TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF HOUSE BILL 372, MARYLAND METRO FUNDING ACT
By HANS RIEMER, MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL PRESIDENT
Chair McIntosh and Members of the Committee, thank you for holding this hearing today. I am Hans Riemer, President of the Montgomery County Council, and I am here to convey Montgomery County’s strong support for the Maryland Metro Funding Act.
I’d like to thank Delegates Korman and Barron, as well as my colleague Roger Berliner, who is here today, for all their efforts to provide regional leadership and to ensure that Maryland continues to have an excellent public transportation system to connect us to the Washington regional economy.
This bill is a critical step in fixing Metro, which is without question our highest regional transportation priority.
Fixing Metro is first and foremost a transportation issue – WMATA’s 2015 Utilization Study estimates 740,000 daily weekday trips, almost 40% of which are by Maryland residents. This is our system! Our residents use Metro to get to work, to school, to the doctor or to go shopping. There is absolutely no way to replace the transportation capacity Metro provides.
Fixing Metro is also an economic development imperative. Companies cannot grow in locations that do not have transportation functionality. As more of the region’s economic progress emanates from Metro station areas, investing in Metro makes good business sense. Without a high performing Metro system, it becomes more difficult for Maryland to attract investment or benefit from the regional economy.
Metro is also a powerful tool to fight climate change and protect our air and water. In my work as Chair of COG’s Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, I have seen how the transportation sector contributes to air pollution, which also washes into the Bay. A stronger Metro system means cleaner air, fewer children with asthma, and greater environmental justice.
Finally, Metro is one of our most powerful tools for integration and equity. It improves access to job centers, government services, and educational institutions. Without Metro, commutes to job centers in DC and Virginia would be not only intolerable, but untenable, for many people who live in Maryland.
For those who wonder whether investing in WMATA helps people who do not directly use the system, just think how bad traffic would be if Metro riders gave up on the system and started to commute on our highways, and what that would mean for Maryland.
We all know that Metro has a significant backlog of maintenance needs just to make the system safe, let alone reliable. WMATA’s General Manager estimates that track repair and maintenance alone will cost $600 million over the next six years. Other needs are new train cars, platform and station repairs, and elevator and escalator repairs. Without an infusion of funds – from a dedicated, bondable source – Metro could slip into a death spiral of declining ridership, higher fares and deteriorating service.
The economic viability of our region depends on Metro and the viability of Metro depends on you. Please join with your colleagues in DC and Virginia to ensure WMATA can make these critical capital improvements.