Today’s release of the proposed FY2017 WMATA budget features a new policy that will resonate with many of us riders, and one that we recently specifically asked of Paul Wiedefeld. While not a momentous change, it’s one of the most tangible complaints we all have: paying to leave a station shortly after entering. Here’s the full change:
Though a few think that the revenue loss (amounting to 0.2% of total revenues) is somehow reason enough to maintain the policy, asserting that is wrong on its face. Collecting fares for rides not taken is hardly a sustainable funding method, especially since these non-rides spike when there are severe service delays – demonstrating that this action is directly attributable to poor service. And the goodwill engendered by no longer charging riders for exiting is worth many times the financial loss. Satisfaction with Metrorail has dropped by nearly 30%, and at this point it’s no wonder WMATA is doing something to win back riders. If there’s no longer a potential financial penalty for trying to ride, why not try?
But the circumstances that have required such a change are just a symptom. An exit charge is a problem because almost all rides are pay-as-you-go, in the absence of a broader, time-based unlimited pass (this budget also offers proposals in that direction). An exit charge is a problem because of the likelihood of encountering delays and service gaps. An exit charge is a problem because poor on-time performance of Metro means that wait times exceed even the already-interminable waits scheduled for weekends.
In other words, if there is some sort of fiscal impact from this policy shift, then offering a grace period should be an incentive to ensure that trains run frequently enough so as to preempt anyone exiting the station because of inadequate headways.
This is welcome news, but make no mistake – it’s just a start. In the coming months and years, we would like to see a move towards more frequent service, more useful and reasonably priced fare passes, and greatly enhanced reliability across rail and bus alike. It’s a long road ahead, but WMATA’s at least taken a first step.
On Friday, members of the WMATA Riders’ Union leadership team met with newly appointed WMATA general manager Paul Wiedefeld. We were able to bring to him our concerns and complaints, and a shortlist of action items for him to try and accomplish in his first hundred days. We asked for WMATA to:
- Put an end to charging Metrorail riders for exiting a station within ten minutes of entering
- Develop and publicize a contingency plan for severe disruptions, including specific procedures for supplemental bus service, empowering staff, and offering fare credits
- Start and maintain an open, honest, and two-way communication stream between WMATA and its riders
We also raised some of the most pressing medium-to-longer term goals: increasing service frequency, improving safety measures and empowering front-line employees, simplifying and rationalizing the existing fare structure, minimizing the impact of track work on separate lines, and developing a far more comprehensive, constant dialogue between WMATA and its riders – just to name a few.
On the subject of communications, we extended an invitation to Wiedefeld to come to a special forum of the WMATA Riders’ Union, in order not only to talk to riders, but to hear our complaints. We’re very pleased to announce that he has accepted, and will be coming to engage in a candid and frank discussion with us and all our fellow WMATARU members about what matters most to you. We know we’ll all come equipped with our experiences and concerns, ready to discuss what we and WMATA can do to make our transit system something we can rely on.
The WMATA Riders’ Union (WMATARU) is pleased to hear that the WMATA Board of Directors has settled on a new general manager and hope that they are able to successfully complete the contract negotiations in the coming weeks. We trust that Paul Wiedefeld represents the very best of the worldwide candidate pool available to WMATA, and that the Board and executive search committee has been appreciative of his track record with public-facing transit and transportation organizations.
WMATARU hopes that the Board and Mr. Wiedefeld will come to terms on a contract and approve it as soon as possible. WMATA is an agency sorely in need of new and stable leadership. The Riders’ Union looks forward to meeting with Mr. Wiedefeld to hear his plans for reforming WMATA and in order to present him with a number of rider concerns and suggestions. WMATARU also hopes that Mr. Wiedefeld will join us as a regular rider of the system so that he experiences and understands the issues that riders face daily.
“Putting WMATA’s fiscal house in order is important, but the mission of the authority – to provide mobility to the entire region – is even more critical,” said WMATARU Vice Chair and Communications Director Graham Jenkins. “We were dismayed by yesterday’s report showing a continued deterioration of both bus and rail performance last quarter, and trust that the importance of high-quality, frequent transit service is apparent.” Providing reliable service is the core function of WMATA, and the Riders’ Union calls upon Mr. Wiedefeld and the Board to offer additional trains and buses to meet rider demand.
The Riders’ Union will also continue to hold the Board of Directors and appointing jurisdictions accountable for WMATA funding, safety, transparency, and service improvements. Without strong leadership and support from the board, no general manager can be successful.
