Please read and sign our Business Leader Letter to the WMATA Board!
Dear CEO Wiedefeld and Members of the WMATA Board of Directors:
We, the undersigned D.C., Maryland, and Virginia business leaders, are joining the Save Our System Campaign and urge you to adopt a FY 2019 budget that allows for free transfers between bus and rail and extended evening and weekend service hours while reversing last year’s devastating service cuts and fare hikes.
We also urge the jurisdictional officials by whom you are appointed to act boldly, each taking responsibility to create their own dedicated funding so that you have the support needed to operate a well-maintained and expanding public transit system.
The Save Our System Campaign is a growing effort already supported by more than forty community, environmental, and labor organizations. It demands that the transit system be fixed, making rider and worker safety a real priority. It demands that the transit system be fully-funded and that this funding be equitable, placing the highest burden on those most able to pay and most likely to profit from Metro services, rather than on small businesses, our employees, or our everyday customers, including Metro workers. It demands that the transit system be fair, providing service affordably and expanding it so those who need it most have access.
LET’S CHANGE THE CONVERSATION TO WHAT WE AS RIDERS AND BUSINESS LEADERS NEED AND HOW WMATA CAN FUND IT EQUITABLY.
In an era of unprecedented economic growth in the D.C. region, it is unacceptable for our local businesses to be forced into a position where we must choose between laying off employees, reducing our offerings, or closing our doors simply because our transit infrastructure is not properly maintained or funded. Unfortunately, the budgeting decisions made by WMATA this past June are doing just that.
We can already feel the distressing results. Fares increased on both bus and rail, forcing our customers to decrease the budgets they have for purchasing non-transportation goods and services. Our employees likewise are rethinking whether they can afford the ride to work or need to look for jobs elsewhere. Thirty-three bus routes have been eliminated or reduced, along with the MetroAccess services built around them. That means customers and employees who might have afforded the fare increase do not even have a bus or van to ride to work or to enjoy a night out.
Twenty-five percent of rail service was cut during rush hour, and late night rail service has been wiped out for the next two years. That devastates any hopes that businesses who endured through SafeTrack can rebuild their revenues in the near future.
The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington reported a 20% decrease in sales among its member businesses before the latest round of cuts took place. In a region already plagued with one of the worst average commute times in the nation, food service staff who live inside the Beltway are seeing commutes to their D.C. jobs extend past ninety minutes, forcing many to consider buying cars. That will only make congestion and parking worse.
Hotel general managers say Metro’s hours are now making it difficult for staff to arrive in time for their shifts. The same goes for entertainment venues, movie theaters, and the countless privately-operated tourist destinations in the region. As one startup co-founder said, “You can’t be a world class city if you can’t offer late night service.”
The impact isn’t limited to one industry. From independent salons, barbershops, hardware stores and clothing retailers to local banks, environmental companies and medical service groups, we all know that bad public transit is bad for business. We know, because many of us were here to see the economic boom that transit expansion and growth delivered in previous years.
When a metro area of any size invests in even modest transit service expansion, it produces an average economic benefit of $45 million per year! In large metropolitan areas like the DMV, that number can climb as high as $1.8 billion. For customers and employees like ours, a mere 10% increase in service produces a wage increase on average of $54-$194 per worker per year in the urban core. In fact, every dollar spent on public transportation generates at least $4 in economic returns.
The struggle to balance a budget, provide high quality service, and compensate your workforce well is one we as business owners and managers know well. We sympathize with it. But WMATA is not your average business, and D.C. is not your average city. Holding riders, businesses, and no less than the nation’s capital hostage to the demands of one jurisdiction, or engaging in financial brinksmanship to yield partisan gains, is unnecessary. It is beneath us.
We need your leadership to save our transit system. We call on you to start with three steps:
Each jurisdiction must create a method of equitable dedicated funding that does not further devastate middle- and low-income families.
WMATA management staff must focus on bringing our system to a state of good repair so it is safe for every single person that works in and rides on the system.
The WMATA Board must support a budget that allows for free transfers, restores lost service, and expands bus, rail, and paratransit services to those who need them most.
As employers and community members, we know that good transit is good for business and good for our communities. We ask that WMATA, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia leaders take action now, before it is too late to save our system.
The Undersigned Business Leaders