Metro News Release

For immediate release: February 27, 2009

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Metro Board Chairman Jim Graham outlines priorities
Graham takes over as Chairman of the Metro Board of Directors

Metro Board Chairman Jim Graham delivered the following remarks at his first meeting as Chairman of the Metro Board of Directors, on Thursday, February 26, 2009.

Remarks by Jim Graham

Priorities for WMATA Board Chairman

“Doing More with Less”
Thursday, February 26, 2009

Previous Chairmanship

My first year in service as Chairman was in 2003. From my last time serving as Board Chair I remember a record snowstorm, a major hurricane, and some economic challenges, which in retrospect, seem relatively minor.

But I also recall some important accomplishments:

• We extended our Metrorail service to 3am on Friday and Saturday nights, a move that has brought enhanced safety, convenience, and economic benefit ever since.
• We began a long-term program to improve elevator and escalator reliability.
• We completed the escalator canopy pilot program, which has been a key piece of our ongoing work to improve escalator performance.
• We created a two-year demonstration program to give preference to small and local businesses.
• We extended the Blue Line to Largo, MD
• And, we made great progress on what is now the popular New York Avenue Metrorail station.

Doing More with Less

Today, the challenges are different. This Board and WMATA staff have worked hard to cut our budget in order to deal with this economic crisis.

But we will also need to improve service and address our persistent rail and bus overcrowding problems.

We find ourselves in this very challenging situation which requires that we do more with less.

Increased Role for the Riders’ Advisory Council

Doing more with less means making use of every great idea that’s out there. I recently met with the District members of the Rider’s Advisory Council and was impressed with the passion, intelligence and creative ideas that these folks bring to the table. I intend to support a stronger role for the R.A.C. in bringing ideas to the Metro Board. The R.A.C. has been very helpful in recent years, but I don’t think that the current approach – a five minute speech at the Board meeting once every month – really takes advantage of the minds we have working for us here. So I have proposed a system that permits committee chairs to invite the R.A.C. to committee meetings in order to present and participate on specific issues.

Real-time Bus Arrival Information

During my time as Chairman, I will do everything possible to get our customers up-to-the-minute information about when their bus is going to come. This “NextBus” technology is a way to improve service without spending a lot of money. If you know that your bus won’t arrive for 15 minutes, you can pull out your book, have a seat, perhaps even get a cup of coffee. These are the kinds of low-cost, high-efficiency improvements that we need when funding is tight.

Other Strategic Bus Improvements

Doing more with less means making strategic bus improvements. Pending today’s Board approval of express bus service on 16th Street, we will see a great example of this. Adding limited stop service to one of your busiest corridors gets us a lot of bang for our buck. We will provide faster, more efficient service in just the location where it is most badly needed.

SmarTrip Cards

Our recent push to get customers using SmarTrip cards was a great example of doing more with less. By reducing the use of cash payments, we can load our buses more quickly and therefore keep our buses on schedule without the costly step of needing to add more buses to the route.

But we’re not done with this process yet. We still have a lot of people who haven’t figured out this new SmarTrip system. That’s not good for Metro, and it’s certainly not good for anyone who has to pay a double-fare every time they transfer to another bus. I plan to work with WMATA staff to make sure we continue outreach to elderly riders, non-English speaking riders, and anyone else who hasn’t received the support necessary to make this transition.

Unique Position of Coordinating with DDOT

I also expect to use my position as Chairman of the Legislative Committee with Oversight for Transportation Issues in the District of Columbia. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) can do so many things to help WMATA do more with less. For example:

• Expanding our signal priority system to give buses certain preference at traffic lights, and
• Designing our roadways in ways to allow for efficient bus movements.
• In fact, I just introduced a bill to reduce double parking which will prevent congestion that slows down our buses and our customers.

Dedicated Funding

Of course, one way to do more with less is to do more with more. Metro must get badly needed and fully justified support from the Federal government, which depends so heavily on Metro. Metro will receive funds from the recently-passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Federal Economic Stimulus plan. And I intend to make it a top priority that we secure the $1.5 billion in matching Federal funds to help support our capital program. The District council has already passed the law required to make this happen. The Compact Amendments are now moving forward in Maryland and Virginia. With additional federal funding, we can make the Capital improvements that help us run more efficiently – by buses that are more reliable, escalators that work more consistently, new railcars with doors that don’t jam – all these investments that will help us save money on a day-to-day basis.

In the face of growing ridership and as Chairman, I will focus on how we can enhance efficiency at every turn. If we must make cuts, we will identify those services that are truly a drag on our system, services that provide benefit to very few people. These are challenging times, but with WMATA’s skilled staff, gifted leadership, and the talents of my fellow Board members, I know we are up to these challenges.

News release issued at 4:29 pm, February 27, 2009.

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