They don’t give out Academy Awards for transit advocacy short films, but maybe they should…
Today, one of our Momentum Champions, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, launched their own grassroots campaign to build support for funding Momentum. They are sending an initial email blast to 20,000 of their supporters.
The video, embedded below, that they produced accompanies a new tool that allows individuals to send emails of support directly back to their specific elected officials. Click the button at the bottom to show your support.
What is Metro Momentum?
from Coalition for Smarter Growth
We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Coalition and we applaud them for taking a stand on this critical regional transportation issue. We hope that you have a chance to view their handiwork and are so inclined to indicate your support for Momentum and Metro 2025 funding.
Counting on the Feds alone to fund Metro ignores a long tradition of local jurisdiction funding support – and a ticking clock.
Image borrowed from eRationalmarketing.com. Click for original.
As the region grapples with mounting infrastructure needs (DC, MD and VA) regional leaders are experiencing a bit of sticker shock. That’s because this region has been enjoying the benefits of massive infrastructure capacity increases in transportation, water/sewer, and power that were built in the 1970s and were designed to keep up with growth for half a century.
Those fifty years have almost run out, as has our ability to grow into the capacity built by the previous generation of leaders. And if this region is going to continue its growth trajectory into the middle of this century, we’re going to need to invest in the supporting infrastructure capacities – including funding transit capacity increases via Metro 2025.
Some have argued that funding Metro improvements is primarily responsibility of the Federal government, or at least that the Federal government should lead this effort. That line of argument syncs up neither with the past, present or future – in reality, local jurisdictions have always played a significant role in funding Metro. Let’s lay out the facts about role of local jurisdictions in funding Metro.
- Fact: From 1969 to 1999, of the approximately $10.0 billion spent to construct the original 103-mile system, about $3.8 billion came from local jurisdictions, who always played a large role in the infrastructure investment:
- Fact: System enhancements, such as the Largo Extension and NoMA station, were largely paid for with local money. The Largo extension was paid for with 40% local money (DOC), and the NoMA station was funded with a combination of public and private local monies (PDF) that comprised more than 75% of the capital cost.
- Fact: As WMATA’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) transitioned from a system expansion focus to more infrastructure renewal, the reliance on federal funding declined. Just look at the graphic below.
Federal share of WMATA capital budget, 1991 to 2012. Source, NTD.
- Fact: While the 2008 Passenger Rail and Infrastructure Investment Act (PRIIA) authorizes $1.5 billion over ten years to support WMATA’s CIP, Congress was clear in mandating that this funding is contingent upon matching contributions from the region’s governments. In other words, without local jurisdiction funding commitments, monies from the Federal government would not materialize.
- Fact: Among the 25 largest transit operators in the nation, WMATA is one of two that does not have a dedicated regional funding source. This despite being the second busiest subway and sixth busiest bus operator in the entire nation.
Those that monitor the Federal government know well that funding sources for major capital projects are in decline, and there are no guarantees to the legislative process. Just take a look at this graphic, from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund Ticker. Read more…
Without Metro 2025, the region might give up more jobs than the current size of 80 of the nation’s 100 largest downtowns.
One way to alleviate congestion – limit transit funding and stymie job growth!
The Washington, D.C. region earned in 2012 the unfortunate honor of being named the #1 region in the nation – for congestion. For the workers in this region this comes as no surprise, as seemingly endless “volume delays” litter our evening traffic reports, commuters spend more than a full week and a half sitting in traffic each year, and even the public transit network – primarily Metrorail – is so crowded that commuters often have to wait for multiple trains just to squeeze onto the system. And unless proposed transportation investments keep up with projected household and job growth – MWCOG projects that the region will add 1.6 million jobs by 2040 – these commutes are only going to become more painful.
We all know that the high price of congestion is in the billions of dollars per year, a figure that would be even higher but not for transit’s impact has in reducing the region’s congestion by 10 to 15 percent, saving commuters time and money stuck in traffic, and preventing the need to build hundreds of thousands of new parking spaces and 1,000 additional lane miles of roads.
But that price pales in comparison to what may be if we don’t act now to make meaningful improvements to the regions congestion-reducing transportation infrastructure, especially in programs like Metro 2025. Turns out that we now know that when regions exceed 35 to 37 hours of delay per commuter per year – about four and a half minutes per one way free flow trip – regional job growth begins to slow. That means that expectations of continued economic growth in the region are a lot less rosy when we consider that we currently run about 72 hours of delay per commuter per year – and rising. And before you dismiss this as planning theory, remember that Hewlett Packard showed Atlanta and the nation in 1998 that congestion’s negative impact on employment growth can be economic fact. Read more…
Delivering the transit system that the region needs will require an unequivocal commitment of additional resources from internal and external stakeholders. Simply put, the rehabilitation work being accomplished at the time of the writing of this document will not be nearly enough to keep up with the region’s needs, and without additional resources it will be unlikely that the region can continue to enjoy a transit network that contributes to competitiveness and makes the Washington metropolitan area one of the most desirable places to live and work.
Metro – Doing Business Differently
Metro recognizes that rebuilding the region’s transit system also means rebuilding the region’s transit authority – and will continue to be hard at work on this task in preparation for the implementation of Momentum. In the near term this means revamping nuts and bolts elements of the authority, including but not limited to: identifying ways that Metro can do its job more efficiently while increasing performance; evaluating its contracting and procurement philosophy to emphasize lifecycle contract and asset management; engineering a budgeting process that allows Departments to strive to achieve the goals of Momentum within the context of tight fiscal and financial discipline; and a human capital strategy that must have the right talent in-place and in-queue. In the long term, this means completing the journey to a much more business-like operating and execution philosophy for the organization.
