Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Rep. Comstock intros bill to fix WMATA’s system in crisis

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U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) introduced The METRO Accountability and Reform Act on Dec. 4 aimed at reforming the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) through incentivized funding and an interim control board.

Rep. Comstock's office says the legislation is the result of more than a year of working with transportation experts such as former District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, former Virginia Transportation Secretary Jim Dyke, current U.S. Department of Transportation officials and WMATA officials including General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.

Per Rep. Comstock, the bill would provide substantial new funding for WMATA, but only if fundamental changes are made to meet reasonable benchmarks.

"[WMATA] is a system in crisis and we need serious reforms to move our region forward and provide the public with a safe and efficient transit system," said Rep. Comstock.

The bill would establish an interim control entity, the Metro Reform Board, to govern the agency through near-term changes. One of those changes includes the incorporation of managed competition by mandating that the board undertake a full-cost accounting and analysis to determine the potential benefits of utilizing contractors for services currently performed by in-house forces.

The legislation also proposes the creation of the Metro Reform Commission to serve in an advisory capacity to keep Congress and other stakeholders informed of the progress on improvement efforts.

Rep. Comstock explains that the bill would reduce the use of overtime, shifts employees from a pension system to a 401k system, controls contract increases and would improve reliability.

"Years of deferred maintenance, increasing budget deficits and decreasing ridership on [WMATA] threatens the safety and reliability of the system. Without significant reforms, the system will continue to decline and lose ridership and fail the nation's capital, which needs this vital system for the vitality of our local and national economy. The riders who use the system and the taxpayers who help support it deserve much better," said Rep. Comstock.

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