To better reflect the shared missions and differing priorities of their respective topic areas, the WMATA Riders’ Union is proposing the following changes to is existing committees:
- Combine the Accessibility Committee and Safety Committee into a single Accessibility & Safety Committee
- Split the Service Quality & Frequency Committee into two committees, a Rail Service Committee and a Bus Service Committee.
Because we had you, the membership, vote on the original committee structure, we are asking you to help decide whether you approve of this reorganization.
Update: The results are in and the people have spoken; the reorganization passes by a 60% margin in favor. Thank you for voting!
Update as of Nov. 2: The WMATA Riders’ Union is disappointed to hear that yet another potential general manager candidate has parted ways with WMATA. The difficulty the Authority is facing in hiring a new GM is a testament to just how far it has yet to go. Improving WMATA is a herculean task, but we implore the board to consider all possible qualified candidates in order to find a committed leader who can not only address the Authority’s financial challenges, but also improve service, ensure safety, restore Metrorail to a state of good repair, and win riders back to a system they can rely on.
Original statement follows:
The WMATA Riders’ Union (WMATARU) is pleased to hear that the WMATA Board of Directors has selected a new general manager. We hope that Neal Cohen represents the very best of the worldwide candidate pool available to WMATA, and that the Board and executive search committee has been fully aware of all aspects of selecting someone from an unconventional transportation background.
The Riders’ Union looks forward to meeting with Mr. Cohen to hear his plans for reforming WMATA and in order to present him with a number of rider concerns and suggestions. While a financial and internal controls background can be an an asset to a transit agency, WMATARU is anxious to see how the Board and senior leadership of WMATA will support Mr. Cohen as he learns the nuances of the system and its operations. WMATARU also hopes that if he does not already use Metrorail and/or bus for his daily commute that Mr. Cohen will join us as a regular rider of the system so that he experiences and understands the issues that riders face daily.
Putting WMATA’s fiscal house in order is important, but the mission of the authority – to provide mobility to the entire region – is even more critical. WMATARU trusts that the importance of high-quality, frequent transit service is apparent, and calls upon Mr. Cohen and the Board to offer additional trains and buses to meet rider demand.
The Riders’ Union continues to hold the Board of Directors and appointing jurisdictions accountable for WMATA funding, safety, transparency, and service improvements. Without strong leadership and support from the board, no general manager can be successful.
Thank you all so much for coming out to our first public meeting on Monday! We were absolutely blown away by the turnout and enthusiasm you all showed, and we can’t wait to start making WMATA a better experience for you and all riders.
We have now formed seven subcommittees to begin working on strategies to improve WMATA and grow the Riders’ Union based on your suggestions. Those committees are:
- Service Quality & Frequency
- Communications & Transparency
- WMATARU Membership & Engagement
- WMATARU Development
The sign-up to volunteer for a committee is now live! Click here to sign up for volunteer opportunities.
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A text-only version can be found here.
The WMATA Riders’ Union on Friday demanded that WMATA provide additional rail and bus service in the face of recently-announced service disruptions that will last at least six months.
WMATARU has heard feedback from its members and riders that six months of delays across half of the Metrorail system is unacceptable. The leadership team agrees. WMATARU demands that the agency find a means of compensating for service delays that have and will continue to add thirty minutes or more to trips on the Silver, Orange, and Blue Lines, inconveniencing tens of thousands of riders.
WMATA announced to its board of directors on Friday that riders on the Silver, Orange, and Blue Lines would experience significant delays for the next six months as a result of a transformer fire at Stadium-Armory on Monday, September 21. As was explained to the board, rush hour headways will be increased to at least eight minutes between trains.
WMATARU appreciates that Metro has provided updates to the repair timeframe – substantially increased from earlier estimates of several weeks – and hopes that this open communication will continue as this and other system repairs move forward.
However, WMATARU demands that Metro institute creative interim solutions to mitigate the burden of riders as it makes needed repairs. Such solutions could include:
- Institute express bus service mirroring the entire Silver, Orange, and Blue Lines over the next six months until a standard level of service is restored
- Increase midday and evening frequencies to compensate for reduced peak-hour capacity, allowing riders to adjust commute schedules
- Eliminate peak fares for the duration of reduced service
- Continue to provide riders with regular and frequent updates on the progress of transformer replacement and service restoration
Many more options remain to alleviate the pains riders have and will continue to endure while necessary repairs are made. WMATARU Chair Ashley Robbins stated that, “While we appreciate the maintenance and repair of the system is essential to its health and dependability, the Metrorail system is essential to the region. Riders implore Metro to work with riders and do everything in its power to ease the inconvenience while we all endure the next several months of service repairs.”
— Malcolm Augustine (@AugustineMLA) September 28, 2015
— Jack Evans (@JackEvansWard2) September 29, 2015