Budget Watchdogs Call Out DC’s Mayor on Metro

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Recently, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser its April 2018 Porker of the Month for attempting to bail out the failing Washington Metrorail system by taxing Uber and Lyft riders.

The Metrorail system in Washington, D.C. has been in crisis for nearly a decade. It has been dubbed, “the worst in the world,” and its financial situation has been labeled a “death spiral.” The system has become infamous for train derailments, track fires, disabled trains, long delays, and even fatalities.

Most of these issues stem from internal failures and a lack of accountability. Even after shutting down huge sections of track affecting numerous stations for months at a time in order to fix arching insulators in 2016, the number of track fires rose in 2017. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was forced to fire a third of its inspection staff in 2017 because they were caught falsifying track reports. On March 3, 2018, Federal Transit Authority inspection notes revealed that WMATA track workers were still reclassifying badly defective tracks so they would not have to repair them.

This decade of failure has caused thousands of riders to flee the system. Fiscal year (FY) 2017 ridership was down 12 percent, creating a revenue shortfall of $125 million. In June 2017, WMATA began cutting operating hours and raising fares.

As WMATA spiraled downward, use of ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft surged. At an October 2017 news conference to unveil an Uber driver-support center, Mayor Bowser pinned WMATA’s decline where it should be, saying, “I wouldn’t start with Uber; I would start with Metro itself.”

But less than six months later, Mayor Bowser submitted a budget that “would be among the most radical examples of raising tax revenue for transit through ride hailing.” She proposed hiking the tax on Uber and Lyft riders from one percent to 4.75 percent, well above other comparable cities. Lyft President John Zimmer said, “I don’t know that charging people more on this one is actually getting at the heart of the issue.”

CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “Mayor Bowser’s tax hike on ride-sharing is designed to bail out the D.C. Metro after years of internal mismanagement and lack of performance. She should not have wavered from her original statement that WMATA’s problems can only be solved by WMATA.”

For attempting to bail out Washington’s Metrorail system on the backs of ride-sharers, CAGW names Mayor Muriel Bowser its April 2018 Porker of the Month.

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