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Metro Board Struggles To Find Consensus On Budget

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By David Schultz

Over the last few months, Metro riders have made it clear they would rather see fares go up than service reduced to fix a nearly $200 million budget shortfall.

Now, it appears Metro has listened.

In its revised budget proposal, bus and rail fares would go up by at least a quarter, and parking fees would go up by 50 cents.

"It's clear we're going to have a fare increase of some dimension," says Metro Board Member Jim Graham. "It's unavoidable."

But even with those increases, there would still be service cuts totaling more than $8 million. Trains would run less frequently on the red line and the entire Metrorail system would close an hour earlier on weekends.

Some Board members want to eliminate even these cuts. But when they started talking about who should pay to make that happen, finger pointing ensued.

"That's not accurate," Graham says to fellow Board Member Mortimer Downey during a discussion on capital funding. "That is simply not accurate."

"It is absolutely accurate!" Downey retorts.

Virginia, Maryland and D.C. have already agreed to contribute more than they usually do to Metro's budget-- $40 million more.

But Board Member Chris Zimmerman, who represents Virginia, says the jurisdictions should contribute even more to avoid service reductions.

"Virginia jurisdictions are prepared to make this unnecessary to happen," he says. "If it happens, it's because someone else is requiring it. Let there be no mistake."

Zimmerman's proposal didn't go over well with board members from Maryland, who say they've already contributed as much as they can.

So no consensus yet. And the board has just two weeks before it votes on the budget.

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