CSG in the News: How Washington region leaders can score a transit touchdown for the ages (Hint: it’s not funding a stadium)

We haven’t heard proposals from our elected officials yet on how they will close the Metro funding gap, but we have heard a lot from them about the Commanders. Which public investment should our leaders prioritize?

The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) crunched the numbers and found that saving the Metro system (rail, bus, and paratransit) would cost less than one-tenth per user compared to the public subsidies proposed for a new Commanders stadium.

CSG in the News: Letter: Use resources to upgrade transit, not subsidize team owners

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 in the News: News roundup: A pitch to save Metro

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is urging leaders from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia to invest in D.C.-area transit as Metro faces a possible $750 million operating budget shortfall by July 1, which is the beginning of the agency’s next fiscal year.

“Our analysis shows that there should be as much and certainly more enthusiasm in Richmond, Annapolis and D.C. for maintaining and enhancing our critical Metro system as there is for subsidizing an already lucrative professional sports franchise,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the coalition, in a statement. “Sports fans, tourists, workers, families, businesses and our regional and state economy all depend on frequent and reliable Metro service.”

FACT SHEET: Saving Metro vs. Subsidizing the Commanders

WMATA (Metro) is facing a $750 million annual operating budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25), starting July 1, 2024, just 10 months away. If our state and local governments in Maryland, Virginia and DC don’t step up to address the ongoing funding need, our region’s mass transit would suffer from catastrophic cuts.
At the same time, we’ve seen a lot of press attention to potential public subsidies for a new football stadium for the Washington Commanders. So, the Coalition for Smarter Growth compared the cost of closing the WMATA budget gap to recent Maryland and Virginia stadium subsidy proposals.

MetroNow Coalition re: WMATA Service and Fare Opportunities

MetroNow Coalition re: WMATA Service and Fare Opportunities

The MetroNow Coalition is made up of regional leaders who believe that transit is essential to the economic health and vitality of our region. WMATA, especially our Metrobus and Metrorail operators, have kept this region moving and our economy alive throughout the pandemic.

On Thursday, June 10, the WMATA Board will have an opportunity to define the role WMATA, and transit writ-large, will play in the regional economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. We area asking WMATA Board members to consider a more targeted list of two principles and specific actions around service and fare opportunities, outline below.

ACTION: Ensure transit survives the pandemic!

Transit ridership and revenue have plummeted due to people sheltering at home during the ongoing public health crisis. At the same time, transit has continued to serve our essential workers. Transit is also essential to the restoration of economic activity and to fighting the next big challenge, climate change. 

There are two actions Congress can take — one will save transit right now and the second will ensure we build a more sustainable world by putting transit first in the next 6-year federal transportation bill.

  Email your Senators and Representatives today to support federal transit funding!

First, transit agencies nationally need $32 billion in emergency operating funds to cover the collapse in fare revenue, maintain service, prevent service disruption, and provide health safety. The current funding provided by the CARES Act will only keep many transit agencies running until September.

Second, last week the House approved the INVEST Act (6-year reauthorization) — transformative legislation which emphasizes access, equity, and climate when considering transportation projects, all of which relate to smarter growth. The bill prioritizes repair and maintenance over building new roads, addresses safety for vulnerable road users, and most importantly, increases funding for transit and passenger rail. This is a refreshingly progressive approach to transportation policy, so take action today!

Email your Senators and Representatives today to call for $32 billion in transit relief and for Senate support for the INVEST Act.

Public transit can survive and even thrive with these crucial pieces of legislation. For more information on these pieces of legislation, visit our website. Make your voice heard and contact your Congressional representatives today!

RELEASE: Coalition for Smarter Growth Responds to Failure of Regional Leaders to Address WMATA’s Ridership Challenges

Press Statement
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2018

Stewart Schwartz, 703-599-6437 (c)
Aimee Custis, 202-431-7185 (c)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sun., Sept. 30, 2018, the Washington Post ran a story detailing the failure of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority board members to commit to increasing Metrorail service.

