Major Metro Budget Problems

Just in case you’re off the news until the world is a little less chaotic and news, less grim, I want to share with you Metro’s calamitous budget difficulties.

The combined ridership on Metrorail and Metrobus in September 2020 is down nearly 80% from pre-pandemic levels. The impact on Metro’s budget is significant. Safety precautions put in place to protect the health of employees and customers have added new expenses, while revenue from fare collection has dried up. No Metrobus fares have been collected since March 2020, and Metrorail fares, which typically account for two-thirds of Metro’s total revenue, are extremely low.

The service provided today is only possible thanks to emergency federal funding in the CARES Act, but that money will soon run out. Without additional federal help and facing a nearly $500 million deficit, Metro is proposing severe service cuts, including:

  • 19 stations would close — including Grosvenor-Strathmore
  • Metro would be closed on weekends
  • trains would come every 30 minutes on the weekdays except in busier parts of the District when they would come every 15 minutes
  • bus route service would be slashed by more than half 
  • Metro will close two hours earlier, at 9 p.m

Stay tuned to see what we can do to save this vital transit because cuts this deep could irrevocably harm our area.

WMATA Discussed White Flint Metro Station Development at County Council

Yesterday at the County Council Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee meeting, Metro Real Estate and Station Planning Director Nina Albert presented three concepts for the White Flint station property: urban neighborhood, corporate campus, and entertainment/innovation district. White Flint metro station development is considered to be a #1 priority for WMATA.

Nina Albert said the agency wants to be prepared to move quickly if another “Amazon-style” opportunity comes to Montgomery County. In 2018, White Flint was considered for a second Amazon headquarters site, but the company decided to divide the new location between Arlington, Virginia and New York City.

Albert also noted that the county executive’s office wants White Flint to be a life sciences campus; Maryland is the fourth most-active life sciences area in the country. She said the county will take the lead in establishing the vision for the site and Metro will work on the development side.

Metro property development discussion follows up on the bill passed in October that exempts private developers from property taxes for 15 years if they build high-rise buildings on Metro property. (Friends of White Flint supported this bill.)

Council enacts the More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act (including White Flint and Grosvenor)

This week the Council, by a vote of 7-2, enacted Bill 29-20, called the “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act,” a major new housing initiative for which Friends of White Flint advocated.

Councilmember Hans Riemer, chair of the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, and Councilmember Andrew Friedson, member of the PHED Committee, were the lead sponsors of Bill 29-20. Councilmembers Evan Glass, Nancy Navarro, Council President Sidney Katz, Councilmember Gabe Albornoz, Council Vice President Tom Hucker and Councilmember Craig Rice were cosponsors .Councilmember Will Jawando and Council Vice President Tom Hucker voted against the bill. 

Presently, there are no high-rise developments underway on any Metro station property in Montgomery County, nor have there been for many years. The legislation will respond to this problem by providing a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for a period of 15 years for new high-rise development that includes at least 50 percent rental housing. The PILOT would exempt 100 percent of the property tax that would otherwise be due for a project constructed on property leased from WMATA at a Metro Station in the County. WMATA does not pay property taxes to Montgomery County. The legislation allows a new development on a Metro station property to retain that property tax exemption for 15 years. The developers would continue to pay impact taxes and to pay into the special White Flint Taxing District.

According to Metro, station properties in the County have the capacity to deliver at least 8,600 units of housing, which would provide a significant contribution to the County’s long-term housing shortage. The high-rise buildings also would include between 1,200 to 1,300 Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU). 

“This effort is about turning housing targets into actual housing units, making ridership goals actual transit riders, and transforming outdated parking lots into vibrant communities for actual people,” said Councilmember Andrew Friedson. “It’s about building modern, sustainable, inclusive communities in true smart growth fashion. Few things would be more impactful to meeting our affordable housing, environmental and economic development goals than maximizing transit-oriented development at Metro stations.”

Montgomery County is not producing nearly enough housing to keep up with demand. Since 2010, the County’s population has grown by approximately 8,000 people per year, but the County has only added about 2,700 new housing units per year. 

