6 million, a 17 percent increase from the current fiscal year.
The proposed budget also features fare hikes including:
- 10 cents on rush-hour rail fares, 25 cents on non-rush-hour fares
- 25 cents on regular and express Metrobus fares
- $2.75 on Dulles Airport Metrobus fares
Service frequency would also be adjusted in the following ways:
- 8-minute frequency on Silver Line during weekday rush hour (up from 6)
- 15-minute frequency on all lines all other times (up from 12)
Photo via Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, charts via Metro FY2018 budget proposal
Reston residents may be able to get once again take a free Metro ride on New Year’s Eve.
The transit agency is in the final stages of another partnership with MillerCoors to provide free rides between midnight and 3 a.m. on all six Metro lines this year, as it did for last year’s holiday. The agenda item was up for approval during the Dec. 15 meeting of Metro’s Board of Directors.
According to a staff report, MillerCoors paid WMATA more than $160,000 last year to subsidize all Metrorail and Metrobus rides on New Year’s Eve between midnight and 3 a.m., as part of he company’s Free Rides promotion. The amount was based on expected ridership.
This year, if approved, MillerCoors will pay just over $81,000, as ridership on New Year’s Eve was only about half of what was expected last year. However, the amount is guaranteed regardless of actual ridership, the report states.
MillerCoors has offered its Free Rides program in more than 20 major cities across the U.S. for more than a decade.
“Our partnership with Metro is part of MillerCoors’ overall commitment to help prevent drunk driving by bringing alcohol responsibility programs to more markets,” a MillerCoors spokesperson said during the inaugural promotion in 2015.
In addition to Metro, local New Year’s Eve party-goers can also call for a free taxi ride of up to $30 thanks to the local nonprofit, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.
Photo courtesy of MillerCoors Free Rides
Since the Silver Line train derailment in July, the transit agency has instituted an increasing number of speed restrictions throughout the system. These mandatory slowdowns have been issued to address a multitude of problems, from worn rail ties to missing fasteners that hold rails in place.
On the Silver Line, trains have reportedly been observed going 75 mph on straightaway stretches from McLean to East Falls Church and from Wiehle-Reston East to Spring Hill. Operators of the Silver Line trains were disciplined for the speeding, according to a Washington Post article. Additionally, new software is being installed on trains that would prevent them from going over 60 mph.
With all this news about trains moving too quickly or slowly, we want to know: How has your Silver Line commute been lately? Weigh in by taking our poll below:
On Monday, Oct. 31, the Park and Ride surface lot will be closed for Metro construction. Due to the surface lot closure, the Kiss and Ride area along with the slugline pick-up will be temporarily relocated to the Level 1 of the parking garage.
Commuters are encouraged to consider the Reston South Park and Ride as an alternative to parking at Herndon-Monroe during construction activities.
To stay informed of the construction activities at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, sign up for text and/or email “Commuter Alerts” (under the “Transportation” category) at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts.
See the attached graphic below for more information.
Metro recently floated the idea of possibly closing rail stations during off-peak hours as part of a wider cost-cutting measure. The proposal to shut 20 under-used stations midday and late night is part of a solution to a projected $275 million budget shortfall.
Now the transit agency is saying it was not serious. Metro now says the map was meant only to illustrate the transit agency’s dire financial situation.
The proposal, released two weeks ago in advance of Metro’s budget talks, mentioned several Silver Line locations, including Spring Hill, Greensboro, McLean, and Virginia Square-GMU, as well as several on the Prince George’s side of the line (Addison Road, Benning Road, Stadium-Armory, and Capital Heights)
The agency received criticism that the Maryland stations, which are located in lower-income neighborhoods, would affect people who needed public transportation most.
Now Metro says it was not serious, reports The Washington Post.
Metro heard from many community members during a nearly 10-hour long meeting on Thursday. Residents were livid, reports the Post:
Following the backlash, Metro said the map was meant only to illustrate the transit agency’s dire financial situation. But critics questioned the wisdom of circulating the idea if there was no formal proposal. Some said it was merely an attempt to threaten the District, Maryland and Virginia to contribute more money to close the budget gap. …
Metro board Chairman Jack Evans applauded riders for taking a stand but said he had no problem with [Metro GM Paul] Wiedefeld’s decision to use the map as a way to illustrate the budget realities facing the troubled system.
