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WMATA schedules public hearings on proposed fare increases, releases parking audit report to Congress

Between March 17 and 29, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) plans to hold nine public hearings in the District of Columbia, northern Virginia and Maryland to receive public input on proposed fiscal-year 2005 fare increases.

WMATA is projecting a $28 million to $36 million FY2005 budget deficit, and a $1.5 billion long-term capital funding shortage. In FY2005, the authority expects to reduce its operating budget $30 million, receive a 4.5 percent increase in state and local government subsidies, and generate additional passenger and non-passenger revenue.

During the public hearings, WMATA officials are seeking comments on a proposed fare and parking rate adjustment, multi-year fare adjustment, method of indexing for future fare adjustments, and modification to advertising practices and revenue. The authority also has proposed increasing parking fees 30 cents, with revenue dedicated to improving access to the system though feeder bus service, additional parking and pedestrian walkways.

Meanwhile, WMATA recently sent an audit report to Congress of parking operations and revenue collection from authority-owned parking lots operated by contractor Penn Parking.

Focusing on suspected shortfalls in parking revenue collection, the report alleges revenue theft, which isn’t helping WMATA’s budget deficit situation — a $30,000 revenue shortage was estimated at four stations during a 48-day period, according to a prepared statement. If the shortage was spread out system-wide, the authority’s annual parking revenue would be reduced between $500,000 and $1 million.

WMATA officials initiated the audit last year after someone left a tip on the authority’s hotline. Since the report was completed last May, WMATA has installed improved counting equipment, increased the number of parking facilities that accept SmarTrip-only payment, reduced the number of cash-only lanes and increased Transit Police surveillance at parking lots.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/1/2004