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Metro's General Manager Releases 2014 Budget

$2.5B plan doesn't include more eight-car trains

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Metro riders may want to see more eight-car trains during rush hour, but Metro officials and watchdog groups note that funding may be prohibitive.
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Metro riders may want to see more eight-car trains during rush hour, but Metro officials and watchdog groups note that funding may be prohibitive.

Metro's general manager presented his 2014 budget proposal to the transit agency's board of directors today. It has no fare hikes or service cuts, but transit advocates say it is also missing something else: funding to expand rush hour capacity to eight-car trains.

Sarles' $2.5 billion budget proposal contains about $900 million to continue Metro's system-wide rehabilitation: fixing escalators, repairing tracks and signals and more.

Metro has ordered 430 new train cars for the coming year, but they will replace the old 1000 series on existing lines and be used to carry passengers on the Silver Line when it opens at the end of the year. None will be used to create more eight-car trains for use during rush hour. That's a process that will take time, according to Metro general manager Richard Sarles.

"It takes improving the traction power capacity. It means buying more cars.  It means providing more yard space to store the cars and to maintain the cars," he says. "It's something that is going to take several years to get to. We probably couldn't get there till the end of this decade, but it means starting an investment now."

"The total cost to go from today which is 50 percent of eight-car trains to 100 percent eight-car trains within five years would be $1.4 billion dollars in capital funding," says Jack Corbett, director of Metro watchdog MetroRiders.org. Metro can't currently afford that kind of money, he adds.

Corbett urges riders should talk to their elected officials about the problem.

"The board members, as well as intentioned as they are, have conflicts of interests. They work not only for the Metro board but they are also quite often elected officials in the jurisdictions," Corbett says. "It's very difficult for them to push their jurisdictions for an increase in funding for Metro. So we are hoping riders can jump in and appear before city councils and county councils asking for an increase in funding for Metro, both buses and rail."

If 50 percent of Metro trains consist of eight cars by 2040, the Red, Orange, Yellow, and Green lines will be congested or highly congested, according to a forecast by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. In that scenario, only the blue line would be rated satisfactory.

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