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Washington Metro’s proposed FY2012 budget focuses on safety, reliability and supporting economy

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles proposed a $1.4 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year 2012 that maintains the current level of rail, bus and paratransit services without increasing fares. His proposed budget is the first step in a six-month-long budget planning process before the Board adopts a budget in June, in time to begin the new fiscal year on July 1.

“Fully funding Metro is vital to our ability to build our new safety culture, as well as provide a robust schedule of services for riders and continue to serve as an economic engine for the region,” Sarles said earlier today (Jan. 13) when he presented his budget proposal to the Metro Board Finance and Administration Committee.

Over the past year, Metro has made significant progress in safety, service reliability and financial stability. Through a Board- and management-led series of strategic investments and organizational changes, the agency has begun to build a safety culture, take action on National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, and address other crucial safety and state-of-good-repair capital needs through the rehabilitation of aging infrastructure and rolling stock.

In fact, the FY2012 annual capital program of work advances 140 projects that address safety and state of good repair needs on the system – with respect to both infrastructure and rehabilitation of equipment – as well as planning for future expansion, including the new rail extension to Dulles.

Operationally, the transit agency is doing more, while “simultaneously becoming more resource efficient,” Sarles said. More than 91 cents of every Metro operating dollar directly funds core services, with only 9 cents funding support functions. During the last three years, Metro has implemented $165 million in business efficiencies through consolidations, suspending non-essential programs and automating certain functions. In the coming fiscal year, the proposed budget accounts for the elimination of an additional $74.2 million in operating budget requirements without adversely impacting customers or laying off Metro employees who live in the region and contribute to the local economy.

Even with an aggressive program of management efficiencies, in the coming year, Metro faces substantial cost drivers, including wages and fringe benefits, paratransit service growth, and carryover that increases the base budget by $85.8 million.

Last year, rather than bear service reductions, Metro riders said they preferred to contribute more to support core services and Metro riders stepped up support for their transit service by shouldering a fare increase that will generate about $100 million this year. The jurisdictions also stepped up support by increasing contributions by $25 million.

To ensure Metro stays on the path of improvement and delivers core services to support the growth of the region, the General Manager’s proposed budget continues current levels of service on all transit modes, as well as funds the level of effort necessary to support core services and a robust capital program. The budget proposal calls for $72.5 million of additional funding for the system through a slate of alternatives including: wage reserves, increased subsidies from the jurisdictions, commercial revenues through monetized ground leases and marketing station naming rights; and funding preventive maintenance at FY2010 levels.

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