Please Tell WMATA You Want Them to Fund, Design, and Build a Northern White Flint Metro Station Entrance

A second entrance for the White Flint Metro station is critical so the Pike District can continue its transformation into a walkable, transit-oriented, vibrant community. Montgomery County has officially asked WMATA to pay for this station, which has a price tag of $36 million.

MCDOT has asked all of us to tell WMATA that this station is important to our community. Not only will this new station entrance increase the walkshed and spur economic development, it will also dramatically increase passenger safety, enabling riders to evacuate the station almost twice as quickly in case of emergency.

Will you please take five minutes and help us advocate for the northern Metro entrance at White Flint station? The deadline is 9:00 am, Monday, March 9.

Here’s how:

  1. Visit
  2. Click “read more” on the black box at the top of the page titled “Balancing the Metro Budget”
  3. Click “Provide your feedback online
  4. Choose your preferred language option then select “provide written comments” (unless you want to take their whole survey.)
  5. Cut and paste the text below or write your own text.

I ask WMATA to include design and construction funds in its capital budget for the northern White Flint Metro entrance. The northern Metro entrance will increase the station walkshed, making Metro more accessible for thousands of people, multiple office buildings, and retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues. A northern entrance will also dramatically increase passenger safety, enabling riders to evacuate the station almost twice as quickly in case of emergency. Finally, the northern entrance will improve the value of WMATA’s land holdings at the White Flint station. Thank you.

Excerpt from the County’s letter to WMATA

Metro asks riders for input on proposed modifications to the expansion of the Grosvenor-Strathmore parking garage

Metro is proposing modifications to a planned garage expansion that would impact customer parking at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Station. The options include moving forward with a planned addition, canceling future construction or delaying the decision until an evaluation is completed.

The garage expansion is part of a joint development at Grosvenor-Strathmore that would eliminate a surface parking lot. Construction is underway on Phase 1 to replace approximately 52 percent of the surface parking. The project, approved by the Metro Board of Directors, would replace the remaining spaces during Phase 2 of the garage expansion.

Due to the cost of the Phase 2 addition, the availability of parking at other nearby Metrorail stations, and the expected disruption to the Kiss & Ride and Arts Walk during construction, Metro is considering multiple options:

  • Complete the planned construction of the Phase 2 garage expansion.
  • Cancel the construction of the Phase 2 garage expansion, reducing the number of on-site parking spaces at Grosvenor-Strathmore Station by approximately 194 spaces.
  • Wait to make a decision about completing or canceling the construction of the Phase 2 garage expansion until after the Phase 1 garage expansion is fully operational in late 2020 and a full parking demand evaluation completed.

Metro encourages customers to provide feedback by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, 2020:

Provide your written comments at

Attend an Open House at 6:00 p.m., followed by a Public Hearing at 6:30 p.m. on Monday March 30, 2020, at:
The Mansion at Strathmore
10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD 20852

Slightly higher Metro fares propose and perhaps the return of late-night service

From Curbed

For the first time in several years, Metro is proposing a fare hike and service improvements that would become effective next July. Standard peak fares on Metrorail would rise 10 cents, while distance-based surcharges would be simplified, resulting in maximum peak fares of $7. Weekend rail fares would be converted to a flat $2, which would be a decline for most people.

Metrorail hours and train frequency would also increase under the transit agency’s proposal. Service on Mondays through Thursdays would run until midnight (versus 11:30 p.m. today) and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturday (versus 1 a.m. today). Sunday hours would remain the same, but trains would arrive every 12 minutes (versus every 15 minutes today). Fares on Metrobus would not change for SmarTrip users ($2), but there would be a 25 cents increase for cash fares as well as a 25 cents surcharge for “onboard cash loading.” Transfers between the rail and bus systems would be discounted $2 (versus 50 cents today), saving riders $1.50.

Metro’s board must approve the budget, and its finance committee is scheduled to hear about the proposal from Metro staff this Thursday. Deliberations are slated to start next month and continue until February, including public comment. A full board vote is anticipated in March

Adding Red Line service helps Metro boost ridership


Running more Red Line trains has helped increase ridership, despite Metro warnings to the contrary last year, new data suggest.

