10.06.2011 0

Metro goes broke, execs eat gourmet

By Rebecca DiFede — When looking for corruption in Washington, most would hesitate to look further than the government. However, one might be interested to find that the people responsible for the very mobility of the city are among the sneakiest of all.

The Washington Metro Transit Authority (WMATA) is responsible for all of the train and bus service throughout the district and has recently reported a $72 million budget gap. This is largely due to decreased ridership as a result of the economy and the state of disrepair that many metro stations have found themselves in.

Many of the metro stations have at least one escalator down due to repairs, as well as many having mechanical issues, forcing trains to single track and cause major delays and inconvenience. The response to these growing problems, which WMATA doesn’t quite have the money to pay for, is obviously to raise rates, and blame it on a lack of government funding.

The real fact of the matter is that the government provided WMATA with $50 million in appropriated funds at the beginning of FY2011, and with that, the executives on the WMATA Advisory Board saw it fit to buy catered lunches for their employee meetings, costing upwards of $20 per person.

In fact, the agency spent over $13 thousand on meals alone last year, claiming that this was just a necessity for those who had to work through lunch. Bologna.

These fat cats were dining on taxpayer money and not bothering to actually try and fix the problems that are causing their organization to decline. Broken escalators, “scheduled track maintenance” that seems to only be scheduled in someone’s head as there are never signs posted, and egregious delays that cause riders to fear lateness every time they set foot on the platform.

Unfortunately for them, salmon steak is not a good remedy for a stuck escalator.

The metro mess is so bad, a blog called Unsuck DC Metro has been created for patrons to submit rants and stories of how the WMATA system has wronged them in one way or another.

Another astonishing fact about metro employees that will fill riders with rage, (almost as much as the Red Line single tracking), is the fact that metro employees are extremely well paid. Not just great benefits and healthcare, but the average WMATA employee makes upwards of $60,000 per year, and that’s just bus and train operators on a normal schedule. Get some overtime in, and you’re looking at a six-figure salary for what amounts to a days-worth of driving.

Even the janitors at the metro rail stations make almost $40 thousand.  What did you say that budget gap was from again?

It would appear that the large hole in WMATA’s budget is not from a lack of funding or a loss in revenue, but rather a gross misappropriation of tax payer money. Perhaps if they were not trying to pay their workers such outrageous salaries, and serve them such insane meals, they would be able to afford to employ an escalator technician to at least one of the hundreds of broken machines in the city.

But maybe that is why the escalator tech’s are paid so much, they don’t ever fix any escalators so they are constantly available for a job.

Rebecca DiFede is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government.

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