Posts Tagged ‘funding’

Squaring Circles: De-Mystifying Metro’s Budget and Funding Sources (Part Two of Three)

February 5th, 2016 1 comment

As Metro kicks off its public engagement effort for next year’s capital and operating budgets, now is the perfect time to get involved in helping shape the Authority’s priorities for the next few years!

amplify3

This is the second of three related posts that attempt to de-mystify transit funding and give the residents of Metro’s service area some tools to engage in budget discussions. The first post focused on the Capital Funding Agreement (CFA, PDF) and the Capital Improvement Program (CIP, PDF), which together establish a six-year framework for funding projects that improve the Metro System’s safety, reliability, and performance. This post focuses on how the CIP translates into an annual capital budget, and the next post will explore the annual operating budget.

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How Can the Transportation Planning Board Support Metro?

January 13th, 2016 No comments
How Can TPB Support Metro: TPB Plans and Processes

Metro and the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) engaged in a wide ranging discussion with TPB board members about how the TPB and the region’s jurisdictions can support Metro now and in the future. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot more to it than just predictable funding.

At the December 16th Transportation Planning Board (TPB) meeting (audio), Metro Board Member Harriet Tregoning gave the final presentation (pdf) and facilitated a discussion on Metro’s challenges and provided specific recommendations and/or opportunities for the TPB and local jurisdictions to increase their support the Authority today, tomorrow, and into the future. The focus of the discussion was specifically on plans, processes, and actions that the TPB and local jurisdictions can modify or begin that will ensure predictable funding and/or enhanced funding options, incorporate land use as a transportation strategy, increase transit-supportive land use decisions, prioritize bike and pedestrian access, and advance bus priority on the streets that local jurisdictions operate.

Last summer, TPB members requested a more extensive conversation surrounding Metro’s challenges as well as recommendations on how TPB, through its plans and processes, and local jurisdictions, through their decisions and funding, could support Metro. Metro opted to provide three presentations and the December presentation built on information provided at the November 18th meeting (audio) on Metro Fundamentals (pdf) and Momentum (pdf) that were given  by Tom Webster, Managing Director of Metro’s Office of Management and Budget, and Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of Metro’s Office of Planning. The November presentations served to ensure a baseline understanding across TPB Board members, highlight our capital and operating challenges, and identify safety, state of good repair, and longer term needs to ensure safe, reliable transit that meets the growing region. Read more…

WMATA – The Fundamentals

January 6th, 2016 No comments

We explore questions about WMATA’s creation and how decisions are made in our “Metro 101” series.

Metrorail groundbreaking at Judiciary Square (December 9, 1969)

Why was WMATA created?

WMATA was founded in 1967 to serve 3 primary functions:

  1. To plan, develop, finance and “cause to be operated” improved transit facilities as part of a balanced regional transportation system;
  2. To coordinate the operation of the public and privately owned or controlled transit facilities into a unified regional transit system;
  3. To serve “other regional purposes” as needed.

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Squaring Circles: De-Mystifying Metro’s Budget and Funding Sources (Part One of Three)

January 4th, 2016 No comments

One of the most critical issues facing public transportation is how to pay for it. In a short series of blog posts, we’ll try to explain Metro’s finances and give you tools to engage in budget discussions. 

No matter where you stand on the question of supporting or using public transportation, one of the loudest and most constant debates is how to pay for it. It’s a complicated question that combines values, politics, resources, and legal obligations. It also revolves around the technicalities of multiple funding sources (fares, grants, taxes) and how those sources can be spent (allowable types of projects, legal requirements, matching funds, etc.). Most people probably know Metro operates under a yearly budget. However, that annual budget and Metro’s ability to raise and spend funds is shaped by a larger policy and planning framework. This initial post focuses on three pillars of that policy framework: the WMATA Compact, the Capital Funding Agreement (CFA), and the six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). It also summarizes the annual budget planning process.

Funding policy context

WMATA’s funding policy framework

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Since Time is Money, Metro Wants a Business Partner to Help Metrobus Go More and Stop Less

September 11th, 2015 3 comments

Metro is exploring opportunities to partner with a private company or investor to pilot off-board SmarTrip® loading to help improve customer travel times and lower our operating costs.

