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DC train system losing $400k per day during government shutdown

The Hill logo The Hill 1/18/2019 Tal Axelrod
a group of people standing in a room: DC train system losing $400k per day during government shutdown © file photo DC train system losing $400k per day during government shutdown The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) informed Virginia and Maryland's senators that it is losing $400,000 each weekday in fare and revenue during the partial government shutdown.

WMATA ensured the senators that passenger safety remains its top concern, but it may have to make adjustments if ridership continues to fall.

"We will take whatever measures necessary to ensure safe operations. However, if ridership declines continue, in the short term, Metro could consider staffing or service adjustments, such as scaled back use of eight car trains and extra trains to meet rush hour demands. In the longer term, given that Metro does not have a Rainy Day Fund, we could also seek additional funds from our local funding partners," WMATA wrote to the senators.

The letter explained that the shutdown resulted in Metrorail ridership dropping by 16 percent and Metrobus dropping by 8 percent each weekday and is putting future funding in jeopardy.

If the shutdown delays the process of certifying the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) as WMATA's designated State Oversight Agency by an April 15 deadline, "the [Federal Transit Administration] indicates that it would be prohibited by law from issuing a total of $638 million in FY2019 federal transit funding to all transit providers across the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia," WMATA said.

"If the federal shutdown continues for an extended period, Metro will be forced to either turn to its Line of Credit (LOC) to support the Capital program, incurring additional costs, or defer important state-of-good-repair projects, which could undermine our recent reliability gains."

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote to WMATA last week to inquire about how the shutdown, which is now in its 27th day, is impacting its services. The senators slammed President Trump over the shutdown, saying it was harmful to the area's metro system.

"At a time when Metro already is undertaking substantial, disruptive projects to improve safety and reliability, President Trump's shutdown is jeopardizing the health and stability of the entire Metro system. This wasteful, destructive shutdown must come to an end," they said in a statement.

About a quarter of the government has been shut down and 800,000 federal employees have either been furloughed or required to work without pay since Dec. 22 in what has become the longest shutdown in U.S. history. There does not appear to be a resolution in sight, with congressional Democrats and the White House at an impasse over funding for a border wall as part of a spending bill.

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