On Tuesday, the Town of Herndon said it will pledge to join the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s “Momentum” plan to ensure Metro’s smooth transition to the area once the new Silver Line is operational.
At a Herndon Town Council work session, council members listened to a presentation by Fairfax County Supervisor and WMATA board member Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) concerning the plan.
The Momentum plan calls for a set of priorities that WMATA and Metro hope to implement along the new rail line by 2025, including the operation of six-car trains during rush hour, completion of the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network; implementing a one-stop shop for all regional transit trip planning and payment; and developing a more efficient MetroAccess service. Hudgins told the council that the plan will require participation of all funding partners, including federal, state and local governments.
“Metro is the second largest commuter train system in the country behind New York City,” she said. “But there is no dedicated funding source, and every year we cobble funding together … there is currently no funding scheduled beyond the Silver Line expansion.”
Hudgins said the Silver Line’s impact on Fairfax County will be exponential and will result in unprecedented growth.
“It is expected to increase residential population within the county by 30 percent and increase employment by 40 percent,” she said. “The values of residences with proximity to Metro will also increase by 7 to 9 percent,” she added.
But Hudgins said there is much to be done to ensure Metro will perform the way it will have to in order to accommodate the added riders. She said this includes updating antiquated equipment and power systems.
“Metro is like a gorgeous house you bought 20 years ago but then neglected for all that time, and now all the repairs need to be done at once,” she said. “The core of the rail system is already strained.”
Hudgins said Metro is also moving forward in other directions, such as looking to eventually get rid of its paper fare cards, and potentially even its plastic Smart Cards, in preference of an “open” system that will accept credit and debit cards.
According to WMATA, the Momentum plan’s primary goals are to build and maintain a premier safety culture and system; to meet or exceed expectations by delivering quality service; and improve regional mobility and connect communities.
“It is a tall order, and that is why we need the pledge of our jurisdictional members and stakeholders,” Hudgins said. “We hope that Herndon will join and endorse the plan.”
“Exactly what does that entail?” asked Councilman Charlie Waddell.
“It is important to have Herndon’s voice in this, so that in five years it can say ‘We saw this or that in the plan, and we are on board with it — or not,” answered Hudgins.
“Could there be some dedicated federal funding in the future?” asked Waddell. Hudgins answered that because of the fact that 35 percent of Metro riders are federal employees, that avenue is being explored, but there is no guarantee.
“I appreciate the work that is being done and it’s important for us to get behind what you are trying to do,” said mayor Lisa Merkel. Merkel said the council planned to pledge Herndon’s support to the Momentum plan within its consent agenda at its next public hearing.