Transportation Policy

Greedy Executives Double Salaries, Cut Customer Service, May Ask for a Bailout

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No, it's not the latest Wall Street failure. It's D.C.'s Metro public transportation system. The D.C. Examiner reports that the system is anticipating major reductions in service, a hiring freeze, and possibly layoffs.  Yet salaries at all levels of Metro have increased at several times the rate of inflation.

Metro's Approved Fiscal 2009 Annual Budget includes large pay hikes for salaried management employees, as well as hourly workers such as bus drivers, rail operators and maintenance workers. But the numbers take on added significance when compared to previous years.

For example, in the section entitled "Multi-Year Operating Cost Comparison," we see that salaries for Metro managers in the Bus Services section have more than doubled since 2006. Next year, Metro's top bus executives expect to be paid twice what they made just three years ago, and this when almost every economic indicator is steadily heading south.

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In 2007, an exclusive Examiner series highlighted the excessive overtime payments that pushed more than a hundred bus and rail operators into six-figure territory – almost double the median income of the Washington, D.C. area.

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Meanwhile, Metro's "customers" have to contend with broken escalators, defective subway cars, increasing crime and decreasing system reliability even as they continue to pay the higher fares and parking fees imposed on them last year when most Metro employees were getting yet another raise.

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  1. For some reason this reminds me of the 2005 NYC transit strike. At first people were supportive, and then when it fucked up their lives and they found out what the strikers were asking for (totally pushed by The Post, of course), they started to get really, really pissed.

  2. Let’s see here, isn’t it Congress who has the oversight authority for DC, and thus for this budget?

    And we want to give this same Congress oversight authority over banking, auto makers, etc.?

    What could possibly go wrong?

  3. Let’s see here, isn’t it Congress who has the oversight authority for DC, and thus for this budget?

    Not entirely. While it was originally authorized by Congress, WMATA is a tri-jurisdictional entity representing the District, Maryland, and Virginia.

  4. Sounds like “Change we need!”

  5. What the hell is up with the numbers in that article? They’re quoting lump sums, not per-capita compensation, without any reference to ridership or revenue increases. Did I miss a link to some data that allows a valid comparison?

    Everyone knows that Metro is poorly managed, but this is a piss-poor way to go about proving it.

  6. How much would government employees take home if they worked for tips?

    I should ask Blago, I suppose.

  7. I live near the Huntington metro, and the top escalator is broken at least 75% of the time, no exaggeration. It’s amazing.

  8. We have seen the future, and it uh, sorta works (but not very well).

  9. That’s right government shouldn’t waste money on public transportation and raise taxes to pay for it instead it should waste money on building public roads and raise taxes to pay for it. Just ask the reason foundation:

    “I’m not excited about a gas tax increase, but the reality is our current gas tax doesn’t pay for upkeep of the system we have now,” said Adrian Moore, vice president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, and a member of the highway revenue commission. “We can either let the roads go to hell or we can pay more.”
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h0jhIdk5jvjtf5bEpyAbXQNZJpxAD95ET0KG0

  10. Does the gas tax money actually go to upkeep of infrastructure, or does it just go into the General Fund?

  11. Silentz: Fungible.

  12. Adrian Moore, vice president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, and a member of the highway revenue commission. “We can either let the roads go to hell or we can pay more.”

    Sad, isn’t it, that even a fellow of the Reason Foundation can’t even seem to conceptualize the idea that maybe we should cut expenditures. I mean, can’t anyone say that California should spend more on infrastructure, and cut spending elsehwere to pay for it? Anyone at all?

  13. The fares are too low, at least compared to other public transportation standards up and down the AMTRAK corridor. Should be a standard two dollars like the rest of the subsidized world.

  14. I think the photographs, addresses, and home telephone numbers of Metro executives and directors should be posted prominently in every station. I cannot imagine why they would object; they must be proud of the work they do, and the invaluable service they provide to society.

  15. RC Dean: The problem isn’t the money that’s spent as much as the way it’s spent. When bridges to nowhere get built, what often happens is that transportation spending in urban areas goes wanting. Granted, there’s a lot of foolishness in urban areas as well, but that’s a symptom of the problem, not the cause.