Like many of the nation’s transit agencies, Metro must rebuild its once-new capital assets as they wear down and deteriorate after decades of use. Metro could feasibly use every penny in its capital budget for years to come just reducing its backlog of maintenance issues. Moreover, Metro also needs to ensure that the system is able to overcome the capacity constraints that come with a regional population expected to swell in both the central core and the suburbs in the years ahead. And on top of this, Metro will need to address calls for entirely new service in many areas of the region. Once Metro is rehabilitated, the system will require a stable level of investment to maintain a state of good repair as it continues to age and deteriorate. Metro estimates that $1 billion (in 2012 dollars) per year is necessary to support and maintain the existing system, even after rehabilitation. Metro 2025 will expand the core and system capacity, as well as ensure that the region’s capital investments are successful. This requires an additional $500 million, on average, in annual capital funding through 2025.
Certainly, increases in the overall size and scope of the system will also have an impact on operating costs, which would grow to some degree when new rail cars, buses, and service are put in place. These operating costs may grow in line with the proportional size of system expansion or at a lower rate, especially if increases in reliability and the increased attractiveness of transit to today’s non-riders has a disproportionate effect on ridership, mode choice, and revenues for modes that have high farebox recovery ratios today and/or where existing demand is already delivering more revenue than operating costs.
Business leaders were asked a series of questions about Momentum to gauge the extent that they believe the strategic plan is focused in the right direction. Five different growth options were presented and respondents were asked their level of support for each of them. The options included:
- Running all eight-car trains;
- Installing bus-only lanes as well as other bypass measures;
- Improving stations via widening platforms, more escalators/elevators, pedestrian tunnels;
- Improving communications infrastructure at stations, bus stops, online & fare payment; and
- Relieving track and station congestion at Rosslyn with new infrastructure.
There was clear support for the eight-car trains, with three out of four business leaders choosing this as a priority. Improved communications was also supported by six out of ten surveyed. The rest of the improvements had support from approximately one half of the total respondents. Read more…
Metro will seek sufficient and stable funding while leveraging all of its assets wisely.
Metro will put to best use all of its resources—from investing in employees and smarter management of equipment to securing a sound financial roadmap for the future. But this alone will not give the region the transit network it needs for the future. Reliable and sustained funding will be absolutely necessary for Metro to make the critical investments that the region needs. Metro will work with partners at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure that proper funding mechanisms and practices are in place. Metro is a wise steward of its resources. Each year, Metro recycling efforts divert tons of garbage from landfills.
What happens if Metro completes MetroForward and ceases there? Simply put, the region cannot afford for Metro to get the system back to where it should have been, but stop short of preparing the system for the growth that has already created overcrowding conditions and service disruptions, let alone prepare for additional growth that has yet to come.
Note that the region is already the most congested area in the country, and Metro is a huge part of what keeps this region moving and working in spite of its transportation gridlock. Stopping short of implementing Metro 2025 and Momentum means that the region’s attractiveness as a place to live and work may be threatened. The region could face the following consequences:
- Metro will degrade quickly with more delays and service disruptions – visible progress will be lost;
- Shoulder-to-shoulder, rush hour conditions experienced today on an increasing number of rail lines and stations will grow system-wide and become worse;
- Crowding similar to Presidential Inauguration Days will likely become the norm;
- Customers will be left with 1970s-era communication and trip planning services;
- Residents would have fewer jobs within an acceptable commuting distance and employers would have access to a much smaller pool of employees; and
- The regional transit system will advance towards antiquity, harming the region’s competitive advantage for talent, jobs and investment dollars.
Since 2010, the Board of Directors has been laying the foundation to rebuild Metro itself. From hiring a new General Manager to beginning the largest capital program since the inception of Metro, the Board has taken numerous actions to better equip the agency to succeed, including providing a stronger governance foundation.
Under the leadership of the Board, Metro has made substantial progress on improving system safety, reforming the agency’s governance, and stabilizing its finances
The Board has made strategic investments in infrastructure, equipment and workforce training, and developed policies that have markedly improved safety, as recognized by the NTSB and FTA and documented in the Authority’s publicly-reported Vital Signs score card.
Governance reforms undertaken over the last two years have modernized Board leadership, strengthened the Authority’s governing structure, improved the Board’s partnership with the General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, enhanced internal management, and prioritized public dialogue. The Board also adopted governance reform measures that strengthened its Code of Ethics and provided its first-ever bylaws, which detail the Board’s focus on policy, financial direction, oversight and Metro’s relationship with its customers and jurisdictional partners.
Metro will provide reliable, accessible, clean and customer-focused transit service.
Metro strives to be the region’s preferred ride. That means that Metro will provide on-time service that gets customers where they want to go, when they want to get there. From the moment customers arrive in a station or board a bus or Access vehicle, Metro will strive to make travel safe, reliable, clean, comfortable and affordable. Trip information will be easy to hear and simple to obtain with support from the latest user-friendly technology and responsive staff.
Over the last two years, Metro has improved on-time performance and customer service so today:
- Metrorail continues to make improvements to exceed ninety percent on-time reliability, and MetroBus continues to improve service despite increasing traffic congestion; and
- Over eighty percent of both bus and rail customers surveyed are ‘highly satisfied’ with service.