Since Metro began sending all Red Line trains past Grosvenor-Strathmore to Shady Grove last December, doubling rush hour service through Rockville, ridership has increased 4% at the stations seeing more trains and shorter waits.

Trains are less crowded and are in fact more likely to arrive on time given fewer issues turning trains around in the middle of the line and more consistent time spent on platforms with riders spread evenly across more trains.

Before, riders might be packed in on a train going to or from Shady Grove, while a train that started or ended at Grosvenor-Strathmore could be basically empty as it passed through Bethesda.

All this comes with little impact on ridership at Grosvenor-Strathmore. Ridership there was relatively unchanged, Metro spokesman Ian Janetta said in an email.

Metro had warned the increased service would not significantly help ridership, and could create problems managing trains at Shady Grove, claims Montgomery County had called “incomplete and mistaken.”

A presentation due to be given to the Metro Board on Thursday acknowledges Montgomery County’s projections were largely correct.

“Red Line stations west of Grosvenor have seen 3% increased ridership, with Twinbrook experiencing ridership increases as high as 8% during the January-June 2019 time frame,” the Metro Board documents said.

Parking usage also increased 4%, with the largest increases at White Flint and Twinbrook.

Had the same drivers gone to Grosvenor-Strathmore to find a seat under the old schedule, it would have meant more traffic on Interstate 270 or Md. 355/Rockville Pike.

No more Grosvenor Turnbacks starting today!

County Executive Elrich, Senator Van Hollen, Metro General Manager Wiedefeld, Montgomery County Director of the Department of Transportation Al Roshdieh, and Friends of White Flint will celebrate the end of red line turnbacks at Grosvenor Station today at 10:30 am at the est side of entrance to Rockville Metro Station entrance.

Friends of White Flint and its resident, business, and property owner members advocated vigorously to end these turnbacks, and we’re thrilled to celebrate this achievement.

Since 1984, the operation of the Metro Red Line during morning and afternoon rush hours has had every other train heading out of Washington, D.C., stop at the Grosvenor Metro Station and turn back to return downtown rather than travel to the terminus at the Shady Grove Station.  The Metro Board of Directors recently agreed to change this scheduling and have all trains go all the way to Shady Grove.  Monday, Dec. 17, will be the first day this new schedule is in operation.


Breaking News: No More Grosvenor Turnback!

Yesterday,  Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld announced that the “Grosvenor Turnback” – the current rush-hour service pattern where every other Red Line train begins and ends at Grosvenor, rather than Shady Grove – would be eliminated on December 17, 2018. Under the future service pattern, all Red Line trains will run to/from Shady Grove, doubling rush-hour service (trains every 4 minutes) for customers at White Flint, Twinbrook, Rockville, and Shady Grove.

This is wonderful news for the Pike District/White Flint area.  After all, it’s hard to have transit-oriented development without frequent, reliable transit. Friends of White Flint is proud that its advocacy efforts — combined with the efforts of local government, residents, and other nonprofit organizations — have led to this important change.

Read more at Bethesda Beat and Channel 9 News.


Yay! No more Grosvenor-Turnbacks!!

The Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) Board took final action today to extend continuous Red Line service to Shady Grove. This service improvement will begin in December 2018.

With the changes approved Thursday by Metro’s board of directors, service to the Shady Grove, Rockville, Twinbrook and White Flint stations will increase to 15 trains per hour. Eliminating the Grosvenor-Turnback will halve the rush hour wait times for riders north of Grosvenor.

“For ten years, Montgomery County has made it a priority to eliminate the Grosvenor turnbacks,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. “I am gratified that the Metrorail board has acted to provide continuous service on all trains for riders to White Flint, Twinbrook, Rockville and Shady Grove. We are grateful to WMATA board members Michael Goldman and Kathy Porter as well as Montgomery County Department of Transportation staff for their hard work in this regard.”

Currently, about half of the trains traveling to White Flint, Twinbrook, Rockville and Shady Grove turn back at Grosvenor.

Read more at Bethesda Beat.