The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board has approved an employee buyout plan and service cuts as it addresses a budget shortfall of $176 million due to the pandemic, according to The Washington Post.
The agency is hopeful that several hundred out of 2,000 eligible employees will accept a $15,000 buyout to retire. The move will help reduce the 1,400 layoffs needed to help balance the 2021 budget, the Post reported—down from an originally proposed 1,700. Vacant positions that “don’t detract from public safety” will remain unfilled, and “any layoffs will start with non-unionized employees, who are also forgoing raises this year.”
Also planned is less-frequent train service on weekdays and the reinstatement of fares on buses, the Post reported.
WMATA board Chairman Paul C. Smedberg said: “Without any degree of certainty for federal funding or federal relief for transit agencies, the reality is we have to deal with the situation that’s before us right now. And while it’s very difficult, we had to make that decision,” the Post reported. The agency cannot wait two or three months, Smedberg added.
American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas told a U.S. House of Representatives rail subcommittee this week: “APTA estimates that the shortfall of additional transit COVID-19 costs and revenue losses is now at least $32 billion. Without additional emergency funding, many transit agencies, including commuter rail agencies, will need to consider cutting transit services and routes and furloughing transit workers. Transit systems, both large and small, are also predicting significant budget shortfalls due to declining revenues heading into fiscal year 2021 without additional federal support.”