Little new in new Virginia's WMATA study

Recommendations include funding the transit agency and replacing the board of directors
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WASHINGTON — There were no dramatic reveals in a new study of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, but the report by former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood adds urgency to other calls to cure the agency's ills. Among them, a board of directors that does not meet the agency's needs, and a lack of funding to keep the Washington Metro system in good working order.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe commissioned LaHood to study WMATA last March. LaHood's report was released Dec. 5 by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Among his findings:

•“The agency's board is too large, too fractious, and too oriented toward the interests of the region's individual jurisdictions rather than the needs of the region as a whole,” LaHood's cover letter states. He recommends replacing the 16-member board with a five-member “temporary reform board” that's given “a very clear mandate: bring WMATA back to what it once was, the best transit system in America.”

•“WMATA has no capital funds of its own, and the jurisdictions that fund its capital needs have not provided enough too keep the system in acceptable condition.” LaHood says Metro needs some $540 million per year in capital funds. Congress needs to pass a successor to the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act. The Act has allocated $1.5 billion to WMATA over the past 10 years, but is due to expire in 2018. LaHood makes no specific proposal for raising capital from Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

LaHood also recommends that Metro match service with ridership levels. WMATA operates the same number of trains and buses, even though fewer people are riding them. He also says that Metro's costs are average when compared with other large transit agencies. He notes that WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is “the right person for the job at hand.”

McAuliffe's remarks were released as a series of Twitter messages by the Virginia department.

“We cannot, as elected officials, standby and let this great system end,” he said. “I'm telling you today, Virginia has done its part.... The talk is done. It is time to take action, and Virginia has taken action."

LaHood's letter may be found online.

The full report may be found online.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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