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First District Hearing on Metro Tonight

Faced with an operating budget shortfall of some $28 million in fiscal 2005, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is moving ahead with plans to increase fare prices and begin new initiatives in advertising sales on Metro routes — but before that happens, WMATA wants to hear what local residents think.

This week, two public hearings will be held in the District to get resident’s input on the new proposals that will affect Metro rail and bus access in the next fiscal year, which begins June 27. Other hearings are scheduled in Virginia and Maryland.

Tonight’s public hearing will be held at Malcolm X Elementary School at 1351 Alabama Ave. SE. Thursday’s hearing will be held in the Jackson Graham Building of Metro headquarters at 600 Fifth St. NW. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m. with a one-hour open house held before each hearing.

“It gives us an opportunity to explain our side of the story in terms of what we’re trying to do to resolve our budget shortfalls,” said Steven Taubenkibel, media relations spokesman for WMATA. “But also for people who do sign up to speak, it’s their opportunity to be heard and for their opinions to be taken into consideration in this process.”

On paper, the new fare hike is expected to bring in some $28 million by itself, while the combination of projects in the advertising initiatives are projected to raise more than $4.5 million. It is hoped that these plans, along with new government subsidies and budget reductions, will address WMATA’s financial woes without having to reduce bus or rail service.

The hearings will seek comment on the two new proposals as well as a 30-cent parking fee hike and ways to plan and identify future fare adjustments.

All individuals or organizations wishing to be heard are asked to fax their name, address, telephone number and organization affiliation to WMATA Secretary Harold Bartlett at (202) 962-1133. Written statements and exhibits may also be sent to Bartlett at 600 Fifth St. NW or by e-mail to public-hearing-testimony

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