Md. Congressmen unveil Metro legislation

NEW CARROLLTON, MD. -- Two Maryland Congressmen announced legislation on Tuesday they said would help address some of the issues facing Metro.

"Mediocre, substandard service, and higher and higher fares cannot be the new normal," said Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), who drafted the legislation and unveiled it outside the New Carrollton Metro Station.

Brown said the legislation would create two pilot programs. One would allow free transfers between certain bus and rail stations. The second would offer a $2.50 flat fare for trips from one station each in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

"You don’t have to bring your calculator and a slide rule to figure out how much it’s going to cost you to get downtown and back. You know it’s going to be $2.50," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

The bill would also create two task forces to address bus and rail safety, require the Metro Inspector General to review the MetroAccess program that is currently outsourced and compare it with similar programs across the country (and bring the service back in-house if it ranks in the lower 50% when compared), and allow Metro to use federal grant money currently earmarked for capital improvement projects to be used to for operating costs under the condition that Metro get its dedicated funding from state and local government for operating costs increased from the current 46% to 50%.

When asked how much the bill would cost and how to pay for, Brown did not give any numbers but said that it will attract more riders to the system.

"With the flat fare, with the free transfer. You bring more people into the system, you’re going to increase revenue to the system and that’s certainly going to offset the costs that the system is currently facing and unable to meet," added Brown.

Metro Board Chair Jacks Evans said he supports the ideas to increase ridership, but added that, for example, the flat fare would not pay for itself and would cost $200-million.

"So get Raskin and get Brown and get the rest of these people in this Metropolitan region together and get me more money. You get me more money and we’ll have a flat fare," said Evans. "Get me more money, I can fix the system. But don’t give me lame brained ideas. It’s not that we haven’t thought of these things already, we have."