Can Someone Please Explain To Me Why Bringing The Metro Behemoth To Loudoun Is A Good Thing???

By Loudoun Insider

I really don’t get this obsession with bringing the disaster that is the Washington DC metro system into Loudoun County (well, unfortunately I do get it, but let’s stick with the rhetorical flourish for now).  Let’s start with this damning passage from today’s damning Washington Post story:

“”[metro Board member Tom] Downs said he’s concerned the system is seeing a steady decline in rail ridership, noting that this year’s rail ridership from July to October is expected to drop 2 percent while bus ridership is expected to rise 6 percent.

“It is not a sustainable trend,” he said. “What’s driving it? I have no clue.””

HE HAS NO CLUE!!!!!!!!

Ahhh, maybe it’s the constant breakdowns of escalators, late trains, the horrible safety record, rising fares, etc., etc., etc.???  So if DC and inner suburb usage is down, just how is extending it into the exurbs going to help this situation???  It doesn’t at all, except for the ability to try to rope in more jurisdictions to pay for the shortfalls, as explained below.

The title of that article is “Metro fare increase a possibility in 2012″.  Why is that needed? Because they face a deficit of $124 million!  Where would Metro first like to find that money???  Why its member jurisdictions of course, before the actual riders:

“If area jurisdictions that help fund Metro do not make up the difference, Metro would have to look elsewhere for the money.”

So this system that faces continual problems and deficits that it expects its member jurisdictions to help cover wants to add Loudoun to its member jurisdictions?  We the Loudoun taxpayers get to be put on this hook  for 2.5 miles of rail and a couple stops???

I am more convinced than ever that this is a bad bad deal for Loudoun County (but a great deal for certain well connected developers and their consultants and political benefactors).  It must be stopped.


Comments

  • Leej says:

    LI there is a good thread over at Brambleton.

    http://www.brambletonian.net/forums/topic/19629-rise-of-the-silver-liners/

    This the biggest waste of money i have ever seen. It will not spur economic development here not for a zillion years as that will go to Tysons and Reston. Tysons has a beautiful new master plan and Loudouns planning is going to hell. Tysons is going to build two high rises starting next year and reston comstock is building a beautiful first class high rises at the weihle station. ANd they are building this piece of cheapo junk at the ashburn station. Not near a good as the original design.

    One thing buses can do that the silverline can’t. you can have express buses target directly where some buses go and by pass each other the train can’t. The train must stop at every stop. the buses are more comfortable and far cheaper.

    The BOS that approved this are braindeads. the whole silver line should of been a bus system. too late for the first phase.

    And the first phase is over budget and behind schedule.

    another reason the last two stations will be extremely expensive is the bridge system from the airport over 606 and into the middle of the toll road.

    i believe they will need federal money for phase two and if the economy stays this bad i doubt they will approve it.

    we are also stuck in loudoun for the 150 million dollar parking garages which was just approved by the BOS

    unbelievable

  • BlackOut says:

    I road the Metro from West Falls Church to downtown this morning. Stood the whole way. Maybe I had 2% more standing room than previously. Couldn’t really tell.

    At the station there was a continuous announcement of elevator outages throughout the system. I just checked their website. Currently there are 10 elevators and 59 escalators out of service. I happened to catch two of those escalators.

    Either they suffer from poor management or they don’t have enough money to run the trains they already have. Who really knows with all the cya and self interest posturing.

  • BlackOut says:

    Contrast that with my regular commute via Loudoun Connection. The Loudoun Connection is extremely reliable, comfortable, cheap and provides great customer service.

    The bus to Tysons has free wifi. I’ve heard they are working on a plan to fit all their buses including the DC bound buses with wifi.

    I have a hard time seeing a justification for investment in rail. A bus infrastructure return on investment is almost immediate compared to rail. Far cheaper and more convenient.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    Just look at Downs’ quote in the post, rail ridership is down 2% while bus ridership is up 6%. But they still want to shove rail down our throats. And why is this trend occurring? The Metro Board member HAS NO CLUE! That is one of the most asinine quotes I have ever seen. That should be the anti-Metro rallying cry.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    What a bunch of crap this is:

    http://www.loudountimes.com/index.php/news/article/new_fbi_headquarters_could_relocate_to_loudoun898/

    Another unattainable carrot dangled out to help drive the Metro train into Loudoun County. This will never happen, but they will be using all sorts of possibilities like this to try to help force feed this on the Loudoun taxpayers.

  • Ridership is down because Metro is unreliable, expensive, and inflexible. Buses are good because they cost less, are more reliable and flexible.

    But it is the flexible part i’d like to stress. As NOVA changes dynamically with growth, it is relatively easy to change a bus stop but impossible to move a Metro station.

    There is no good reason to sent Metro to Loudoun. As I stated before, it allows them to get their money sucking tentacles into one more jurisdiction, much like a line of credit.

    Let it terminate at Dulles and we get the best of both worlds: Metro in close proximity with no costs to Loudoun. That is the best value.

