Metro is facing the possibility of layoffs, a hiring freeze, and substantial service cuts due to a projected $750 million budget gap. The impacts are expected to take effect on July 1, but Metro may need to issue notices to employees about potential layoffs and staff reductions during the winter. Factors such as the coronavirus pandemic, record inflation, and a significant decline in ridership have all contributed to Metro’s financial struggles. In addition, the transit agency claims that millions of dollars in federal credits that were given to local jurisdictions during the pandemic have not been returned.
Without increased funding from local jurisdictions, Metro leaders believe tough choices will have to be made. However, local laws would likely need to be changed for Metro to receive more funding above its regular subsidies. Metro is set to hear an initial briefing on the budget challenges during a board meeting, and the situation seems dire. To close the deficit, Metro would need to reduce service by 67 percent, which could lead to shorter trains, increased wait times, and cuts to bus lines. These extreme cuts could hinder the ridership rebound that Metro has been experiencing and require significant reductions in maintenance, police, and customer service functions.
Metro officials are sounding the alarm now in hopes of finding a compromise. They remain optimistic that the budget gap can be resolved. However, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments emphasizes the importance of finding a long-term, sustainable funding solution to prevent a fiscal crisis for the transit system.