The Jack Evans Report: Taking Charge of Metro’s Finances
Many of you have read about the troubled financial state of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also known as Metro.
I rejoined the Metro board of directors in January because I could see that system wasn’t running as well as in the past. (I previously served on the board from 1993 to 1999 and as chairman in 1994 and 1997.) It soon became clear that WMATA was in much worse shape than I had imagined.
In addition to January’s fatal Yellow Line incident and numerous operational challenges, there has been a continued delay of WMATA’s independent audit for fiscal 2014 and a downgrade in the agency’s credit rating. These problems make it more expensive and difficult to pay for necessary system improvements and maintenance.
Earlier this year, I steered the WMATA board to reject a proposed fare increase and service reduction. People are switching from using Metro to other forms of transit, in part because they are no longer willing to ride a system that is inconvenient and costly. We can’t make it more expensive and less convenient and expect anything other than a further loss of ridership.
Those are just some of the reasons why I have agreed to become chairman of the Finance and Administration Committee at Metro. I’ve written frequently to you over the years about my service as the District Council’s Finance Committee chair. In my opinion, fiscal management is the chief responsibility of any legislative or governance body. I now feel compelled to bring the same fiscal scrutiny to Metro that I’ve brought to the District government.
Last week, at my first Finance Committee meeting as chair, we authorized the purchase of new railcars that will significantly improve safety, reliability and capacity. The purchase will replace older 5000-series cars with new 7000-series cars. This will help increase the number of eight-car trains in the system, replacing six-car trains.
Additionally, we approved the elimination of paper farecards beginning in December. Paper farecards might seem like a small matter, but they create a huge environmental waste and a lot of wear-and-tear on the magnetic-stripe readers.
In the coming months, I’ll continue to keep you updated about the state of Metro. My role as finance chair will require me to spend significant time on WMATA financial affairs, but I will also be advocating for safety and service improvements. We’ve worked hard to make the District the most dynamic city in the country and a transit system to match is long overdue.
I will also continue as chairman of the Finance Committee here at the council. We are on the cusp of our 20th consecutive balanced budget; our audits are completed on time, giving us a clean bill-of-health; and our credit rating has received seven increases since I’ve led the committee. I have every intention of keeping us on the same fiscal course until our credit rating is AAA.
Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.