Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Smart Spending?

We just got a press release from Metro about how they are "prepared to stay open an extra hour on Thursday night (April 9) to accommodate the crowds attending the NCAA Frozen Four ice hockey tournament at the Verizon Center if the second game of the night ends late." We called Metro's media relations, and the person answering knew nothing about this, but surprisingly went to find out. The cost of doing this is $27,000.

UPDATE: After being told once that the jurisdictions pay the $27,000, Metro now says the Verizon Center will pay. When pressed, the Metro spokesperson would not say if the amount would cover the entire cost--wages, power, wear and tear--of keeping the system open for an hour and grew annoyed that we'd even question it. You know what Metro? Attitudes like that are pervasive in your system and don't help your image.

Another item of interest was in the DC Examiner about how "Metro is seeking an emergency infusion of $6.5 million for its MetroAccess service, the latest shortfall for the fastest-growing yet priciest arm of the transit system."

MetroAccess is a shared ride transit service for people who are unable to use fixed-route public transportation due to disability.

Metro is legally bound to provide this service because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they're only required, the article states, to serve an area three quarters of a mile from the Metro system. As you can see here, MetroAccess serves a considerably wider radius.

The article says "the average trip costs the agency $38, according to Metro, far more than the base fare of $2.50 for each ride."

Are these cases of money down the toilet are are they legitimate services Metro should offer?

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Michael said...

Did you ask whether the tournament sponsors will be picking up the tab?

Unsuck DC Metro said...

"the jurisdictions do"

Michael said...

$27,000 for keeping the system running an additional hour seems like a good deal, because it ensures that people can decide to take transit instead of driving to the Verizon Center. If there wasn't an assurance that the system would be running after the game, people would drive to the game, clogging the streets. I think that's money well spent even if it comes from the jurisdictions. For what it's worth, Metrorail is running a surplus currently. Typically, however, event sponsors pick up the tab for additional service, like opening the system early for marathons or whatnot.

For the Metroaccess thing, I support limiting service to the required boundaries. In this case the WMATA report before the FAO committee states that trips beyond the normal 3/4 mile boundary affected only 400 individuals (who may have taken more than one trip each) but accounted for an estimated $2.8M in costs. If the Board does not decide to eliminate this service, they can at least increase the required additional zone fare to be the equivalent of taxicab fare ($1.50-2.00 per mile, compared to a zone fare of about 30 cents per mile currently).

This change may encourage Metroaccess customers to choose to live closer to WMATA's non-paratransit (bus and rail) services in order to maintain eligibility, something that's desirable for the region anyway. Once they live closer to regular services, they might find it more convenient to take the normal fixed-route service since it runs regularly, as opposed to Metroaccess, which must be scheduled a day in advance, and frequently takes two times longer than fixed route service. Metroaccess also experiences delays that would cause even the most forgiving bus or rail riders to tear their hair out.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful and informative comments.

Michael said...

According to Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, the Verizon Center is paying for keeping the rail system open the extra hour.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

We were told the jurisdictions do. We'll call again.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

Wish they'd get their stories straight. No way $27,000 covers all the expense.

Michael said...

How so? At $50 per hour (overtime labor rate including benefits), that's about 500 man-hours.

84 stations with two employees (station managers, janitors) each = 168 man-hours
five lines, with five trains per hour each direction times one hour of service = 50 man-hours
Extra maintenance on those trains = 10 man-hours?
traction power, lighting, HVAC = small fraction of labor costs. (the rest of $27,000)

I bet $27,000 is actually a pretty good estimate.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

We'll take that wager. Metro estimates a lot of things rosily on paper only to have them come up short in the end. You have a great deal of confidence in Metro's prudence and efficiency. Over $900K for mystery riders should convince even the biggest fan of WMATA that Metro spends like a drunken sailor on things that don't improve the function of the system. Metro's estimate on the revenue generated by Metro TV? "$16 to $178 million over the life of the ten-year license."

Michael said...

Ok, so what information would be satisfactory to establish how much operating one additional hour of rail service from 12 midnight to 1 am costs?

I'm willing to bet but I want to know how we figure out who wins.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

I don't think there's a way to determine this. It boils down to a fundamental view of how well you think Metro is managed. If indeed your estimates on time worked, overtime, wear and tear, utilities are correct and they're only going to spend $25,000 keeping the system open an extra hour, great. We think your estimates would be reflective of a well run system.

What was this guy getting paid for?


Anonymous said...

might i add that both of you have too much time on your hands?

seriously though. interesting discussion. i tend to side with anyone who views metro's operations in a negative light. they simply can't be trusted.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am a polly anna, but I really think that guy in the picture is on a real break. People get breaks you know. Sometimes when I have a break, I (gasp) put my head down on my desk and shut my eyes. It's ok, I'm allowed to take a break. I even get paid for 2 15 minute breaks. People who do not take breaks when they need them are usually not doing very good work.

That said, metro does need some work (escalators people!), but I don't think we nee dot pick on this one poor pion. Let's talk to the escalator repair crew. What the hell are they getting paid for??? The escalators work for big events (inauguration, cherry blossoms), but not for rush hour? Sure, the out of towners get good service, but not the townies. piss on that.

(rant over)

Mike Bruno said...

Tt takes two to do this job?


Glenn said...

Agree to limiting MetroAccess to the required service radius. The cost is ridiculous, and if the localities don't want to pay for this social welfare spending, then either it should not be provided or the users need to pay a reasonable share of difference.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

Hate to say we told you so, but...

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