The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NTVC) is looking to rebuild customer confidence as budget gaps raise concerns over the viability of the metro. 

Reduced ridership throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and reduced fare revenue has accelerated financial challenges to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). A gap between available funds and funds necessary to maintain the functionality of the metro poses a danger to the Metro’s future. 

While federal aid has acted as a temporary solution allowing the metro to continue to function, the funds are expected to run out in 2024 leaving the metro with a growing budget gap. 

The NVTC’s annual report on the Performance and Condition of the metro projects an operating budget gap of $738 million in 2025 which will grow to $924 million in 2029. 

“As federal COVID relief money runs out, Metro faces an ongoing budget gap that must be resolved to ensure the long-term viability of the system,” said NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice. “It’s critical to jump-start a regional discussion about how to pay for Metro, which is vital to the ongoing growth and sustainability of Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.” 

The NVTC hopes to bridge that gap with user fares, however in order to do that they must restore customer confidence and increase ridership. 

In order to rebuild customer confidence the NVTC report highlighted several strategies including returning the 7000-series railcars to service in order to improve the reliability and frequency of rail service, improving the safety and security of customers, and implementing a simple and convenient Metrorail fare structure. 

Throughout the pandemic, riders have been faced with limited service reliability, which was further reduced by the Blue Line derailment in 2021. The NVTC hopes that the Silver Line extension and further increase of reliability and metro options will rebuild customer confidence and ridership. 

The Silver Line extension, which expanded on Nov. 15, opened six new stations in Loudoun and Fairfax counties. However several community members hoped the metro would be expanded even further. 

“Time to start planning to extend the Orange Line as well,” Clifton resident Reza Hassan wrote. While citizens wished the line expanded even further, overall reactions to the expansion were positive. 

“I love it! Commuting for work to DC is so much easier and cheaper too,” wrote Reston resident Kaela Cordova. 

Improving safety is another goal of the NVTC. According to the NVTC, if the WMATA increases security throughout the metro customers will be more likely to ride. 

“Rising crime, perceptions of crime and misconduct in and around our region is spilling onto Metrorail and Metrobus systems, deterring current and potential riders,” detailed the report. “WMATA should continue to enhance its safety and security efforts to engage the community, target enforcement efforts, and increase police visibility on buses and trains and in stations.” 

“Metro should have more police presence on the train,” said Metrorail rider Keshua Hunt. “Riders deserve to feel safe on the train.”

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