Testimony: WMATA Board

My name is Stewart Schwartz, and I am the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Our mission is to advocate for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, D.C. region to grow and provide opportunities for all.

First, I wish to commend the WMATA team on the strategic transformation plan, the data you are collecting and sharing, and the progress to date. We do hope that the bus network redesign and other bus transformation measures can be expedited.

Second, our team promoted and attended three of the four WMATA budget hearings and were impressed by the turnout of riders representing all walks of life, who are concerned by proposed service cuts and fare increases – even the more limited ones referenced in the updated draft budget. We heard concerns about service cuts from people with disabilities, lower income residents, and the increasing number of residents living sustainable, car-free lives.

So, while we very much appreciate the proposed commitment of $480 million in additional funding by the jurisdictions and the temporary lifting of the artificially constraining 3% cost cap, it has been our hope that the jurisdictions would do more and fully close the gap to avoid the service impacts discussed at the hearings.

We note that our region has committed to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, to locate 75% of jobs and housing at high-capacity transit stations, to make 75% of new housing affordable, and to address regional inequities including the east-west economic divide. We cannot achieve these goals unless we fully fund Metro for its frequent, reliable, safe, and affordable service. Metro is the backbone, the framework, for a more sustainable and equitable region, and should be our top transportation priority.

We urge the region to reach a Memorandum of Agreement by the end of this calendar year on a long-term, dedicated funding solution, and any proposed improvements to WMATA reporting and oversight. We request that key stakeholders have a seat at the table – This would include the Rider’s Advisory Council, non-profit advocacy organizations, the business community, and the unions sharing input with elected officials and the WMATA board.

Finally, we believe that General Manager Clarke has demonstrated exceptional regional leadership and will be awarding the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Livable Community Leadership Award to him on May 29th at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in the heart of Downtown DC.

As has been the case with our past awards, this award by implication also serves as recognition for the hard work of this board and the entire WMATA workforce.

Thank you.