  • BlackOut says:

    Loudoun Connection on a regular basis adjusts their routes and timetables. They publish ridership statistics often. Transparency. They support a customer advisory board that meets regularly, which provides in put on service and route adjustment recommendations.

    Extremely well run bus line.

  • Leej says:

    you are correct LI it will never ever happen.

    they will stay downtown or a another remote possibility they will move it to Quantico where they already have a big presence

    although they could build at the 606 station and the only advantage would be they would be close to the dulles airport but i still believe they will stay downtown.

    seriously they need to be close to many of the agencies downtown so i doubt they would move out of there.

  • Leej says:

    David you make a great point in terminating at Dulles and we get the best of all worlds at no cost to us.

  • Barbara Munsey says:

    There is a lot of positive feedback on the commuter buses, that’s for sure. I know quite a few people hooked on them who have been very satisfied with the service and the cost.

    A few points re the FBI–part of the Homeland Security plan is deliberate dispersal (and we’re a target anyway, because of the airport and the massive internet presence), and being nearer Dulles may be a good thing for whichever portion they may be considering dispersing in this direction.

    I’m sure our $/sq ft is less than they pay closer in!

    There’s still some (not much, but some) time on this with Metro, and I think we need some newer and better figures (than the completely out to lunch ones still floating around as gospel)–the biggie here with cost is still cost/benefit including rising tolls. If stopping at the airport is a better deal INCLUDING what that will do to tolls, then so be it.

  • John of Loudoun says:

    Great idea (going to Dulles bypassing Loudoun stations). Metro is on financial life support, and I’d prefer not to donate my organs, thank you. The new BOS had better not tie themselves to this mess. Take a look, btw, at Bob Marshall’s HB 2. Dick Black is introducing a companion bill.

  • Terminating at Dulles is a no-brainer, in my opinion. With only 2.5 miles of rail in Loudoun, we will pay $1M for every 4 feet of rail. $1M per step. What a waste.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    But then we won’t get the FBI!

    (sarcasm alert)

  • Barbara Munsey says:

    That’s not necessarily true, LI. If they’re really considering a dispersal in our direction, the draw may be more the airport than which KIND of public transit is available.

    Our TODs are triggered for bus as an interim step toward rail anyway.

    And they won’t run their own shuttles as well, no matter where they go?

  • BlackOut says:

    Loudoun couldn’t land the Washington Field Office of the FBI when it moved out this way. Went to Manassas. What makes anyone think we’re the front runner this time?

    I would think it has a better chance of moving to Quantico along side the FBI Academy.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    And like clockwork, Barbara Munsey shows up to defend the developers’ latest wish – for Metro to come to Loudoun so they can make a shitload of money while the rest of us taxpayers pay the freight.

    In the event of nuclear war or massive terrorism targeting of the DC Metro area, Dulles airport is right at the top of the target list. Dispersal of FBI HQ to Dulles as some sort of national security initiative is not going to drive the FBI HQ here.

  • Leej says:

    They also have many of their labs down at Quantico.

  • Leej says:

    And I will add Quantico is a very secure place. Especially if the FBI plans to consolidate many of their operations.

    Loudoun does not have a chance in hell. Like Barbara says we are also the center of the universe for the internet and data centers. Those operations should of been spread around the country a lot more then are.

  • TaxPIG says:

    Question of the Day
    Is it prudent for Loudoun County, as part of the Rail To Loudoun deal, to comit to paying a share of maintenance and overhead on an aging and under-maintained rail system called Metro (WMATA) knowing that Metro is projecting a capital deficit of $6.5 BILLION through 2020?

  • Leej says:

    And I forgot this until Barbara brought up us being a prime terrorist target. I am very good friends with the CFO of a very large national company. LI met him at one of our parties.

    He said several years ago Loudoun has a problem in attracting major companies just because of the prime terrorist threat. He said we would never move our company there and that is only one of many reasons. Not that his company would anyway.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    That’s too good of a question, TaxPIG. Obviously Metro needs Loudoun a lot more than Loudoun needs Metro. Unfortunately we are taxed out enough already.

    Which is another reason why companies do not want to come to Loudoun – our tax rate is ridiculous. Primarily due to years of residential over-building.

  • Somewhat might need to correct me on this, but I believe you can make well over $100k driving a bus, with generous benefits besides. Employee compensation costs have made it impossible to keep up with the recommended capital improvement and maintenance programs of the existing system, thus the deterioration.

    If Loudoun County taxpayers want the full picture of their new monorail, instead of dreams of shiny stations and pretty fountains, they would do much better to get well acquainted with the reality of OPEIU Local 2

    http://www.opeiu-local2.org/

  • Barbara Munsey says:

    LI, not to let a popular rant that didn’t win any elections last month get in the way of a popular rant (that didn’t win any elections last month), is that what I actually said?

    Or did I say we need to compare what the costs of stopping at Dulles are re increased road tolls?

    I do think Quantico makes sense from a protection and consolidation standpoint, but again, it depends on WHAT they’re looking to disperse (if dispersal is a prime mover in any of this).

