The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) was created by an interstate compact in 1967 to plan, develop, build, finance, and operate a balanced regional transportation system in our nation’s capital. The Authority began building its rail system in 1969 and acquired four regional bus systems in 1973.
The first phase of Metrorail began operation in 1976. Today, Metrorail serves 86 stations and has 106 miles of track.
Serving the nation's capital 24 hours a day, seven days a week and operating more than 1,500 buses. Metrobus helps transport a population of 3.4 million within a 1,500-square mile jurisdiction.
Metro began its paratransit service, MetroAccess, in 1994; it provides roughly 1.5 million trips per year.
As with most public transportation services, fares and advertising revenue do not pay for all of the costs of operating Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess services. The shortfall is covered by contributions from local jurisdictions including the District of Columbia, the State of Maryland, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Fairfax County, and Falls Church Virginia.
Metro claims that it is committed to compliance with environmental laws, regulations, policies, procedures, and other adopted requirements. Within their published materials Metro states that, “All executives, directors, managers, supervisors, and employees are accountable and have a personal and corporate responsibility to ensure that this commitment is incorporated into daily activities and functions.” A further claim is that “Metro aims to provide the nation's best transit service to improve the quality of life in the Washington metropolitan area.” Beyond a pledge there is little evidence that Metro is doing more than simply abiding by the laws and regulations that govern a transit agency.
Combined Metrorail and Metrobus serve a population of 5 million within a 1,500 square-mile area. Overall, 45 percent of those working in the center core—Washington and parts of Arlington County—use mass transit.
In FY 2012, Metrorail’s highest ridership days were: on March 23, 2012: 845,669 (Cherry Blossom Festival) and on June 7, 2012: 844,671 (Nationals Baseball Game V. New York Mets)
Metro and the Federal government; linked at the purse strings. Thirty-five Metrorail stations serve federal facilities and nearly half of Metro’s peak period commuters are federal employees. The federal government contributes roughly 56 percent of the capital costs. Fares and other revenue currently fund 55 percent of the daily operations, while state and local governments fund the remaining 45 percent. Customers receive a discount on their fare when using SmarTrip cards instead of cash (on Metrobus) and paper faircards on Metrorail.
In 2012, Metro embarked on a 6-year, $5 billion improvement program designed to enhance the transit experience for passengers. The program, known as Metro Forward, includes renovation and rebuilding of infrastructure and track, new railcars and buses, and upgraded technology. The result will be a thoroughly modernized Metro system to provide riders with safe, reliable, and comfortable transit, and return the system to a state of good repair.