Old news: Early last summer gas prices rose drastically pushing people toward buses and Metro. Gas prices fell and some went back to driving while others made a mode switch and stayed with transit.
New News: Surprise! Recession! The economic recession that is irritating the U.S. right now is affecting transportation agencies and the average traveler, just pick up a paper and read about it on any given day. For example, yesterday morning in the Express there was an article titled “Recession takes to the Tolls” where author David Sharp details how toll roads from California to Maine are increasing tolls due to a drop in traveler numbers and doing so a year or more earlier than expected. (Counter intuitive though isn’t it? Increasing the price of something is not going to encourage already economically strapped people to get in their cars and drive on toll roads. But I digress...). No word was mentioned about Washington D.C. area toll roads but with roads in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York already making plans to increase, Virginia and Maryland may not be too far behind. This could push even more people to transit and maybe even a few that will keep it as their main transportation mode.
Other transit issues include WMATA’s statement that they will need a portion, $5.28 million to be exact, of the congressional money Washington D.C. is receiving to cover Inauguration expenses. The request is due to the extensive service and personnel increase during that week. The agency is also talking about cutting service due to budget shortfalls of $150 million, outside of the Inauguration issue, as well as personnel cutbacks at the administrative level (Washingtonpost.com, “5.28 Million Asked for Inaugural Transit”).
What does this mean for the rest of us? - Even more friends in closer proximities on Metro and local buses.
I do not intend to be Debbie Downer but just an information source for the issues affecting area transit agencies and above all to remind people when getting around that everyone is dealing with the same situation so it is not worth anyone’s time or energy to be rude to fellow travelers/commuters. Give yourself a little extra time, bring a little book, and be a little patient! Although there are some small pitfalls, we continue to have one of the best transit systems in the world and everyone is affected by the downturn in the economy.
- Cheryl O'Connor works for Arlington Transportation Partners in Arlington County Commuter Services in the Residential and Visitors' Services outreach programs. firstname.lastname@example.org.