To the editor: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA/Metro) is facing a $750 million annual operating budget shortfall in fiscal 2025, which starts July 1, 2024 – just 10 months away. If our state and local governments in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia don’t step up to address the ongoing funding need, our region’s transit would suffer catastrophic cuts.
At the same time, we’ve seen a lot of attention to potential public subsidies for a new football stadium for the Washington Commanders. So, the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) compared the cost of closing the WMATA budget gap to recent Maryland and Virginia stadium-subsidy proposals.
CSG’s analysis shows that the cost per Metro rider of closing the system’s forecast “fiscal cliff” operating deficit is less than one-tenth of last year’s proposed state subsidy packages per stadium fan over 30 years. Moreover, funding ALL state and local Metro subsidies is still a better deal than proposed Commanders subsidies.
This simple math shows that there should be as much enthusiasm – if not more – in Richmond, Annapolis and D.C. for maintaining and enhancing our critical Metro system as there is for subsidizing an already lucrative private sports franchise. Sports fans, tourists, workers, families, businesses and our regional and state economy all depend on frequent and reliable Metro service. Saving Metro and our region’s economy is a relative bargain for the benefits they bring.
For example, a recent Northern Virginia Transportation Commission study showed the benefits of WMATA and other Northern Virginia transit services for Virginia: generating $1.5 billion annually in personal income and sales taxes, and 5 percent of the general-fund revenues. Overall, every $1 Virginia invested in our region’s transit generates $1.60 in revenues for the state. The benefits for Maryland are likely similar, and for D.C. even greater.
When we consider that just 3 percent of the region’s land is within a half-mile of a Metro station, yet that land provides 30 percent of its property value and 40 percent of jobs, the priority for our elected officials should be obvious.
CSG urges Govs. Youngkin and Moore, Mayor Bowser and all local and state legislators to make Metro funding their top transportation priority.
Our full analysis is available at: https://smartergrowth.net/resources/fact-sheets/fact-sheet-saving-metro-vs-subsidizing-the-commanders/.
Stewart Schwartz, executive director, Bill Pugh, senior policy fellow, Coalition for Smarter Growth.