Friday, April 23, 2010

Seen this Show Before

It's starting to feel like we could just put this blog on autopilot and re-post each entry from last year. It would still be about as accurate as a Metro "schedule." Metro's like a bad re-run.

Budget gaps, threatened service cuts, a parochial Board engaged in brinkmanship and lacking a regional perspective. It's sorta like the train operator threatening to offload a train. After a while, it just doesn't register. Crazy sucky seems normal. Perhaps, that's the whole point.

Remember last year when Metro faced a "$154 million" budget gap? Scary service cuts were floated, public hearings were held, there was outrage, Metro "listened," and in the end ... meh. It was all bark and not a whole lotta bite. Metro shifted things around and suddenly, most of those horrific service cuts just melted into nothing, just like rush hour "service" on the Red Line.

Yet there was a price to pay. There were a few service cuts, things did get worse, and they continue to. Oh, and there was that pesky dime fare increase "because of the economy."

Yeah, you can still see those stickers everywhere. Guess the plan is to pay Metro employees to carefully put the next fare increase sticker over each of the old ones. Better make 'em bigger to reflect the size of the increase. Pretty soon, you won't be able to traverse the FareGates because the phalanx of fare increase stickers. And seriously Metro, how about keeping with the '70s color scheme this time? No more '90s lime green and white, please.


Like last year, this year, we heard similar, but even scarier threats of service cuts in order to close a "$189 million" gap. But lo and behold, that ol' Metro magic appears to have found a way to make it not so bad.

Yet again, there will probably be some cuts, there'll definitely be a fare increase (because "you" begged for it.), and the service will likely get even worse.

Instead of making big boy decisions, the highly political Metro Board seems to prefer a death by 1,000 cuts, all the while praying for the white knight of increased jurisdictional funding (or a gas tax) to suddenly appear. The whole thing feels like this.

Prediction: Next year, there'll be another "crisis." There'll be an uproar, maybe even a petition. Public hearings will be held, Metro will say they listened and, in the end, Metro will sink to a lower level in the transit death spiral and we'll all shrug.

Doors closing. Ding dong.

Other items:
Examiner's take


Michael said...

So what's your solution?

Unsuck DC Metro said...

At this point, perhaps that most American of solutions, a Metro Czar!

Michael said...

Seriously, in this post you've rejected service cuts, fare increases and jurisdictional funding as solutions.

Uproar and public hearings are a necessary part of the process. Metro can't cut service or raise fares without a hearing, they need to advertise more than they need so they have flexibility in what to change.

Since Metro doesn't have an operating reserve, they always need to budget conservatively, which means their deficit projections typically turn out to be worst case.

If Metro did have an operating reserve, the unions would argue that Metro's financial position is good enough to support a larger pay raise.

Metro must continuously plead poverty or else the unions will be able to argue that it has the money to raise pay more.

Look at the lawsuit Metro has filed against the arbitration panel. Their claim is essentially that Metro is too poor to pay the raises awarded. Would Metro be able to claim that if they were able to balance the budget easily every year? No.

Anonymous said...

There is no solution.
Metro is terminal.
It has x years to live.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

Think you've misinterpreted the post, Michael. Service cuts, fare hikes and raiding other piles of money are the only "solutions" left after decades of mismanagement and the avoidance of tough decisions. Perhaps some of the service that's out there should have never been put in place but Metro's not set up to say no.

These measures are unpalatable, but it's hard to see another out in the short term.

The post does reject the yearly psychological warfare Metro wages on already stressed out riders. It does no one any good.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how you can think that "mismanagement" and an "avoidance of tough decisions" are the only reasons that Metro is in the hole.

What are those tough decisions that have been avoided? I agree that salaries should not be increased but the reality is that a huge part of the increase in labor costs has been health care costs - and that's not because Metro is handing employees better and better gold-plated health care plans, it's because health care costs overall are skyrocketing.

So what is your solution? I'd be interested to know what service you think never should have been offered in the first place.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

The public wants the service, they just don't want to pay for it unless it's sold to them as a crisis fare hike. Try calling it taxes and see what kind of support it would have.
Metro is run by politicians who want to be seen as providing more service to their constituents. The rub is paying for the increased service. Metro has been stretched year after year by this kind of dynamic.

Anonymous said...

Pulease people. Most of this mess is Metro's lack of management and budgetary skills with a union-backed employee structure who have no reason to care about doing a good job, thus, choosing to do as minimal a job possible. I think the originating post has some valid points. Before everyone starts whining for the missing answers to the above, try posting your solutions. Bet you come up short like the rest of us suffering souls. (Remember- they hired an expensive communications consultant who does not use cell or email. Progress?)

Anonymous said...

Unions can be brought to the table. See DC teachers union. Why that hasn't happened at Metro is anyone's guess.

Anonymous said...

One of things they can do is increase fare for sporting events and specials events.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:59: This Union will not come to the table. The leaders are short sighted and more interested in spending massive amounts of money taking Management to abitration after arbitration. Members are only interested in short term gain. Union dues have gone up exponentially due to the cost of arbitration. They will not settle anything.

Attending a union meeting is surreal. The leaders have no control. Roberts Rules of Order? I don't think they even know what they are!

Anonymous said...

Fire half the worthless Metro employees, and cut the wages of the remaining ones.

Budget crisis solved.

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