Lively. Intelligent. Contentious. From all quadrants of the District, as well as Maryland and Virginia, came a professor and scientist, a Sierra Club spokesman, students, workers, activists (this being D.C.), and other commuters to the hearing at Metro headquarters regarding the proposed fare increases, a standing-room only affair last night. Oh, and Metro General Manager John Catoe and D.C. council member Jim Graham attended, with Graham moderating; to their credit, both stayed the entire time, almost three hours.
Considering the number of activists from the ANSWER Coalition who spoke (one of whom, Ms. Mills, patiently held a banner until it was almost time for her to speak), and the heated emotions and differing viewpoints present, the proceedings were surprisingly orderly, with fifty (count 'em) people altogether, including moi, who gave testimony.
And what testimony it was! Included with the complaints regarding fare hikes were shoehorned criticism of the war in Iraq, as well as pointed remarks about the appointed, unelected nature of the board. One interesting fact that was justly thrown back in Metro's face was that Metro riders pay the highest percentage of the system cost for rail relative to passengers in other North American cities, so there should be some consideration of that fact in any fare increase that comes down the pike. Mr. Greenberg of MetroRiders.org gave testimony to the generous indirect subsidy for highway driving as opposed to more meager funding for public transit. A number of speakers spoke to the need for the future, for Metro more aggressively pursuing greater funding from the federal government, as Metro transports many of these employees to work, as well as the need for a dedicated funding source, as Metro is the only major city transportation system lacking one.
Of course, I knew the evening was going to be cooking when, before it even began, one guy from actfortransit.org in Montgomery County, MD was passing out flyers which pointed out that it's unfair to raise Metro rates without increasing the gasoline tax as well.
Whew! I'm just coming up for air now...