“What Paul is trying to do is say, ‘Okay, if the jurisdictions don’t put the money [to cover the budget shortfall] in, then we have to do service cuts,’ ” Evans said. “And what do service cuts mean? . . . It means no bus routes, it means no stopping trains at the lowest-attended stations. That’s service cuts. Service cuts are painful. They’re not abstract.”
Board member Leif Dormsjo said the station closure idea is “not something we are taking through a public process right now.”
“I found the map surprising at the time that it was introduced, and I think it contributes to people’s suspicion that Metro doesn’t have people’s best interests in mind,” he said. “I think that was probably a good indication of how serious the reaction would be to such a concept, if it was something that management was recommending.”
Wiedefeld is expected to release his budget proposal in November.
Capital Bikeshare officially launched in Fairfax County on Friday, with nine stations in Reston and eight in Tysons Corner now available to add another mode to the area’s multimodal transportation.
By the time local officials such as Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va 11th), County Supervisor Sharon Bulova, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Del. Ken Plum cut the ceremonial ribbon at Reston Station at 2 p.m., it was most certainly not biking weather as rain began to fall and wind began to blow.
Nonetheless, the bikeshare stations will now offer a new way to get around Reston, 24 hours a day, rain or shine. The county plans to have a total of 29 stations soon (15 in Reston), said county bicycle program manager Adam Lind.
“To be able to stand here with well on the way to 30 bikeshare stations in Fairfax County less than two years after the feasibility study is really a testament to the hard work and effort that went into this,” said Lind.
“Bikeshare is really another transportation option. It is really about solving that last mile of getting people from transit to where they live and work. That is why we concentrated bikeshare from here to the town center.”
Stations that opened Friday include the YMCA Fairfax County Reston; Reston Town Center Transit Station; Reston Regional Library; Reston Station; Temporary Road and Old Reston Avenue; Library Street and Freedom Drive (Reston Town Center); New Dominion Parkway and Fountain Drive (Reston Town Center); Sunset Hills and Old Reston Avenue; and Town Center Parkway and Bowman Towne Drive.
The Reston and Tysons bikeshare operations join the more than 400 stations in the Capital Bikeshare network.
Hudgins said Reston was a natural place to put Fairfax County’s first bikeshare system.
“Reston is a well-connected place,” she said. “We have the [Metro] station, the town center, the village centers and the W&OD Trail. In less than three miles, you can go any of those places. This will be a real connector.”
Hudgins said multimodal transportation has been on the minds of county officials since they started planning for Metro here years ago.
“When we started planing for transit, we said ‘we have got to find out how t0 connect people to transit. We knew that biking would be another option for us. When Reston developed under [founder] Bob Simon — I think he is up there cheering — our village centers are within three miles of transit. This kickoff is just the beginning for us.”
Visit Capital Bikeshare online to see membership options, rates and how to use the system.
Photos: Top. Del. Ken Plum (second from left), Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova and Rep. Gerry Connolly among VIPS cutting bikeshare ribbon in Reston; Bottom, Bikeshare station at Reston Station.
That is one option — along with increased bus and rail fares, layoffs for workers and cuts to bus routes — outlined in a report released Tuesday to prepare Metro board members for upcoming budget negotiations.
Metro is facing a $275 million budget shortfall, the report says. The formal budget report will be released in November and the 2017 budget will be adopted in the spring.
The reductions in off-peak service would save the rail system $15 million annually, the report says.
Affected Virginia Silver Line stations would include Spring Hill, Greensboro, McLean, and Virginia Square-GMU.
Read more about cost-cutting options in this Washington Post story.
See the entire budget prep report on Metro’s website.
Who is ready to ride?
Capital Bikeshare will launch its first Fairfax County operation next week, bringing 29 stations to Reston and Tysons.
You may have seen the bikeshare stations being installed at locations such as Reston Station, Reston Town Center and the Reston Regional Library.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the $1.7 million program for Reston and Tyson last January. In late 2015, the supervisors OKed the county’s application for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s FY 2017 Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) Grant Application, which gives $400,000 as seed money for bike share program. That money will go to pay for needed equipment such as bicycles and station hardware.
There will be 132 bicycles in Reston at 15 stations located between the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station and Reston Town Center; and 80 bicycles available in Tysons at 11 stations located east of Route 7, north of Route 123, and south of the Dulles Toll Road.
There will be a ribbon cutting at Wiehle-Reston East on Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Fairfax County Bicycle Program Manager Adam Lind.
