A somber-faced general manager told the board that oversees the nation's second-busiest transit system: the Congressional plan to quickly cut back on spending will have two negative effects at Metro.
First, federal aid will decline. Secondly, farebox revenues from passengers will also likely decline.
The federal government has been supplying $150 million a year for rebuilding Metro's track infrastructure. Richard Sarles says the sequester will cut some of that funding.
"While we have already received half the allocation for [the] current fiscal year through March 27th, the remaining half of funding could be impacted," said Sarles.
Applying the sequester formula to that second half of the fiscal year, Sarles estimates the cutback to be about $12 million.
Metro's general manager hinted that major weekend track work would probably continue, but some secondary Metro improvement projects may have to be cut.
"It's tough. It's very tough," Sarles told reporters. "But you look at all the things we do: we do lighting improvements. We do signage improvement(s) ... Those types of things are the types of things that could be at risk in the future."
The other effects of sequestration at Metro are ridership (and associated revenues). Federal workers account for about 320,000 bus and rail trips on an average weekday around here. That generates $820,000 a day in revenue, said Sarles, who added, "If, for example, those riders take 12 furlough days (as [has] been talked about) in the next six months, the revenue loss would be $10 million through September."
The general manager at Metro stressed his estimates are for federal workers only. If sequestration happens, the odd are some private sector workers -- like federal contractors -- will also get laid off, and that will further lower revenues.
Metro's general manager promised the WMATA Board more specific figures about the sequester's impact in about two weeks.
Sarles also praised Virginia legislators for finding a way to reach a bipartisan compromise for increased road and transit funding.