Metrobus speeds have steadily decreased over time as the region grew and traffic worsened. This not only negatively impacts Metro customers, but also increases our operating costs. As traffic congestion erodes bus speeds, we need to deploy more vehicles and operators on the busiest routes in order to maintain service frequencies. We know that behind the statistics stand legions of bus riders who want faster service, as well as counties and cities that want lower bills for that service.

Crowded boarding and long dwell times

Crowded boarding and long dwell times

Off-Board Fare Payment and Transit Prioritization

There is no silver bullet to speed up transit. Instead, agencies can use a combination of technology and on-street treatments to increase bus speeds and move more passengers. One of the few prioritization strategies Metro can undertake on its own is allowing off-board fare loading, moving all SmarTrip® value loading from the farebox to kiosks near bus stops. This would reduce the amount of time it takes for passengers to board buses and pay fares, in turn speeding up bus trips.  We have looked into this in the past and have recently revisited this important concept. Read more…

Preparing for the Future of Metrobus

August 17th, 2015 2 comments

Since the signing of the WMATA compact more than 40 years ago, there has been an ongoing debate about the role of Metrobus as the Washington region’s primary bus service provider. 

Prior to the formation of Metrobus in 1973, bus services in the Washington region were operated by numerous private providers across the region operating on dedicated lanes, many of which were operating at a loss.  In the 1970s, Metro consolidated bus service under the Metrobus brand and increased service and headways throughout the WMATA compact area.  While Metro’s role as the regional rail provider has always been clear, its role as a bus provider has been more nuanced.

Old DC Transit and Metrobuses from the 1960s and 70s

This is the first in a series of posts which aim to provide a brief overview of the efforts undertaken over the past 20 years by Metro, and its regional partners,  to balance the responsibilities and funding of Metrobus with the wants and needs of our jurisdictional partners all while maintaining our regionally focused mission.

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Metrorail Ridership Projections – Looking Ahead

March 11th, 2015 8 comments

Historical data and regional growth projections tell us one thing – Metrorail ridership will rebound and grow right along with the region, and the system better be ready to carry the load.

Crystal City Sta -am Rush 060912-129

Metrorail riders enter and exit Crystal City during the AM rush hour, June 2012.

Local ridership trends that seem to defy a national boom in public transit usage give some pause about the need for planned transit expansion projects.  It’s no surprise that even the most ardent of transit supporters might be caught flat-footed when trying to defend infrastructure investments against the backdrop of scarce funding.  Some have even gone so far as to question whether Metorail ridership, which just a few years ago looked poised to eclipse 800 thousand trips per average weekday, is experiencing more of a structural downshifting and may experience flat or even declining ridership for the foreseeable future.

All of this debate is understandable in a town obsessed with statistics and “horse race” leaderboards.  But when it comes to economics, demographics, mobility, and infrastructure, regional leaders need to look beyond the numbers d’jour and bet on a sure thing – Metro ridership will go up.  Here’s why:

1. Short-term snapshots of rail ridership miss the forest for the treesOr maybe even just leaves.

The graph below shows Metrorail average weekday ridership from the beginning of Metrorail. You can see that ridership grew in the first five years as the system grew from just the Red Line and four stops in 1976 to adding Orange and Blue Lines in operation by 1980. And after all of that expansion was completed, something fascinating took place – ridership declined and essentially flatlined until 1985. During that time, the region didn’t stop investing in Metro. On the contrary, during that same time period Metro built the Yellow Line and extended the Red Line from Downtown into Upper NW DC and then all the way to Shady Grove. Ridership shot up again in the late 1980s while Metro extended the Orange Line to Vienna and the Red Line to Wheaton then flat-lined and even declined through the mid 1990s, all while Metrorail added capacity on Yellow and Blue and (finally) opened up the Green Line. From 1997 through the late 2000s Metrorail saw robust ridership increases despite minimal capacity increases – largely reflective of the underlying economic and demographic resurgence of the central city and its urbane suburbs – and ridership flat-lined in tandem largely with the economic collapse of 2008 and the prolonged Great Recession.

ridership_chart_v2-01

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Funding Metro – A Critical First Step

September 22nd, 2014 1 comment

Local leaders are set to commit to Metro’s long term state of good repair needs for the first time through the region’s transportation plan, but the plan omits key investments that are critical to solving some of the region’s most critical needs.