Here is where Reston’s bikshare stations will be located:
- Wiehle-Reston East Metro Plaza (two locations)
- Old Reston Avenue / W&OD
- North Shore Drive and Temporary Road
- Sunset Hills Road
- Reston Town Center Transit Station
- Reston Executive Center
- Market Street and Town Center Parkway
- Reston Town Center Ice Rink
- Reston Town Center Town Square
- Reston Hospital
- Reston Regional Library
- New Dominion Parkway
- Spectrum Center
- Lake Anne Elementary
- Lake Anne Village Center
Read more about how to join or use Capital Bikeshare on the company’s website.
Metro has put out a Request For Proposals (RFP) to have a private company take over operations and maintenance of all of its parking facilities, including garages and parking meters on its property.
In exchange for a giant upfront payment equal to 50 years of parking fees, the concessionaire would have to operate and maintain almost 60,000 parking spaces. It’d also get to collect all the parking fees.
Metro has lots or garages at 48 stations in DC, Maryland and Virginia. That’s more than 59,000 parking spaces and 3,445 meters, Metro says.
Despite Wiehle-Reston East being listed on the original RFP, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has since amended that entry.
The Wiehle-Reston East garage, which has about 3,000 spaces and is the only station on the Silver Line with a parking garage, is owned by Fairfax County, so it is unclear what will happen at that garage.
“Metro wants to get back to its core base, which is operating running a safe rail system,” said Maggie Parker, spokesman for Comstock, which built the Wiehle-Reston East garage in a public-private partnership with Fairfax County. “But Wiehle-Reston East is not theirs to include [in the RFP].”
The RFP was put out in August and the deadline for submissions is Oct. 28. Metro says it will pick a contractor by the end of the year.
By giving over the parking garages to a private company, WMATA could get as much as $1 billion upfront, according to analysis by Greater Greater Washington. It also gets Metro out of the business of running parking lots so it can concentrate on running a transit system.
Under the RFP guidelines, WMATA would allow operators to change the parking garage hours and rates (subject to WMATA Board approval).
WMATA and the funding jurisdictions would lose almost $50 million in current parking revenues per year, which is approximately half of the annual estimated budget shortfall WMATA has had at the beginning of the typical budget season for the past 12 years.
So in addition to the usual $100 million in budget savings, fare increases, and juridictional subsidy increases to close the typical budget gap, WMATA would have to find an additional $50 million a year to make up for the loss in parking revenue.
GGW also points out the deal could limit Metro’s freedom to boost ridership or redevelop stations. It also says bids could include proposals to charge for parking during nights and weekends.
Paid weekend parking could affect overall ridership, which would affect Metro’s bottom line.
Metro could lose the ability to control prices or usage of the parking lots without financial penalties.
A citizen notified transit police about 3:45 p.m. of a threatening note left aboard the train, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
Trains were held while the Metro Transit Police Department K9 K9 swept the train and deemed it safe.
The trains were given the all clear about 4:45 p.m.
The flurry of construction you see in the median of the Dulles Toll Road near Reston Parkway isn’t all the Reston Town Center Metro Station.
Designers of the Silver Line’s Phase 2 are planning way ahead — perhaps decades from now — when a possible new road will take vehicle traffic under rather than over the toll road.
Crews have started construction of a so-called “land bridge structure” in the median. The bridge will enable the future connecter — a four-lane highway linking Town Center Parkway to Sunrise Valley Drive — to be built without disrupting the toll road, said Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project spokeswoman Marcia McAllister.
The structure is being built in the median of the toll road near mile marker 4.8, approximately 500 feet west of the future Reston Town Center Station. That station is slated to open in early 2020.
The bridge was requested by Fairfax County as an element of the Board of Supervisors’ Six Year Transportation Priorities for FY2015 to FY2020. The county pledged $8.7 million for the $157 million underpass project in late 2014.
Building the bridge-like structure in advance would minimize any impact to Silver Line Phase 2 service during future construction of the planned roadway, McAllister said.
Graphic: Rendering of land bridge on Dulles Toll Road/Credit: Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project
This week (Sept. 19-23) is Try Transit Week in Virginia, and Fairfax County is hoping citizens get involved and get commuting by methods other than four wheels.
The county is even offering prizes for the most enthusiastic public transportation users. The county is holding a social media contest. If you take transit and post about it this week, you could win a $50 SmarTrip card or other prizes.
