In honor of Metro’s 40th anniversary, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the Greater Washington Board of Trade recently brought together more than 100 elected officials and business and civic leaders from around the region to talk about the next 40 years of Metro.
The summit, which took place on March 30, focused less on Metro’s current challenges and more on how the region can restore Metro as the world-class system it once was.
The summit began with a panel discussion between elected officials and the transportation heads of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The three states together with local jurisdictions in Northern Virginia cover about 40% of Metro’s annual capital and operating expenses.
The March 30 event also featured presentations by Metro’s board chairman Jack Evans and Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. Evans and Wiedefeld gave attendees an overview of the maintenance, operational, and funding challenges Metro currently faces.
Evans’ remarks about potential long-term shutdowns of entire Metro lines to make time for much-needed maintenance made headlines in the days after the event. But his comments were a necessary prelude to a discussion of the transit system’s future. In that discussion, Robert Puentes, incoming president of the Eno Center for Transportation and formerly a transportation expert at Brookings, talked about how changes in technology, demographics, and travel behavior could impact Metro in coming decades. Then summit attendees shared their thoughts on what they envision Metro’s future to be. Overall, the conversation focused mostly on governance and funding.
COG currently plans to convene a follow-up conversation to focus on what characterizes a world-class transit system. That meeting is tentatively scheduled for June.