Subscriber Login

North America News

WMATA faces ridership and revenue decline; under financial stress [free access]

February 21, 2017

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is facing a decline in ridership and fare revenue because of service disruptions under SafeTrack, frequent breakdowns, low fuel prices, increased teleworking and competition with other modes of travel.


For fiscal year (FY) 2017, passenger revenue recorded till date is USD64 million below budget estimates. Ridership has declined by 21 per cent in July 2016, the sharpest dip so far. Overall, ridership declined by 12 per cent during July-December 2016, and rail revenue was 17 per cent below projections during the same period, translating into a USD50-million loss in revenues.


Despite its losses, WMATA has committed to continue SafeTrack, which is an accelerated track work plan to address safety recommendations and rehabilitate the metro rail system to improve safety and reliability. Through SafeTrack, metro will complete approximately three years' worth of work into approximately one year. 


WMATA plans to cover the shortfall through cutting jobs, freezing hiring, reducing investment in non-safety-critical areas, and using operating surpluses from prior years. The agency is also facing distress because the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has withheld 5 per cent of the FY 2017 transit formula funds for the District of Columbia (DC), Maryland and Virginia regions until it certifies a new State Safety Oversight Program (SSOP) for metro rail.