The head of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said it will take $15.5 billion over the next 10 years to keep its rail system operational, according to The Washington Post.
That sum would cover maintenance and other projects to keep the service running safely and reliably but falls short of the $25 billion some officials say is necessary to complete key capital projects like a new tunnel to Rosslyn, VA, additional service on the Silver Line, and repairs to one system line that suffers from chronic water leaks.
Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe are exploring how to better assist with the Metro's capital needs, the Washington Business Journal reported. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has proposed a 3% growth cap on the District and both states' Metro subsidies to sustain operations.
Late last year, The Post reported that real estate developers building around Metro stations in 2015 saw big returns on about $50 billion worth of projects, leading them to benefit from the system but requiring them to do little to maintain or improve it. At the time, there was a push to increase sales and property taxes around Metro stations, with the extra money going to fund rail upkeep.
Critics said such measures would stymie development, but some investors have offered to provide extra money for the rail to safeguard their investments nearby. Even though the Metro is struggling with a dip in ridership and other system and security problems, developments that are a short walk to stations continue to draw more investment than those within driving distance.
These transit-oriented developments (TODs) are becoming more popular as Americans from all demographics seek a more urban, walkable lifestyle. While some TODs are business district–based or even built around a major sports arena, many developers have begun to conceive of them as mini-cities with necessities just a few steps away.
That's paying off for cities, too. With its station-by-station growth philosophy, the city of Phoenix has allowed the construction of TODs — taking care not to displace existing communities — to the tune of $9 billion in economic development.
A successful TOD is high-density in nature, and thus not always a welcome development. Activists in Los Angeles protested a spate of high-density city projects but lost a vote in March that would have prevented the rezoning necessary for most of those developments to move forward.