This fall the region’s transportation leaders will approve an update the Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP) financial plan, required by federal law every four years, to ensure the region’s ability to pay for transportation expenditures with reasonably anticipated revenues. During the 2014 update, Metro collaborated with staff from the Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the three state DOTs to identify funding for the system’s long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) and capital needs.  The draft plan, which expresses the region’s major transportation priorities, is scheduled to be adopted by the TPB on October 15th.

Metro's future capital needs to repair and maintain the existing fleet

Projection of Metro’s future fleet State of Good Repair (SGR) capital needs

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Funding Metro 2025 – Beyond Buzzwords

July 31st, 2014 No comments

Fancy financing and accounting gymnastics won’t ride to the rescue for Metro 2025.

Public Private Partnerships.  Tax Increment Financing.  Infrastructure Banks.

These are among the many ideas discussed today as panaceas for public infrastructure funding, including major transit investment projects in the region and the nation.  Certainly they can be helpful tools, especially in an era of declining federal funds and a renewed emphasis on local fiscal austerity.  But can these tools be useful in funding or financing Metro 2025?

Spring Hill Silver Line station.  The Silver Line was financed in part by special tax districts.

Spring Hill Silver Line Metrorail station. The Silver Line was financed in part by special tax districts.

Metro leadership wanted to find out, so between November 2013 and January 2014, Metro gathered leading experts in real estate, transportation and municipal financing from academe, management consulting, policy advocacy and government to solicit the best ideas for innovative ways of addressing Metro’s challenge.  We learned that each of these financing techniques has differing strengths, weaknesses, and potential applications to capital projects.  We also learned that none of the techniques actually provides new funding. Which is, ultimately, what is necessary to make Metro 2025 a reality.

The distinction between financing and funding cannot be overstated, and is a key concept that often confuses the dialogue surrounding how to execute major capital projects such as transit investments.  Techniques such as Public-Private Partnerships, Infrastructure Banks, and Value Capture rely on existing sources of funding to channel and make more available monies to public entities to pay for varieties of projects.  These existing sources of funding are often taxes – either on households, businesses, or property owners – and backstopped by jurisdictional guarantees to tap into general funds or issue general obligation bonds should the stream of cashflows become unstable.  These financing techniques do not generate new monies nor eliminate the ultimate obligations of the public sector to provide the monies to contribute to the cashflows, either upfront or over time.  

You can read more in the attached report, and know that Metro’s leadership is committed to evaluating any and all options to fund Metro 2025.  Leaving no stone unturned, we conclude that as of this moment in time, regional leaders must step up to the plate and commit resources to Metro in order to make much-needed projects like eight-car trains, core station improvements, and the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network, leap off of the page and become part of the region’s transit network. 

Download:  Metro – Creative Financing (PDF, 1MB)

 

Planning for the End of the Driving Boom

March 27th, 2014 1 comment

Americans are driving less and owning fewer cars, which means we have to make different decisions about where to spend scarce transportation resources.

In a fascinating post in the Atlantic Cities, Eric Jaffe doesn’t waste words with assumptions but rather relies on actual data to inform us that America has already reached “peak driving” and that the future of transportation in America is no longer linked to ever-increasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

This should come as no surprise, given that VMT has missed forecasted estimates since the early 2000’s. Just check out this handy chart from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Conditions and Performance Report (PDF) to Congress.

Figure 1. U.S. VMT (in trillions) as tracked by FHWA’s Travel Volume Trends (“Actual”) and as projected by U.S. DOT’s C&P reports (by year reports are dated). Via SSTI. Click image for original: http://www.ssti.us/2013/12/new-travel-demand-projections-are-due-from-u-s-dot-will-they-be-accurate-this-time/

 

Regional roadway planners are already beginning to embrace this thinking, as the chart from the State Smart Transportation Initiative illustrates in its analysis of MDOT’s transportation plans. These plans not only acknowledge declining VMT, but now omit traffic projections altogether. Read more…