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Metro GM calls for more funding. But is Loudoun ready to take on the costs?

Courtesy Photo/Fairfax County Times
In an effort to get Metro (WMATA) in a safe and reliable state, the transit system’s general manager last week said $15.5 billion is needed over the next decade.

Paul Wiedefeld warned in a report that without a change to its business model, funding jurisdictions would have to continue to choose each year “between substantially reducing service” or finding $12 billion more in public money for Metro’s operations over the next decade.

Wiedefeld’s plan also calls on local lawmakers to create a $500 million dedicated regional revenue stream for capital improvements.

But with operational costs already expected to rise in a county where Metro has not even begun operations, can Loudoun manage to cope with the costs?

Loudoun leaders have different opinions.

Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), who represents the area in which the Silver Line will operate, says dedicated funding would help alleviate the pressure to raise taxes.

But if Loudoun is unable to secure the dedicated source of funding, Meyer said it is a possibility Loudoun would need to double the revenue for the Metro tax districts, and in the event that does not work, possibly create a new tax district.

“Basically there’s not a lot of great options,” he said.

Although highly unlikely, Meyer thinks the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) should allow Loudoun to have a smaller contribution to the system since Metro is not yet in the county. It’s something he says the Board of Supervisors should at least consider.

“I think it’s what’s fundamentally right ... and it’s what should have been originally negotiated, but now that we’re already signed the dotted lines it’s hard to go back to the NVTC jurisdictions and say, ‘Well we want you to pay more because you’ve been in the system longer,’” Meyer said. “It makes sense to me, and I think it’s what’s right, but telling a bunch of politicians that they need to pay more on Loudoun’s behalf when they aren’t Loudoun politicians is a tough sell.”

Dulles Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R) says he is optimistic the source can be secured, but noted that Metro still needs to get to a point where it can finance and fund its own projects by using “existing money more effectively.”

Overall, he thinks Loudoun could handle the additional cost.

“Could we handle [the cost]? Probably,” Letourneau said. “We would handle it the same way we handle all the capital expenditures, we would put it in our [Capital Improvement Plan], and we would finance it. And on a year-to-year basis, it probably would not have a dramatic impact on our budget.”

But Letourneau thinks it would be “very difficult” to get NVTC to agree to allow Loudoun to pay lower costs just because it has not yet joined the WMATA compact.

According to media reports, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments unveiled a proposal for a 1 percent region-wide sales tax on Wednesday that would provide the transit system with adequate revenue to cover infrastructure and maintenance costs over the next 10 years.

Wiedefeld’s report comes after local jurisdictions, including in Loudoun County, have been reeling over the capital and annual operating costs they are being expected to pay for Metro.

From fiscal 2017 to 2018, the jurisdictional funding for capital costs in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have shot up between 90 percent to more than 200 percent.

According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's latest projections from October, Loudoun will start to pay Metro around $12 million in fiscal 2019 in annual operating and capital costs.

The next year, the number is slated to jump to $50.8 million, then to $58.4 million in 2024 and as high as $82.1 million in 2025.

To help pay for the unexpected high costs, local leaders too, have been calling for dedicated sources of funding from the federal government and General Assembly.

Comments


I’ve said it before (often) and will say it again.  It isn’t that Metro is in itself bad, it’s the cost.  There is nothing wrong with a Chevy unless someone want to sell you one for $100,000.

The first decade of Metro is on track (pun intended) to cost Loudoun over $1B.  Will we gain over $1B in that same decade from Metro’s presence?  I say we will not and the money is better spent elsewhere.  And, depressingly, Metro and its costs will get even worse before they get better.

If the BoS does nothing else and refuses to cut Metro out completely (I don’t think the BoS has that level of chutzpah) they should AT LEAST “renegotiate” the deal to cap Loudoun’s annual contribution based on WMATA’s original estimate.  I say “renegotiate” because it should be a demand and not a request with the explicit threat of fully withholding funding. 

Get a better deal!  If Trump can renegotiate with every country on the planet, surely the BoS can find it within them to negotiate with the pathetic Metro.