Here is what to do:
When you do that and mention them in a post, you will be automatically entered into the contest. Prizes include daily winners of a $50 SmarTrip card and a Grand Prize winner who will receive two (2) $50 SmarTrip cards.
Visit this Fairfax County page for more details on what to post and how to tag.
Try Transit Week includes Car Free Day on Thursday.
Car Free Day is a free international event celebrated every September 22 in which people are encouraged to get around without driving alone in cars and instead ride a train, bus, bicycle, carpool, vanpool, subway, or walk. For those that have the ability to work from home, telework also counts. Car Free Day is open to all people in the Washington metropolitan area.
If you are going Car Free, fill out the pledge form, then go car free or go car-lite on Thursday. Once you pledge, you’re automatically entered for a chance to win prizes, such one-year membershiop to Crunch Fitness, an annual Capital Bikeshare membership, and more.
Additionally, there is a Live More block party at Reston Town Center Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reps will be on hand for you to “discover how to live more by making a better commuting choice.” There will also be refreshments, exhibits and family friendly activities.
Metro may be closing the rail system additional weekend hours in order to affect ongoing safety issues that led to the derailment of a Silver Line train near East Falls Church station on July 29, Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said Wednesday.
Metro is in the midst of a 10-month SafeTrack project to fast track needed maintenance and safety repairs. That has led to rolling Metro section shutdowns — as well as closings at midnight (weekdays) and 10 p.m. (weekends) — in order to make repairs.
But issues continue, including the July derailment, which was likely caused by faulty interlockings on the track, Metro said. There were no major injuries, but the Silver and Orange line were disrupted for several days.
“Safety trumps service, now more than ever at Metro. The SafeTrack program is intended to make our tracks safe and reliable, and I have re-instructed the team to ensure we are addressing every issue out there, including interlockings,” Wiedefeld said in a statement. “I will continue to notify our riders of any service changes as quickly as possible, but we are not backing off of safety over service.”
Following the derailment at East Falls Church, Wiedefeld ordered a new round of inspections for all interlockings conducted by rail maintenance supervisors with track engineers participating. Those inspections have identified several interlockings that require work.
As a result, SafeTrack Surge No. 7 now includes a complete shutdown this weekend between Grosvenor and Shady Grove Stations so the interlocking at Twinbrook can be repaired. The track maintenance team is reviewing the remaining SafeTrack schedule and will consider additional weekend shutdowns during Surges 8-15 to address conditions identified by the latest inspections.
Metro is also taking several steps to improve track safety and will upgrade inspection procedures and training of personnel. Read about those changes on Metro’s website.
The derailment of a train bound for Wiehle-Reston East occurred Friday morning near the East Falls Church station. Parts of the line remained closed through Sunday, but reopened on Monday.
Those rail ties had not yet been replaced under Metro’s SafeTrack program.
While the investigation is ongoing, Metro released the following preliminary findings:
Metro’s safety department has made a preliminary assessment that the causal factor in the derailment is a track condition, specifically a condition where the two rails on which trains run were too wide as a result of deteriorated rail ties.
Other possible contributing causal factors, including car equipment, weather, temperature and other factors remain under review.
At this time there is no evidence of train operator error.
Metro General Manager/CEO Wiedefeld today ordered a special supervisory inspection of all tracks.
“While Metro and the outside experts continue their review, we are requiring supervisors to conduct a specialized track inspection to look for any other similar conditions that must be immediately addressed,” said Wiedefeld.
Metro has taken additional corrective actions, including: pre-inspecting interlockings (NoMa-Gallaudet, Silver Spring & Takoma) used on the Red Line prior to this morning’s implementation of SafeTrack Surge #6; requiring a supervisory pre-inspection of all interlockings that are required to be used to facilitate SafeTrack closures; and quality assurance audits of all these inspections.
The Friday morning derailment of a Reston-bound Silver Line train near East Falls Church will continue to impact Metro into Saturday, Metro officials said.
Metro says Orange and Silver service between West Falls Church/McLean and Ballston stations will remain suspended at least through the end of the day Saturday to allow for further investigation, removal of derailed cars, and repairs to infrastructure that was damaged during the incident.
Customers traveling to or from stations west of Ballston are encouraged to use alternate travel modes if possible, Metro said. Metro will continue to provide free shuttle buses between Ballston, East Falls Church, West Falls Church and McLean stations until rail service is restored. (more…)