Monday, June 07, 2010

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689's Questionnaire on WMATA

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689's questionnaire is worth reading. In an election season in which unions have come under fierce attack, especially from the Washington Post, it provides a valuable example of how unions can understand an issue and advocate in the public's in addition to its own interest.

Certainly, ATU Local 689's dissatisfaction with Metro infrastructure maintenance and the need to make it our first transit priority reflects public sentiment. As Jon Weintraub of the Bethesda Civic Coalition has repeatedly pointed out, major bottlenecks occur regularly at Bethesda Metro where the short escalators leading to the platform are under repair for several months. It's also common for the long escalators from the station to the bus terminal to to break down. Frequently, riders have to walk down what were once termed the "longest escalators in the free world" so that the one sole remaining functioning escalator can carry riders to the street.

Questions 1-8 from the ATU Local 689 questionnaire below the fold:

1. Unlike every other major transit system in the nation, WMATA has no dedicated stream of operating funds from the jurisdictions it serves except for a small gasoline tax in Northern Virginia. Instead, it has to request operating funds annually from each jurisdiction. Do you support establishing an adequate ongoing funding formula for WMATA?

2. There is some thought that having annual revenue targets for WMATA capital and operations that included both service expansion and inflation factors makes more sense than a single region-wide tax source (each jurisdiction decides on its source of dedicated revenue). Such an agreement was made for the "Metro Matters" capital funding program. Would revenue agreement(s) for capital & operations make more sense than a single dedicated funding source?

3. WMATA has a backlog of capital needs including repair and preventive maintaenance projects estimated to cost $11 billion over the next ten years. In October 2008, Congress passed Public Law 110-432, providing for $1.5 billion in federal funding for Metro repairs over ten years as long as Virginia, DC, and Maryland each allocated $50 million annually in matching funds and allowed the addition of two voting Federal representatives to the WMATA Board of Directors. Do you support the continued allocation of Maryland's local commitments plus the $50 million annually for ten years to make vital repairs to Metro?

4. The federal government and jurisdictions throughout the region have invested billions of dollars in WMATA capital infrastructure and operational expertise. There are a number of transit expansion projects including the Maryland "Purple Line." Some have argued that a proliferation of different technologies employed is inefficient and that stand-alone systems will result in redundant costs.

(a) Do you favor WMATA coordinating the technology for the different transit investments?

(b) Do you favor utilizing WMATA to operate this proposed systems, using WMATA's existing infrastructure, including heavy track equipment and overhaul facilities, to reduce capital and operating costs?

(c) Do you support paying wage and benefit levels on the "Purple Line" similar to those paid by WMATA?

5. Will you oppose any future proposals to replace Metrobus routes operated by workers who received decent wages and benefits with routes operated by private companies that provide inferior wages and benefits?

6. Both Montgomery & Prince George's Counties are trying to move forward with mixed use transit-oriented development around Metro stations. This often requires increasing density and sometimes requires incentives. Do you generally favor this type of development?

7. As our roads become increasingly clogged, many argue that we cannot keep widening existing roads or building new roads to serve population growth. One proposal to address this situation is to enact a principle known as "bus priority" to utilize existing road capacity more efficiently. The characteristics of bus priority measures include everything from holding signals for a few seconds for a bus to get through the intersection to wholly dedicated bus lanes. Do you support the implementation of bus priority measures on major arteries such as Veirs Mill Road, University Blvd., New Hampshire Ave, Route 1/Rhode Island Ave., Martin Luther King Jr., Branch Ave. and other appropriate corridors?

8. The collective bargaining provisions of the WMATA compact have been in place since the takeover of private bus companies. There has not been a strike since illegal wildcat strikes in 1978. There has been only one arbitration award since 1980 the vast majority of labor agreements have been negotiated settlements. Periodically, there are legislative attempts to change WMATA collective bargaining law. Do you favor keeping the existing system in place?