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Despite Budget Shortfall, Metro To Continue Normal Service

Fewer federal employees riding Metro rail continues to cut into the bottom line.
Sari Dennise: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarihuella/4681226869/
Fewer federal employees riding Metro rail continues to cut into the bottom line.

Each day the partial government shutdown drags on, it eats a hole in Metro's budget, but the transit authority says it will continue to maintain normal service levels, at least for now.

Rail ridership is down 15 to 20 percent as federal workers stay home, and that's costing Metro a lot of money.

"Well, it's a few hundred thousand dollars a day," says Metro General Manager Richard Sarles.

Sarles says a few minor measures have been taken to cover the losses, like using only 6-car instead of 8-car trains.

"But those are relatively modest reductions," he says. "It doesn't compare to the revenue loss we receive from less riders."

It remains unclear just how badly the impasse on Capitol Hill will effect Metro's budget. Reporters repeatedly asked Sarles if and when Metro may reduce service, and he had no precise answer.

"Right now we are just monitoring the situation like everyone else in this nation. We're hoping it comes to a conclusion shortly," Sarles says. "We will explore all possibilities depending on how long the shutdown continues."

Sarles did state the obvious: the loss in riders is not sustainable. Metro had a $30 million surplus last fiscal year, and just received its quarterly payments from its member jurisdictions, except for D.C., because the District's funds are tied down due to the shutdown.

So Metro is not running out of cash, but the transit authority would rather not see how long they can last before the money runs out.

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