Metro News Release

For immediate release: May 22, 2008

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Metro preparing for more people to shift to transit if gasoline prices continue to skyrocket

Metro General Manager John Catoe told the Metro Board of Directors today, May 22, that he had asked his planning staff to begin an energy contingency plan to help the transit agency cope with a huge shift to public transit that could come if gasoline prices rise to $5 a gallon or more.

Remarks given by Metro General Manager John Catoe to the Metro Board of Directors, May 22, 2008

Last month we heard a presentation outlining our future rail capacity and some ideas on how we could expand that capacity. Today we heard how we could better leverage bus transportation to create growth and to make our bus and rail systems even more complementary. There are issues that we must deal with like funding, but right now I’d like to take a moment to focus on the promise these two presentations hold for us as a region.

Let’s just take a moment to imagine the Metro system in 2030. Picture our current rail system. To that we’ve added the extension to Dulles, and we’ve integrated it with the street car system in Anacostia and the Purple Line. We are running every other train from Franconia-Springfield directly to Greenbelt via the current Yellow Line bridge, and we have another Potomac River crossing between Rosslyn and Georgetown. Add to that the impact of Metrobus, if in the near future, we are moving people at speeds comparable to that of Metrorail over 24 priority bus corridors.

Futuristic Metro map Gas price sign approaching $5 per gallon.

I ask everyone to keep this vision of the future in mind because the time to start creating that future is today.

Along with this long-term planning, though, I think we should take a good hard look at what’s happening today. The projections we’ve been using are based on population and job growth, but they don’t factor in the effect of gasoline prices on ridership.

I've seen oil executives in the news say that gasoline could hit $5 a gallon. I have to say, I believe them. So, if gasoline does hit $5 a gallon, or even $6, how will that affect our ridership? There is a point at which we may see a massive move of commuters from driving to transit because of the cost.

How many will it take to overload our ability to handle them? I've got our planning department looking into that now. I think it is time that we begin an energy contingency plan to help us cope with a huge shift to public transit that could be coming.

What would be in this plan? Here are a couple of ideas that I think should be included. First, we would need people to spread their commutes over a longer period of time. It would make a big difference if the federal government and other employers instituted some sort of mandatory flex time. Also, I think that the departments of transportation in the region should have authority to declare certain lanes as “bus only lanes” in a contingency. This would allow us to fully leverage our transportation capacity above ground and below it.

We're just taking the first steps toward such a contingency plan now and there is a great deal of work to do, but, when we need it, we'll be glad we made the effort.

News release issued at 1:56 pm, May 22, 2008.

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