As I said in my op-ed, WMATA’s low ball estimate wasn’t incompetence, it was deception. 

Now is the time for lawsuits.


Totally agree with you LoudounResident ... pacer and smith don’t have a CLUE!!!


So many comments, so few with actual insight into commuter-life. “The bus is fine,” says people who have never ridden the bus. Never waited 45 mins in the rain for the privilege of standing/hanging-on through stop-and-go rush hour in DC and beyond. Never

Metro is very far from perfect. It has been mis-managed and run like a mobster preparing for a convenient insurance fire. But it is still the 3rd most utilized public transit system in the nation—and the ONLY one without a dedicated funding source.

As for self-driving cars, I’m all for them. But since that technology generally requires things like standard curb heights, lane lines, and road widths, don’t expect it to solve problems of commuters in Western LoCo anytime soon.

Finally, I guess I keep imagining those commuters with luggage every day and night on the Silver Line. Surely, they aren’t ALL going to/from Dulles are they? If only there was some way to measure this mysterious behavior and frame the discussion with facts and information. If only . . .

Fix the broken rails. Fix the broken Union. Fix the broken ad hoc funding dance. Fix things. Or scream “Mexit” at clouds. Whatever works for you.


After the last few comments I feel its a good time to remind everyone:

Please don’t feed the trolls.


Robert Smith, you claim that others don’t have the “vision” and “forethought” that you have.  But let’s see how technological advances have often made such “forethought” obsolete.

1. The cable companies were convinced they would make a killing selling landline phones along with internet and cable.  Yet today, many don’t have any landline phones, DirectTV lowers the price of fiber/cable, and tomorrow 5G technologies may eliminate the need to lay fiber/cable to the house at all!

2. Airports were supposed to continue their dramatic growth along with the business economy as executives needed to conduct business in person.  But today, whether it’s a business meeting or a medical evaluation, such activities are being conducted over the internet.  This is one reason travel to/from Dulles is down.

3. Malls and retail stores are being crushed by online shopping that makes such physical trips to the store seem quaint.  Stores are going out of business and citing the need to defend against Amazon as the single biggest strategy they need to solve.

See a pattern?  The slowdown in traffic to malls, to airports, and the elimination of the monopoly of the cable/phone companies was not predicted just 10-15 years before they occurred.  The same disruptive changes may happen in medicine and education.  We are seeing how car rental and cab companies are being crushed by Uber and Lyft already.

Yet for all of your “vision” and “forethought, you refuse to wrap your head around, much less even address, the coming revolution in self-driving cars.  It’s a little like the fracking revolution crushed the plans of all the renewable energy companies betting on $100+ oil.  Self-driving cars will free up roads via productivity, allow much faster commutes, and crush any viability of Metro.

Wwwebbs is exactly right.  A $17/day Metro price is not competitive with current auto costs much less those of a coming self-driving sort.  You like economic language so why don’t you acknowledge sunk costs have no bearing on decisions going forward?  Why don’t you acknowledge that disruptive tech (just like trucking undermined rail) can undermine Loudoun’s investment in Metro?  The backers of Metro have become so attached to their decision that they cannot objectively evaluate alternatives.  It’s only taxpayer $$, right?  We will have to eat it and bail Metro out even though it will largely be seen as a relic in 10-15 years.  And the policy makers will all say “who could have known” as if nobody is pleading with them right now to just stand down.


I am so glad none of you anonymous posters have any actual influence in anything except your own lives. The displayed lack of vision, forethought, knowledge of real estate, understanding of economics (supply/demand), understanding of property values, synergies, opportunity costs, is mind-numbing. You base an argument against METRO expansion on the assumption that the Red Robin will still be there in 5 years; that there is NOT a new multi-use stadium adjacent a Metro station; that new destinations aren’t built along the Silver Line; that corporations unknown in Loudoun today don’t HQ at the station sites.

And to argue like a Metro extension is something new is just plain baffling. Clarendon/Ballston would still be underutilized single-story traffic-clogged inner suburbs if not for the Metro stops. UM-College Park, giving all those students the ability to get into DC w/o driving, what a boon. Rockville and Shady Grove, their development boom would have still occurred due to 270, but all roads would be even worse than they are if not for Metro connectivity.

