Metro is facing the possibility of layoffs, service cuts, and a hiring freeze due to a projected $750 million budget gap. The transit agency may have to issue notices to employees this winter about potential layoffs and staff reductions. The combination of the coronavirus pandemic, record inflation, and a severe decline in ridership has negatively impacted Metro’s finances. Additionally, millions of dollars in federal credits that were given to local jurisdictions during the pandemic have not been returned to Metro. Without an increase in funding from local jurisdictions, Metro leaders warn that tough decisions will have to be made, including significant service cuts.
The budget challenges facing Metro are causing concern among transit leaders. In a best-case budget scenario, Metro would still require hundreds of millions more from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to close the gap. If the deficit cannot be closed, Metro may have to reduce service by 67 percent, resulting in shorter trains, longer wait times for riders, and bus line cuts. These drastic measures could hinder the ridership rebound that Metro has been experiencing and lead to cuts in maintenance, police, and customer service functions. Metro officials are urging for a solution to be reached to avoid such devastating impacts.
Metro’s budget woes have prompted calls for action from regional leaders. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors Chair emphasized the importance of a reliable and sustainable Metro system for the region’s economy and quality of life. State, local, and federal leaders are urged to prioritize finding a long-term funding solution to avert the fiscal cliff facing Metro. Despite the challenging situation, Metro General Manager Randy Clarke remains optimistic that a resolution will be found. The transit agency initially warned riders about the budget gap in June, and now they are sounding the alarm to encourage swift action.