Government shutdown pushing Metro off the rails to the tune of $400K every weekday

Issues could get worse if benefits are not transferred after January 21

Metro is facing $400,000 in lost revenue each business day that the government is partially shut down . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Metro is facing $400,000 in lost revenue each business day that the government is partially shut down . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 17, 2019 at 8:45pm

Metro, which operates trains buses and parking garages in and around Washington, D.C., is losing roughly $400,000 from its receipts for every business day that the partial government shutdown persists.

That revelation from WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld came in a letter to the Democratic senators from Maryland and Virginia who represent many users of the Metro system, including federal employees.

“Our preliminary analysis estimates that for an average weekday when the government is closed, Metro is losing approximately $400,000 in fare and revenue,” Wiedefeld wrote.

And the WMATA leader said the situation could get worse in the coming weeks because of the way employer-based commuter benefits are transmitted by the federal government to its workforce.

“As you know, federal employees are eligible to receive transit benefits (SmartBenefits) from the federal government to subsidize their use of Metro for their trips to and from work,” Wiedefeld wrote. “We have been advised that if the current shutdown is not resolved by January 21, many affected agencies will be unable to distribute February SmartBenefits to participating federal employees.”

In general, the benefits are automatically loaded onto the SmarTrip cards used by participating employees.

Wiedefld also pointed to another problem: an expectation that expected federal reimbursements will not be paid out on time. Metro expects to have roughly $50 million in federal reimbursements not paid to the agency by the end of the month of January.

The four senators on the receiving end of the letter from Metro, Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, along with Maryland Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, said in response that, “At a time when Metro already is undertaking substantial, disruptive projects to improve safety and reliability, President Trump’s shutdown is jeopardizing the health and stability of the entire Metro system. This wasteful, destructive shutdown must come to an end.”

The senators had previously written to the transit agency seeking details of the partial government shutdown’s effects.

Watch: Maryland federal worker: ‘We can’t feed our families, we can’t live the American dream’

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