Even for ALL their faults, Thank goodness that that the majority of BOS’ers over the years have listened to the past and realized the future of Loudoun being a part of the DC region has to include Metro connectivity.

Naysayers - look yourselves in the mirror, are you perfect? What is perfect?


Wow…. As a new resident of LoCo, I feel bad for you all. All I see in the comments sections here is a bunch of bumpkin dooms day preppers shouting at clouds.

Get a grip folks, cutting your nose off to spite your face is no way to go through life. Just cling to your guns and religion and it will all be over soon.

As for the rest of us with more than half a brain, we appreciate not having to drive and succumb to the self-inflicted wound of traffic created by a bunch of selfish me first goobers. We appreciate multi-modal transportation options. The DC Airport offers few if any international transportation options and the thought of driving at all after flying is enough to make me thank the common sensed BoS representatives for having the forethought to offer travelers another option to get into DC or Ashburn.


Great idea Brambleton Matt!


“It makes sense to me, and I think it’s what’s right, but telling a bunch of politicians that they need to pay more on Loudoun’s behalf when they aren’t Loudoun politicians is a tough sell.” - Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) - Yet you want to sell it to the residents of Loudoun County who don’t want Metro here any way.

Letourneau thinks it would be “very difficult” to get NVTC to agree to allow Loudoun to pay lower costs just because it has not yet joined the WMATA compact. - Sure, why would the allow us to pay less, afterall, we are already paying for something we don’t have and to repair the problems we didn’t create.  Makes sense to me.

Do any of the BOS have any sense of what is right and wrong in business?  FACT-Loudoun county residents do not currently have access to Metro in Loudoun County.  FACT-It currently takes 40 minutes to get from Wiehle-Reston Metro Station to Rosslyn Metro Station.  FACT-It costs a rider $5.90 to ride that train.  FACT-It costs $4.75 per day to park. FACT-It costs $16.65 per day to ride metro where you currently have to drive to Wiehle Ave in Reston, where if you take the quickest route, the Greenway and Toll Road, it will cost another $6.50 for a total of $23.15.  And all for a system that is broken down, mismanaged and has more issues that Sports Illustrated.

The Loudoun County Commuter buses, while not without their own sets of issues, is a much more viable mass transit system already serving Loudoun County.  There is free parking at one of the many park and ride lots throughout the county.  The cost of replacing and maintaining a bus has to be much less than the cost of maintaining and replacing a Metro car.  Operating costs must also be less.

It’s time to bow out of this Metro debacle and let the last stop be at Dulles Airport. Some people are saying that it would cost a lot of money to get out now.  Yet we don’t even have Metro and we are already being asked for more money. 

GET OUT OF METRO NOW! #Mexit


What Mr. Meyer should do is build a 2nd Metro, right next to the existing Metro (at tax payer expense), and then let Loudouners ride it for free.


The solution is very easy ... deny any additional funding not already committed (perfectly legal), they will manage metro into the ground and be forced to declare bankruptcy.  This will pave the way to disband the union and privatize the entire system. This would lead to better service and lower fares.  The would be a great “Mexit” strategy, Kudos to person who coined ... made me laugh!


What did Volpe do with regard to the Metro that has you upset.
She voted NO!
No funding for Metro call it a loss and don’t compound it by wasting more money on it.


Metro is the biggest losing proposition this county has ever undertaken.  The costs end up being twice as predicted and ridership half as predicted.  This benefits no one and no one is going to ride metro to Dulles or any places near Dulles. Ken Reid is the worst politician this county has ever had but somehow idiots keep electing him to office after office.  He only wants to get his name and picture in the paper but has never made a good decision


