The TPB’s February 15 meeting ran a half-hour over schedule as the board crafted a scope for the future work of its Long-Range Plan Task Force. The board also discussed the regional impacts of Metro’s proposed FY 2018 operating budget.
Actions taken by the TPB at its February 15 meeting
- Amended WMATA’s portion of the FY2017-2022 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The amendment added approximately $415 million in spending on several big-ticket projects through 2022, including accelerated delivery of 7000-series railcars. The projects had previously been added to the TIP and approved by the TPB or are not expected to affect regional air quality. Learn more about WMATA’s TIP Amendment.
- Amended the TPB bylaws to clarify eligibility requirements for alternate members. The change stipulates that alternate members who are not elected officials or employees of the jurisdiction they represent must be officially appointed via resolution by the jurisdiction’s governing body. Read the text of the bylaws change.
The board crafted a scope for the next phase of work of its Long-Range Plan Task Force
A dozen or so board members weighed in during an hour-long discussion about the future of the TPB’s Long-Range Plan Task Force. The Task Force is working to develop a regional long-range transportation plan that identifies transportation priorities above and beyond what is included in the region’s financially constrained long-range plan.
TPB Chairman Bridget Donnell Newton, along with the board’s two vice-chairmen, prepared a draft scope for discussion at the February 15 meeting. The draft scope identified six main charges for the Task Force:
- Convene Phase II of the Long-Range Plan Task Force
- Build on the Task Force’s Phase I report and draw directly from existing governing TPB and COG policy documents
- Consider lessons learned from various alternative scenario exercises conducted by TPB and WMATA staff
- Develop performance metrics to achieve identified projects, policies, and programs
- Consider best practices that have been developed by other MPOs
- Acquire and utilize integrated regional land use and transportation model to test alternative program, policy, land use and project scenarios
- Identify by June 2017 a list of 6-10 projects, policies, or programs that make significantly better progress towards achieving regional goals
- Complete work by November 17, 2017, in order to inform upcoming comprehensive CLRP update
By the end of its hour-long discussion, the board had discussed and approved four main changes to the officers’ draft:
- Including the development of measurable goals in addition to performance measures;
- Providing more flexibility in the total number of projects, policies, or programs to identify (by adding the word “approximately”);
- Charging the task force with exploring possible sources of funding and financing for the projects, policies, or programs identified in the plan; and
- Changing the deadline for completion of the work to December 31, 2017
The board will review and consider the amended resolution for approval at its March meeting. The Long-Range Plan Task Force is then scheduled to meet immediately following the March TPB meeting.
Metro officials briefed the board on the transit agency’s FY 2018 operating budget
Metro’s head of government relations, Regina Sullivan, briefed board members on the transit agency’s proposed $1.8 billion operating budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The TPB requested the briefing so that it could consider the long-term regional impacts of near-term budgeting decisions.
A key takeaway of Sullivan’s presentation was that Metro is seeking to close a $290 million gap between anticipated revenues and spending for the coming fiscal year. The agency has said that the gap is larger than in recent years due to growing expenses to operate and maintain the system and declining ridership.
Sullivan reported that the agency is looking to a variety of sources to close the gap—a “shared sacrifice” approach that includes raising fares and cutting service for both rail and bus, cutting staff, and taking advantage of new federal grants.
The proposal also looks to the region’s state and local jurisdictions for help, asking for about $130 million more in annual operating subsidies compared to last fiscal year. That’s an increase of about 15%.
— TPB (@NatCapRegTPB) February 15, 2017
A few board members zeroed in on the need to ensure Metro’s long-term health even if it means swallowing painful service cuts and fare hikes in the short-term.
“It’s important to think about next year’s budget, but I want to bring us back to thinking about the long-term future of the region,” said Sam Zimbabwe, of the District Department of Transportation. “Some of the trends we’re seeing, like declining ridership, should concern us all. We need to take steps to stop the erosion of ridership. We also need to have a financially sound system in the long-term,” he said.
Prince George’s County’s Danielle Glaros highlighted the impact that service cuts have on attracting development to areas near Metro stations in the county.
“At the exact same time we’re starting to finally see transit-oriented development start around some of our key stations,” Glaros said, “we’re also having a discussion about cutting service. And that poses fundamental challenges for the success of those TOD projects.”
Glaros went on to say: “I think this is a really big and important discussion about how we grow and how we get people back on Metro. I think it’s absolutely critical that we keep coming back to this topic.”
Board members raised a number of other issues during the discussion, including differences in fare increases for rail versus bus and the need to select bus routes for elimination that will minimize impacts on low-income communities.
The official public comment period on Metro’s budget closed in early February, so the board asked for future briefings to occur earlier in the review process.
Other items of note:
- During public comment, the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Stewart Schwartz and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance’s Bob Chase both weighed in on strategies and measures the TPB should consider when developing its new long-range transportation plan. ULI Washington’s Deborah Kerson Bilek invited applications for ULI’s Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) program. Listen to the comments.
- Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Jeremy Martin gave his first report as 2017 chairman. Martin highlighted the committee’s priorities for the coming year, which included ensuring that public participation is part of the TPB’s work to develop a new long-range transportation plan. Listen to Martin’s report.
- Draft work plans and budgets for the TPB and its Commuter Connections program for FY 2018 were provided to board members. The board will be asked to approve both programs at its March meeting. Learn more about the draft FY18 Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) and Commuter Connections Work Program (CCWP).
- Notice was given by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) that it will seek an amendment to the region’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) at the TPB’s March meeting. Read the text of the notice.
- The board recognized the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) with a series of trivia questions about the agency’s formation:
— TPB (@NatCapRegTPB) February 15, 2017
This post has been updated. The highlights of the board discussion regarding Metro’s budget proposal were not ultimately transmitted to the Metro board as previously planned.