Metro board member Tom Downs called it the largest expansion in the agency's history, pushing the head count over 12,000. A decade ago, Metro had fewer than 10,000 workers.
But Downs and other board members questioned on Thursday whether the agency could pull off such a hiring push. "It's a snowball's chance in hell," Downs said.
Metro board seeks additions to budget options
|Metro's board of directors on Thursday questioned the agency's proposed fare increases and sought other policies to be considered. The board has until at least Jan. 26 to finalize a menu of options for public comment, including:|
|• Peak of the peak: Metro proposes scrapping the 20-cent surcharge during the height of the daily rushes, but D.C. Councilwoman Muriel Bowser questioned why Metro wants to lose $12 million in revenue.|
|• Two-zone system vs. flat fare for paper farecards: Metro proposes paper farecards costing $6 per trip during peak service or $4 during off-peak, and ditching the current paper surcharge and some rail passes. But some board members asked for a two-zone fare system with one rate for downtown or higher paper surcharge.|
|• 5-cent station surcharge: Board members asked for a surcharge to be considered for stations, such as Union Station, to raise money for renovations.|
Given that Metro already has a 9 percent vacancy rate and loses about 5 percent to attrition each year, officials estimated, the agency would need to hire about 2,000 people in one year to fill all positions. Meanwhile, the agency has struggled to fill all bus operator slots.
Board member Tom Bulger also raised concerns about the new positions, especially given rising pension costs, calling it "not sustainable."
The average annual pay of Metro's workers would rise to $75,063, with an additional $33,312 to cover benefits, according to Metro.
General Manager Richard Sarles told reporters the agency has been making its recruitment process "better and faster." A recent job fair for military veterans led to 52 job offers, according to the agency.
He added that Metro needs the workers as it undertakes a massive rebuilding program, explaining that most of the empty positions have been backfilled by workers logging overtime. The agency is trying to limit dangerously long hours that lead to fatigue.
An additional 363 slots, 36 percent of the increase, are for running the Silver Line currently under construction.
The transit agency has allocated $62 million of the cost of the planned hires to its operating budget and the remaining $26 million to its capital budget proposal, spokesman Dan Stessel said. The fare increases are expected to bring in $66 million in new revenue.