If there is more funding needed, send the bill to the ignorant BOS who voted to bring Metro to Loudoun. Anyone could see that this was a stupid waste of money that could have gone to schools, fire/PD etc. But no…our BOS had the intelligence of a flea fell into the trap placed by the developers who are the only ones to benefit from Metro to Loudoun. Not only was it stupid to tie the millstone of Metro around LoCo’s neck,but the poor planners at Dulles also fell into the trap. Do you think anyone with half a brain will fly into IAD after a long flight, and schlep their bags onto Metro for a 45-60 minute ride into DC? There is no accommodation for bags etc. The only reason Metro is going all the way to Dulles is so the illogical so called regional leaders can boast that Metro goes to the airport, bragging rights, nothing more. No one will use this Metro from Dulles. NY’s JFK’s Sky Train has proved that. Metro is fine to go from DC to National Airport, that makes sense, but to IAD…get real and to go into Ashburn? Really. The names of those BOS members who voted for Metro int Loudoun should have their names on a plaque at the County Building giving them credit for the debt LoCo is getting into. Shame on them…and shame on those who voted for them. Just once….once in my lifetime, I would like to have a BOS to be proud of. But that is not likely. Once in office their eyes are dazed over by the developers who wave money in front of their eyes. Ken Reid? Scott York? Disturbingly poor leaders…Volpe? Yuck…come the next BOS election fire the bunch…


Robert Q—Metro will not bring “visitors” to Loudoun—what are they going to do once they get off the train in Ashburn without a car?  Take a cab?  Wait for a bus?  This was always one of the Metro Myths…Metro will bring money to Loudoun.  Baloney.  Metro will facilitate the movement of disposable spending money OUT of Loudoun to places where you can go and see and do something, like the museums, Nats Park, and Tysons…but no one is going to hop on Metro from Dupont Circle to ride the train for 45 minutes to go to the Red Robin in Ashburn. 

In terms of new residents, how about not building it so the developer-loving BoS won’t have it as an excuse to approve more growth?  Look at how many times they’ve latched on to the Greenway to approve a development project…and, BTW, if you want a glimpse of Metro in Loudoun’s future…look at what a RT on the Greenway costs today. 

We made a mistake.  The BoS at the time made a mistake.  The terms of the contract have changed.  Would you stick with a home builder who started work on your house and told you mid-way into the build that he underestimated his costs and he was charging you more?  No, you’d sue…and so should we.

Mexit.


Self-driving cars/cabs will make metro obsolete. The 5g spectrum being installed along with the AI technology will double/triple road capacity as cars communicate and travel much closer together.

Until then (10-15 years), busses can do the trick for lower cost and a greater range of locations.

This mistake will surpass the Greenway in infamy.


Step back! Stand clear of the money doors.  Doors closing…...


“Mexit”  Love it.


Can Metro!


To this day, Ken Reid still brags that he did the right thing, in being the swing vote, passing this huge mistake.  Ken Reid stands today as the best example of everything wrong with politics.  Incompetent person holding a position of importance and demonstrating his incompetence at every turn.


i do not ride metro today and will not be doing so in the future.  probably just like the majoity of residents in loudoun.  so why should we be expected to pay for all the past neglect on maintenance?  all of these misdeeds were not disclosed in advance of loudoun signing on.  in any other civil case, this would be grounds for fraud….


And please state your alternate plan/means for mobility for Loudouners, all those who criss-cross the County from out-of-County, visitors, etc. And don’t forget the couple hundred thousand new residents that will reside in Loudoun over the next 20 years.


Everyone knew this Metro build would be a disaster, everyone that is except the people at Metro who are presiding over a system that is a mess, with old infrastructure that is falling apart, yet all they want to do is enlarge the system. Expanding the Metro system is like getting a new paint job on a car that has no engine. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, fix the existing system first.


Metro’s problems are systemic and simply throwing more money at them won’t help long term.

Metro’s crippling labor problems have to be solved or the system is doomed.  Metro workers make way too much money and have almost zero accountability.  Scrap the entire union contract and start over.

 


If you held a referendum today, right now, after everything we’ve learned over the past few month, there isn’t a shred of doubt in my mind that Loudoun vote to pull out.  We were sold a bill of goods and are now being expected to pay for decades of neglect and mismanagement we had nothing to do with.  The terms of the contract have changed—it should be null and void.

So, let’s have the vote…call it:

Mexit

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