Rep. Barbara Comstock Introduces METRO Accountability and Reform Act
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) released the following statement after she introduced The METRO Accountability and Reform Act, the largest reform to Metro since its inception:
“This Metro reform legislation represents a culmination of over a year of working together with a wide array of experts with an incredible combined experience in transportation,” said Congresswoman Barbara Comstock. “It provides substantial new funding for Metro, but only on the condition of making fundamental changes necessary to meet reasonable benchmarks of a functional mass transit system. Metro is a system in crisis and we need serious reforms to move our region forward and provide the public with a safe and efficient transit system. My office has collaborated with former Mayor Anthony Williams, and Federal City Council, as well as former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, former Virginia Transportation Secretary Jim Dyke, current Transportation Department officials including those with current Secretary Chao, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld along with others at WMATA, whistleblowers, and those affiliated with the successful efforts to turn the Boston transit system around and others.
“Years of deferred maintenance, increasing budget deficits and decreasing ridership on Metro threatens the safety and reliability of the system. Without significant reforms, the system will continue to decline and lose ridership and fail the nation’s capital which needs this vital system for the vitality of our local and national economy. The riders who use the system and the taxpayers who help support it deserve much better.
“This reform legislation reduces the use of overtime, shifts employees from a pension system to a 401k system (as recommended by the current manager), controls contract increases and promotes Metro ridership by improving reliability
“This bill will create a Metro Reform Board, which will serve as an interim control entity to govern Metro in order to achieve the necessary changes in the near-term. It will also establish a Metro Reform Commission, which will be an advisory commission whose purpose is to keep Congress and other relevant stakeholders informed of the progress of the efforts by the Signatories to increase efficiencies at the Authority, amend the interstate compact, and other relevant actions. Whistleblower protections are also included in the bill for WMATA employees who fear retaliation from management.
“I would like to thank the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Greater Washington Board of Trade, and Federal City Council, all of whom have also contributed to this final product and expressed their support along with leaders of business and Capital regional groups. It is critical that our region has a top-tier public transportation system on which the riding public can rely. Commuters need a system that can get them to work quickly and safely so they can do their jobs. Every day we see delays and incidents that affect our entire region, and this bill will put Metro on a path to fixing the systemic issues that plague riders every day.”
Harry Klaff, Chair, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce said of the The METRO Accountability and Reform Act:
“Metro is critical to the future of Northern Virginia and Greater Washington, and is an invaluable asset to the federal government and the regional workforce. Implementing meaningful operational and governance reforms along with committing dedicated, sustainable funding is the most important challenge facing our region. The Metro Accountability and Reform Act, introduced by Congresswoman Comstock, is a significant step forward in addressing this challenge. This bill combines new federal investment with common sense reforms that are consistent with the recommendations of the business community and experts in the transportation field, including those of Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
“The development of this legislation has been a thoughtful, collaborative process inclusive of many regional stakeholders and experts in transit operations. The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce is grateful to Congresswoman Comstock for her leadership on this vital issue and is appreciative of her inclusion of the business community in the development of this legislation from the beginning.”
Metro Reform Coalition Reaction to Introduction of METRO Accountability and Reform ACT:
“We applaud Representative Barbara Comstock for taking the initiative to introduce federal legislation to reform WMATA, a vital component of Greater Washington’s transportation infrastructure that impacts the region’s economic security, quality of life, and global competitiveness. Representative Comstock’s legislation calls for significant changes to the governance structure of WMATA’s Board of Directors, including requiring the establishment of a smaller and more effective reform board, which we support. The bill also requests the commitment of federal funding, which is urgently needed. We strongly believe that comprehensive reform to Metro’s governance and funding will lead to operational improvement across the system.
“Both proposals align with the recommendations we made in June to Governors McAuliffe and Hogan, Mayor Bowser and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Chao calling for comprehensive reform. Specifically, we believe the legislation’s call for a temporary reform board will allow for more sound decision-making and establish the framework necessary for long-term structural improvements for the system. Further, we see the commitment of federal funding as a key component of a sustainable funding structure. Federal funding, combined with at least $500 million in dedicated and bondable funding per year from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, is required to provide the level of funding necessary to sustain the system.
“We look forward to working with Representative Comstock, other members of Congress and our state and local elected officials to ensure the necessary reforms to Metro are made this fiscal year. The three jurisdictions – the District, Maryland and Virginia – must act immediately in their upcoming legislative sessions to advance comprehensive reform and sustainable funding. At the same time, given the importance of this issue, we must also work urgently through Congress. We call upon our elected leadership and all stakeholders to work together to ensure the economic stability and livability of our region by reforming and funding Metro now."
Members of the Metro Reform Coalition include:
The 2030 Group
The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA)
Arlington County Chamber of Commerce
Associated Builders and Contractors – Virginia Chapter
Committee for Dulles
The DC Building Industry Association
DC Chamber of Commerce
Enterprise Community Partners
Federal City Council
The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce
Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce
Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce
Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce
Greater Washington Board of Trade
Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
The Greater Washington Partnership
The Housing Association of Non-profit Developers (HAND)
Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington
Leadership Greater Washington
Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
NAIOP Northern Virginia
Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance
Northern Virginia Association of Realtors
Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce
Northern Virginia Technology Council
The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance
Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce
The Prince William Chamber of Commerce
Virginia Chamber of Commerce
Washington Airports Task Force
You can read the full METRO Accountability and Reform Act here.