In Sunday’s Post story, the elected and appointed officials charged with the stewardship of our region’s rail and bus system refused to say that they would unite as a body to run more trains, more often, in order to increase ridership. Such a move would follow the demands of riders, the recommendations of consultants, and well-known industry best practices.

National Transit Database data show that Metrorail ridership is down about 25 percent from a decade ago. Five of the past 12 months have set new record lows.

“We know this is primarily due to unreliable service and unreasonable wait times for trains,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Schwartz continues, “These long wait times, especially during nights and weekends, have made other modes of transportation, like biking and ride-hailing, more attractive and more realistic to use than Metrorail.”

Schwartz says, “WMATA’s own consultants, hired to study declining ridership, have made clear to WMATA what has been intuitive to its customers for years: while there is increased competition from ridesharing services, low gas prices, and telecommuting, the primary cause of Metro’s ridership slide is reduced frequency, and especially reduced off-peak frequency on evenings and weekends.”

In his comments to the Post, board member Christian Dorsey did identify the need for “more service generally,” and “less disruption in service through closings and maintenance activities,” including during off-peak hours. But advocates say that taken in total, the WMATA board’s comments to the Post show Metro’s board pursuing goals that do not align with the realities of how transit works for the people who use it. As has been shown time and again, frequent, reliable service is the most important factor in attracting and retaining people who ride transit.

Moreover, elected officials in local and state jurisdictions where WMATA operates have not committed to providing the necessary operating funding to make frequent, reliable service possible.

While the Post reported solely on Metrorail, urgent attention must also be paid to Metrobus and other area bus services. A lack of political will to install and enforce dedicated bus lanes or signals — so buses can avoid the congestion of personal cars and move more people — means that bus performance is slowing alongside Metrorail.

“We support frequent, reliable public transit that connects the region. We stand fully behind WMATA when it takes steps to realize that reality,” says Schwartz. “We have worked closely with the agency as it has taken steps toward reform, fought for dedicated bus lanes, and campaigned successfully for its first-ever dedicated capital funding as part of the MetroNow coalition. We fought hard for this with the understanding that reliable financial resources for capital spending would enable WMATA, and its board, to focus on not just restoring, but improving, Metrorail service.

“WMATA’s stewards and elected officials representing the jurisdictions it serves are falling short in protecting the freedom and accessibility that transit service is central to providing to area residents. Frequent and reliable service increases transit ridership. It provides freedom and greater access to jobs and services. We need the board and regional elected officials to commit emphatically to improving service and ridership.”


About the Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at smartergrowth.net.

RELEASE: Business and nonprofit organizations reject stopgap approach to funding Metro

November 9, 2017

Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth
(703) 599-6437

TJ Ducklo, Greater Washington Partnership

WASHINGTON, DC — In response to reporting today about a stopgap spending measure for the Metrorail system, a diverse group of regional stakeholders representing Metro riders, businesses, nonprofits and advocates are calling for more urgent action to transform Metro—immediately.

A one-year funding patch for Metro repairs is short-sighted and does not prioritize the system or a long-term solution. Taking action in the legislative sessions starting in January 2018 is critical. We cannot delay until 2019 when the needs today are so urgent. Failure to address Metro’s funding and governance crisis immediately is not an option.

A temporary stopgap measure is simply not sufficient to support the types of changes necessary to bring Metro—and the regional economy as a whole—into the future effectively. Voters are expecting our elected leaders to stand up and lead. In a recent survey, 70 percent of registered voters from across the region said they would support an increase in public funding to improve the Metrorail system.

Funding alone is not enough to transform Metro into the transit system we need. Comprehensive reform across funding, governance and operations will bring about the greatest benefit to the region and the people who depend on Metro every day. A safe and reliable public transit system will strengthen the region’s economic growth, help make the area more environmentally friendly, and improve the quality of life for our growing population.

We are continuing to work with our elected leaders to make sure Metro continues to power our region’s success for the long term.


Federal City Council

Greater Washington Board of Trade

2030 Group

Greater Washington Partnership

Coalition for Smarter Growth

Greater Greater Washington

Maryland Center on Economic Policy

Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance

Washington Area Bicyclist Association

Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce

Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers

Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance

DC Sustainable Transportation

The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce