Friday, October 26, 2007

An Open Letter to DC Councilman Jim Graham

Dear Councilman Graham,

First loose those stupid glasses. Nobody thinks you look any more intelligent or noble because you choose those frames over contact lenses. In fact they only serve the purpose of making you look the fool even more.

Now that the nice-ites are out of the way lets talk about the latest proposed increase for DC's Metro service in order to close the $173 million budget gap.

You seem to think that us "suburban-ites" are an endless supply of money and have no problem coughing up a few more dollars a day on parking, on and some more to ride the train into your city. All of this while your bus riding constituents don't pay a cent more. you see anything wrong with this picture? No? Well I do. I have no problem helping to shoulder the load (even though 90% of it is caused by mismanagement and poor decisions by yourself and others on Metro's Board of Governors) but let's be fair. Look at the following areas and see if the proposed rate increases are really "fair".

1) Your so-called "poor bus riding constituents" already have a rate that is so far subsidized below the US transportation standard for large cities it's disturbing. Metro bus riders pay only $1.25 for any fare in the system (even less if you're a senior or student). By comparison, NYC bus riders pay $2 (oh yeah...their subway which is 20x as large as DC's pay the same $2 fare), Chicago and Atlanta: $1.75, Boston: $1.50. Do you get it yet? I think your constituents could cough up a few more cents?

For the 30 days leading up to October 25, 2007, bus ridership (according to Metro's numbers) was 443,000 riders. Lets say that 75% of them were seniors and students (high number but let's pretend), that means an increase of say $.25 per rider for the full fare crowd would mean an increase of income of: $84, 000 per month. Now let's draw this out for a whole year and we get $1M extra to help close the gap. (I'll keep a running total for you....$173M-$1M = $172M)

2) Instead of raising the parking fees $1.15/day and putting an lopsided burden on those of us who don't live within walking distance of the suburban stations (all of which are outside of DC...I don't think that's a coincidence), only raise it $.25/day. That would bring the parking about to $4.25/day. Metro has about 55,000 spots available. Let's be conservative and say 53,000 of them are full on a regular weekday (if you've ever tried to get to the station after 830am you'd think that they were all full). Using the extra quarter a day would yield $13,250 extra per day. This translates to: $265,000 extra per month and $2.9 million per year(we'll do it by only 220 working days to figure on some holiday and vacation time) (Thats $172M-$2.9M=$169.1M)

3) You are in favor of raising rates for subway riders up to $.30/ride, again putting more of a burden on those of us who have the longest trips in and thus the highest fares (I currently pay $3.90 each way between Shady Grove and Farragut North), yet if you look at the amount per distance it's not even close to "market rate." My trip and many others who pay the "max" breaks down to about $.14/mile (my trip is 28 miles each way). By comparison,NYC riders pay the aforementioned $2/trip between ANY 2 points in the system. That means you can ride the "A" train from 207th street in Harlem to Far Rockway in Queens for $.07/mile. Why not go to that model? While it looks like Metro would loose money on the max fare, they would in fact make quite a bit (actual numbers aren't available) on those riders who go the minimum of $1.35 rush hour fare. Let's be conservative (again) and figure Metro could stand to make $40M-$50M more per year (not even figuring in weekends and holidays. ($169.1M-$50M= $119.1M)

4) Stop holding up the sale of the property around the Takoma station. Today's papers tell about your activity in holding up the sale of property around the station to a developer that would net Metro $4.6M based on fair market value. ($119.1M-$4.6M= $114.5M)

5) Shut off the light when you're done. Unless your press office was asleep on the job you caught the article in the Washington Post on October 8th, "Metro Leaves the Light on For You" Where because of timers installed the lights go on in the building at 5:30am and off at 8:00pm running a total amount of lighting to $1,400/employee per year. Now if they shut off the lights when they came in and shut them off when they left and make the other basic energy saving recommendations in the article Metro could save $4M per year. ($114.5M - $4M = $110.5M)

6) Perhaps you can explain to me why according to Metro's 2008 projected budget numbers you're spending $38M on advertising (with a guaranteed minimum of $35M to your contractor)? Let's try spend $2.5M on advertising, although I'm not sure exactly what you're advertising for...Oh lets ride Metro instead of that other mass transit system in the area (which doesn't exist!) ($110.5M-$35.5M =$75M)

While my above recommendations don't completely close the gap the system is facing it does attempt to make a dent while keeping the burden spread evenly among the various groups using the system. But in closing, I want to give you a few more numbers. My daily commute costs me $11.80 ($3.90 each way on the train round trip and $4 for parking). Your proposal will make that same commute $15.35. For comparison, I can park at a garage downtown for $11/day on and early bird special. My commute at 645am takes about an hour on the train and the same by car. Looks like if your plan goes through, I'm going to drive...just don't cross the street in my path if you catch my drift.


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