Metro Chief Financial Officer Carol Dillon Kissal is estimating the agency will have a surplus when the current fiscal year ends on June 30, primarily because of savings on its energy bills.
Kissal said the agency has spent less money than budgeted to power its trains for two reasons: The agency locked in fuel prices at lower levels than expected and has used fewer kilowatts.
|Metro worker canned after derailment, buses to be replaced early after fires|
|A Metro track worker is no longer working at Metro after the agency said he failed to check whether a clamp was properly in place on a track switch, causing a Blue Line train to derail last month.|
|Agency officials briefed board members on a slew of safety problems Thursday, including the derailment, brake equipment falling off trains and a campaign to add defibrillators to every rail station -- and inspect them daily -- after one was found with dead batteries as a rider suffered a fatal heart attack.|
|Metro also says it is planning to buy 95 buses about three years earlier than intended to replace one model in the agency's fleet after two bus fires.|
|"I do not want these buses in service," General Manager Richard Sarles said Thursday.|
|The agency pulled the Orion VI buses from the road last month after two fires occurred, both due to problems with different types of hoses.|
|No riders were on the buses, and no injuries occurred.|
|If the board approves the $67 million replacement cost later this month, the new buses could be on the road in February. Metro officials told the board that the cost would have been paid anyway; they are merely changing the order of when the buses would be replaced. -- Kytja Weir|
With the trains running in manual operation, they cannot go as fast as when they were run automatically. When run by computers, the trains could go as fast as 59 mph in some sections of the system.
But Metro switched to manual operation at all times after the deadly 2009 Fort Totten crash, when the safety system failed to stop one automatically running train from slamming into a stopped train. Nine people died and dozens more were injured.
Since then, riders have been experiencing jerky rides as drivers manually start and stop the trains. Officials are working on a redundancy alarm for the safety alert system and replacing all the circuitry in it but refuse to put a date on when automatic operations will resume.
The agency has acknowledged that the manual service is slowing down the system, with incremental delays amassing along the rail lines.
But those delays -- and savings -- won't spare riders from having to pay more for those slower rides come July 1.
Metro will raise fares to cover rising costs, charging an average of 5 percent more for rail riders, a dime extra for bus trips and 25 cents more for parking. The extra charges are expected to bring in $60 million more in revenue.
Kissal said Metro can't use some of the savings to reduce the need for the fare increases because "the timing is very different."
The surplus is only a forecast at this point, she said. The fare increases will start a day after the fiscal year closes, finalizing the savings. Then, she says, she won't know the exact amounts until the fall.
Then, she said, the board of directors will decide what to do with the money.
However, the agency is proposing that it use the $20 million, plus $3 million in savings from last year, to offset the taxpayer subsidies that jurisdictions pay in the next budget.
Local communities will pay 7.6 percent more for a total of $669 million of the $1.6 billion operating budget that the board tentatively approved Thursday. Systemwide costs are projected to continue rising in the next three years.