Glover Park Bus on Chopping Block (Again)
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has circulated its preliminary fiscal year 2022 budget (fiscal year begins 7/1/2021) and they have proposed a significant cut to Glover Park’s D2 Metrobus service once again (see article on last year’s attempt at cuts). The proposed budget eliminates the D2 route and replaces it with an N6 route, which skirts the neighborhood perimeter, from 37th Street, to Tunlaw Road, to New Mexico Avenue, and further on to loops around Sibley Hospital as well as near McLean Gardens in Cleveland Park, then back along the same route to Dupont Circle. Worst case, this new route would require a 6-8 block walk from the far southwest corner of the neighborhood to the new stops plus longer wait times and uncertainty. Yet, the recently approved $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will pump a massive amount of air into WMATA’s flat tires, as they expect to receive around $1.4 billion to prop up their budget and avoid the proposed second half of fiscal year 2022 service cuts.
WMATA is mandated to have an annual balanced budget (what a novel idea) and has faced massive shortfalls as a result of the pandemic which has resulted in the proposal of draconian cuts to service throughout the region. Typically, WMATA operates at an annual loss, propped up by federal government and other subsidies, yet recent operating shortfalls far exceed the balance of the regular subsidies. Metrobus operating revenue for fiscal year 2021 (ending June) is expected to drop to one-tenth (10%) of the 2019 level, and only bounce back to about 45% of the 2019 level for the fiscal year 2022 recovery (which might even be wishful thinking). WMATA was facing a $500 million budget shortfall on its $2 billion budget for fiscal year 2022 without additional support. Coronavirus relief through the CARES Act in March 2020 (fully exhausted by 6/30/2021) and again on December 27th 2020 helped avert disaster, yet even that $1.1 billion over a couple of years does not balance the budget for 2022, thus the proposal to cut Metrobus service by about 50% in total. The recent approval of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan might give WMATA enough to be able to scale back or possibly reverse all of its planned service cuts and revisions.
The additional $1.4 billion in subsidies now could change the proposed cuts to Glover Park’s D2 planned to start 1/1/2022. WMATA has completed its March public hearing process on the proposed budget, and will review the feedback combined with the expected additional federal funding and issue a revised budget in April. Stay tuned. Though, WMATA is not forecasting a return to average ridership any time soon, which could mean an endless annual process of seeking additional federal relief or severe cuts put forth each year. See the proposed N6 route below. Stop intervals are planned to be 25 minutes during peak times and 35 minutes during off-peak times (early morning, late evening and weekends). The fact that the N6 route is more than double the length of the current D2 route between Glover Park and Dupont Circle means it could have an impact on the timeliness of those intervals as DC traffic grinds us to a snail's pace again. If only…