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WMATA, VRE generate $600 million annually for Virginia, report says

Riders wait at WMATA's Wiehle-Reston East Station on the Silver Line.
Photo – Northern Virginia Transportation Commission


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) rail system and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) provide more than $600 million each year to Virginia's general fund, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) announced yesterday.

The figure comes from a new report that evaluated the economic value of the two rail systems.

The report determined that VRE and WMATA's rail system support an additional 85,000 households and 130,500 jobs in northern Virginia; those households and jobs then generate more than $600 million each year in sales and income tax revenue that flows to Virginia's general fund.

That amount represents a little more than 3 percent of general fund revenue and covers Virginia's annual general-fund expenditures on state police and state colleges and universities, according to an NVTC press release.

"This study makes clear that the economic benefits associated with rail transit accrue to the entire state, not just northern Virginia," said Jeffrey McKay, NVTC’s chairman. "The analysis is certain to inform our discussions about finding dedicated and sustainable sources of funding for these two vital rail systems."

To quantify the value that WMATA's rail system and VRE bring to Virginia, NVTC took the current traffic and development in the region, removed the two agency's rail services from the picture, then moved development out of northern Virginia to Maryland or Washington, D.C., until traffic models showed a return to current levels of rush-hour congestion.

Based on the number of jobs and homes moved across the Potomac River, NVTC then estimated how much less Virginia would take in from income taxes and the portion of sales tax that goes directly to the state's general fund.

What's more, the results of the first runs of the transportation model — which removed transit rail in northern Virginia and held to existing land-use totals — demonstrated the importance of rail in the region, NVTC officials said.

"With the added congestion, commuters could not travel as far in the same amount of time. Their trip length decreased by about 5 percent, which is significant," they added.

Meanwhile, NVTC on Thursday will consider a resolution endorsing a new WMATA governance structure. In particular, the resolution calls for WMATA's board to include 12 members, with three members representing each jurisdiction and the federal government.

The resolution also asks WMATA to reduce the number of its committees and committee meetings. In addition, all board members would receive equal financial compensation, paid for by WMATA.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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