Ridership for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is declining.
A host of culprits are being blamed: the popularity of Uber and Lyft, that DC area residents are the sorts of folks who love bicycles, and working from home.
These are excuses, not believable reasons.
How about this as a reason–Metro has become increasingly unreliable.
It is now risky to depend on Metro to get you places on time.
Subway lines are often out of service and, as for bus schecules, forget about it.
Instead of arriving on time, buses often arrive late and in herds–several buses together, indicating that a whole bunch of drivers could not keep to their schedules.
"The biggest driver of Metro's ridership decline is Metro itself," says John Kartch, vice president at Americans for Tax Reform. "People have places to go and things to do, and they do not see Metro as reliable, safe, convenient, or even affordable in some cases. People need to get to work on time, and there are only so many broken escalators, long delays, and hot cars they can take before looking elsewhere."
As a non-driver dependent on public transportation, I can only second this.
None of this is Uber's fault:
Those recent closures—along with reduced nighttime and weekend service to allow more maintenance work to be done—have no doubt contributed to Metro's ridership decline. But like the decline itself, they are symptoms of larger problems. Poor planning and years of deferring maintenance on the subway system have forced the WMATA to take actions that further alienate riders and boost alternative means of commuting.
However you want to slice it, those problems are rooted in decisions that WMATA officials made. Does that justify taxing ridesharing services to bail out the Metro?
"WMATA brass and the DC Council think that by virtue of its very existence, Metro is entitled to a certain ridership number," says Kartch. "And that type of thinking leads to the steep ridesharing tax hike imposed by the Council. Instead of improving service, they raise taxes."
The City Council approved an increase of $178 million in new annual funding for WMATA.
Unfairly, they decided raise taxes on ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft by 500 percent to get the new money for Metro to (this time the word literally is correct) to pour down a hole in the ground.
So, services that provide dependable transportation for the public are being taxed to give more money to an increasingly unreliable form of transportation that the public in growing numbers shuns.
I'd love to see this public service saved, but it is going to require different leadership and a refusal to fund failure, especially by socking it to entities that actually do serve the public.