Got something to say about Metro’s budget? Now’s your chance.

Trains at Farragut West by Joe Flood licensed under Creative Commons.

If they make improvements, will you come? That is one of the many questions Metro is no doubt seeking to answer as the transit agency prepares to hold three public hearings for its FY2023 proposed budget throughout the region this month.

It’s no secret that the agency — and, arguably more importantly, passengers — have had a rough few years. Since 2020 WMATA has suffered a derailment, a curbed 7000 train series, safety audits and investigations, a pandemic that decimated ridership numbers, a thinned-out roster of available bus operators, and the retirement of General Manager/ CEO Paul J Wiedefeld.

But with a combined operating and capital budget of $4.8 billion Metro is still one of the largest transit systems in the US, and the proposed FY2023 budget makes it clear the agency is in the middle of a recovery.

There are, however, looming questions around what that recovery will look like given we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Here’s a peek at what the proposed budget indicates.

Ridership and revenue changes in the proposed budget

Metro is anticipating a recovery that will result in an increase in ridership for all its services: bus, rail, and MetroAccess, the shared-ride paratransit service for disabled riders.

Ridership by service numbers. from WMATA's proposed FY2023 budget.

This in turn means an anticipated increase in rider revenue. Rail passenger revenue is forecasted to increase by 135.2.% from 132.4 in FY2022 to $230.4 million for FY2023.

Meanwhile, the anticipated recovery of Metrobus is more modest, with a $0.6 million passenger revenue budget increase for FY2023 to $57.5 million. According to the budget the agency anticipates ridership will still be below pre-pandemic levels.

Operating revenue from WMATA's proposed FY2023 budget.

Proposed service and fare changes

The budget proposes several fare improvements and changes including:

  • Making free bus transfers to/from rail permanent
  • Making the $2 one way weekend Metrorail fare permanent
  • Dropping the cost of unlimited passes from between $72-216 per month to $64-192.

The budget also highlights several proposed bus and rail updates including:

  • The rollout of rail service to seven new stations (Silver Line Phase II and Potomac Yard)
  • Bumping up Red Line rush hour frequency from every six minutes to every five minutes
  • Running Red Line trains every six minutes (previously eight minutes), and running all other lines every 12 minutes (previously 15 minutes)
  • Increasing service on some lines to reduce crowding
  • Making permanent a change that increased service frequency on about 36 bus lines throughout the region last fall and winter
  • Restoring services for several lines halted during the pandemic.

There are also incentives to get riders back on Metro.

How to lend your voice

There are several ways to participate in WMATA’s public hearing process. Three in-person public hearings are scheduled throughout the region:

  • Virginia - Feb. 7, at 6 pm, at the Ellen M. Bozman Government CenterCounty Board Room, 2100 Clarendon Blvd #307, Arlington, VA.
  • DC - Feb. 8, 2022, at 6 pm, at WMATA Headquarters (the Jackson Graham Building), 600 5th St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Maryland- Feb. 9, at 6 pm at the City of College Park, 7401 Baltimore Avenue, Ste: 201, College Park, Maryland.

All meetings are accessible by transit. You can also attend virtually. Click here for travel options, and to fill out WMATA’s survey. The agency will be collecting feedback through Feb. 15.

(Editor’s note: Tracy Hadden Loh, GGWash’s board chair, also serves on WMATA’s board of directors. She has no say in editorial content per our editorial policy.)