  • Leej says:

    I just drove by the huge huge monstrosity they are building at the ashburn metro and I can’t figure out the thinking behind the design. first level retail. then 4 stories of apartments big open parking lots behind, i guess to share with the retail and the swimming pool is in the parking lot which i am sure they will screen somehow. I know it is mix use but i have never seen a mix use development like this with strange parking situation. pool in it. Then concrete at the retail level then 4 stories of cheapo wood construction on top. Zero design. Or we call cheapo design. that place is going to sit close to empty both retail and apartments for a long time unless they have the cheapest rents in town. ;-)

    Actually we don’t even need rail past weihle. We already have the center lanes build simple stations for buses use the center lanes to run the buses and continue those lanes to ashburn. and some buses go directly to dulles and the rest go straight out to ashburn. simple cheap no expensive bridges or stations just simple ones where the rail stations would go win win and it saves fairfax a few dollars.

  • Dan says:

    Joe, you are correct that someone needs to correct you on the $100,000 bus driver myth. Just did a quick search and found figures for fiscal 2009. Metrobus operator average salary was $49,500. Max salary was $58,600. Average overtime was $7,400.

    There may have been a veteran driver or two who worked huge amounts of overtime and reached $100k, but they would rarely see their families if they worked that many hours. And if they are letting employees put in that much overtime they need to hire more drivers. Not to mention better managers.

    I’m afraid you’ve fallen victim of one of those made up “facts” spread by reflexively anti-union folks who are integrity challenged and don’t seem to mind spreading stories they know full well are not true. Metro has major problems, but they don’t fit into the tidy right wing ideology that it is all the fault of the evil unions.

    Regardless of the real causes of Metro’s difficulties, LI is right. It doesn’t seem to be a good deal for Loudoun County.

  • squiddy says:

    Well, don’t forget that “average salary” doesn’t mean much should you include part-time workers in the equation.

    Also, “salary” is not the same as “cost” – retirement plans, vision/dental/medical coverage, vacation, payroll taxes, etc, etc – while they don’t break it down, the 2011 Metro budget includes:

    Metrobus
    Wages 223,834,419
    Salary 58,253,030
    Fringe Benefits 131,600,945
    Casualty and Liability 12,613,323

    I include “Fringe” because at least some/most/all of that would be attributable to hourly employees as well as salaried, but we don’t know the ratios, that is, how that fringe benefits are peanut-buttered across hourly and salaried employees.

    In any case, a figure of an extra 40-50% *cost* to Metro above simple wages is probably fairly close to reality. So, a driver with a salary of $60K or more (58% of drivers), with an extra 50% in overhead costs? 100K isn’t all that far off the mark – again, in *costs*, not direct wages. But *cost* is the real measure, isn’t it?

    it doesn’t appear there are that many drivers making over $100k – (according to wmatawatch, there are 107 bus drivers making over $100k out of 2740 drivers or roughly 4%) but I’ll bet there are lot that *cost* over $100k.

    I’m not arguing that they’re over-paid or under-paid, just trying to put some factual info out there, (as best as I can collect it, anyway.)

    You really don’t need to resort to name-calling ( “integrity-challenged”) when making your point – just make your point, and let others decide for themselves.

  • Dan, actually I think I was wrong on the name of the union (it might be “ATU” or something like that) and the bus drivers’ salaries, as you note.

    Whether integrity challenged or not, I was memory challenged for certain, because Squiddy reminds me that what had gotten my attention was the fact that the real culprit in Metro employee expenses is the benefits packages. Washington Examiner has covered this issue in some detail.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    Great post and comments at Bacons Rebellion:

    http://www.baconsrebellion.com/2011/11/rail-to-dulles-prairie-fire.html#comments

    Page back through some other recent posts on this as well. Jim Bacon is getting grief from his slow growth pals for not climbing aboard the Metro boondoggle. But at least Bacon understands that we just cannot afford projects like this anymore!

  • squiddy says:

    Well, I think the article is more about his opposition to the mandatory PLA, which I agree wholeheartedly – as a RTW state, this is an unwelcome trampling of our laws.

    I’m thinking a Solomon compromise, perhaps a single collector station for commuter parking, not two. But I expect that, somehow, the cost to build just one station will be 90% of the cost of two – that’s just how these things work.

    But in reality, without an Express service/rail line, ridership will be awful – who’s gonna commute to DC on this when it takes an hour and a half to get there? Express buses will be faster. I expect most Silver Line ridership will be “local.”

  • SPQR says:

    Joe you weren’t too far off. I think Dan’s forgetting that while he’s entitled to his own biased and incorrect opinions, he’s not entitled to his own facts.

    http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/docs/2012_Budget_Book_20110921.pdf

    Page I-13 of the FY2012 Annual Budget shows the approved average compensation cost for metro workers is in fact $104,000+. Of course this includes management as well as operators, but with red ink as far as the eye can see, and with labor making up 70% of total expenses, it’s no wonder metro is in the dismal state it is.

    Pull the plug.

  • Gaius Baltar says:

    I seem to remember reading some place that by the time it is complete, the silver line from Loudoun would cost like $25 to ride all the way into DC one way. Also read that they would have to raise the tolls on 267 to like $10 each way.

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