New Coalition Aims to Repair DC Metro System’s Funding, Governance Problems

The MetroNow Coalition, made up of leaders of several organizations around the Beltway, says the future of DC's troubled transit system can be secured through board reform and by capitalizing on momentum toward resolving one of its most persistent problems: the lack of a permanent funding source.

As DC’s association workforce knows all too well, the capital region’s transit system has been plagued by maintenance and budget challenges for years. Now a new coalition of local leaders is advocating for some upgrades—not just on the tracks, but also to the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The MetroNow Coalition, which represents interests in the worlds of business, nonprofits, and advocacy, is hoping to secure long-term improvements to the DC Metro system. MetroNow is calling for reform to WMATA’s governance structure and asking that an annual fund of $500 million be created by the District of Columbia and its surrounding states, Virginia and Maryland.

The group has support from a number of local nonprofits and trade groups, including the Federal City Council, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Greater Washington Partnership, the 2030 Group, the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth. A lead spokesman for the coalition, Anthony Williams, is a former DC mayor and the executive director of the Federal City Council.

“With regional collaboration and leadership from Richmond, Annapolis, and the District of Columbia, we can put Metro back on a safe, smart, and sustainable path in 2018,” Williams said in a news release. “Attention to funding, governance, and operations will bring about the greatest benefit to the regional economy and to the people who depend on Metro every day.”

On the governance front, the coalition is calling for a smaller board that focuses on the needs of the WMATA system as a whole rather than the interests of the three separate jurisdictions, each of which currently has veto power. Board members would be required to have relevant experience in transportation.

The coalition, beyond asking for an annual federal commitment of $150 million, is calling for a dedicated $500 million fund that would be set aside for continuous system improvements, “with the District, Maryland, and Virginia each responsible for their fair share, with flexibility to determine their own sources of funding to meet that requirement.”

The coalition arrives as Metro’s funding issue appears to be nearing a breakthrough. Virginia and Maryland are analyzing permanent funding bills for the system, which, if passed, would represent the first time the two states have agreed to dedicated Metro funding, the Washington Post reported this week. The DC Metro system is the only major U.S. transit system that does not have consistent annual funding.

“Coalition leaders believe failure to fully address Metro’s funding and governance crisis is not an option,” MetroNow said in its release. “The coalition’s platform acknowledges the existing strong political will across the region in support of making the substantial changes necessary to sustain the system long term—right now.”

(AndrewSoundarajan/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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