  16. I didn’t even get pay raises like that and I made the trains run on time.

  17. “Sad, isn’t it, that even a fellow of the Reason Foundation can’t even seem to conceptualize the idea that maybe we should cut expenditures. I mean, can’t anyone say that California should spend more on infrastructure, and cut spending elsehwere to pay for it? Anyone at all?”

    Yes, and you would think that he might have something to say about the gas tax money being siphoned off to subsidize mass transit or the fact that every construction project the highway trust funds pays for costs more than it should because of the Davis-Bacon Act, a giveaway to labor unions that virtually guarantees federal projects use higher priced union labor.

    Cut out that nonsense and there could be a lot more actual highway work done at the current gas tax rates.

    But more than that, it bugs me that even supposed libertarians like the Moore seem to buy into the notion that the user fee concept for funding government activities is somehow inapplicable to anything but roads. Taxpayers can be asked to pay for all sorts of government “services” and activities that provide them with no personal benefit whatsoever (i.e all the transfer payment programs) but then they need to pay more for roads because they’re using them.

    My response is, if the government wants me to pay more to use to roads, then transfer my share of taxes that went to pay for farm subsidies, welfare payments, Medicare, food stamps, public schools, public housing, etc. etc. etc. over to the highway trust fund to satisfy the obligation. Because on a user fee basis, not a single one of those things is providing me any benefit whatsoever.

  18. Gm, now you’re just being greedy. What about teh CHILDREN?!

  19. …Davis-Bacon Act, a giveaway to labor unions that virtually guarantees federal projects use higher priced union labor.

    Not exactly. What it does is ensure that wages are higher than they would be otherwise, most of the time, but does NOT ensure union labor (the work rules make it so ridiculous that nobody would do so based simply on DB wage determinations). What it is supposed to do is to eliminate the cost bias against higher priced union labor, but it doesn’t particularly do that. More effective with making things difficult for open shop contractors are things like DC’s operator licensing, which require that you get another DC operator (typically for $) to sign off that you’re competent.

    It’s a goat rope, to be sure. The unions claim it doesn’t increase costs on the whole (they do a lot of joe like dancing around to do it, though), from my personal dealings with it, it does. However, more cost inflationary is the minority set aside rules, which are liable to get much worse with the BO’s crowd coming to town. The cost increase for any set aside portion of the work is at least 5% higher, and if it’s a high setaside where there aren’t any options, I’ve seen it as high as 125% more expensive.

  20. R C Dean: And we want to give this same Congress oversight authority over banking, auto makers, etc.?

    Not to mention healthcare …

  21. “Gm, now you’re just being greedy. What about teh CHILDREN?!”

    The “children” have already been hosed by those who profess to care for them the most – the one’s who supported saddling them with massive unfunded liabities to pay for social security and Medicare.

  22. When bridges to nowhere get built, what often happens is that transportation spending in urban areas goes wanting.

    Jesus, urban people whine like nobody’s business, I swear.

  23. With GPS devices in vehicles, every super highway to cow path in the country could be made into a toll road.

  24. In 2007, an exclusive Examiner series highlighted the excessive overtime payments that pushed more than a hundred bus and rail operators into six-figure territory – almost double the median income of the Washington, D.C. area.

    Well, Joe once said: It shouldn’t all be just profit motive – government expenditures are not that vulgar, noooo. The Metro service MUST be “adding” value to the economy, at least by the purchasing power those posh payments give to the operators.

  25. —That’s right government shouldn’t waste money on public transportation and raise taxes to pay for it instead it should waste money on building public roads and raise taxes to pay for it.–

    How like a liberal to set up an idiotic strawman like this. In this particular article there is no advocacy for ending mass transit. There is simply a measurement of mis-management leading to poor service to the ridership. Should poor management be rewarded? In the liberal world – resoundingly yes!!!

    If liberals could think like adults, maybe people suffering poor service (like inoperative escalators) could get better service.

  26. public transportation adds so much more to the economy through uplifting society that it can not accuratly be measured by the tiny sums it expends.

    union labor is so much more efficient than other labor that they deserve a premium, especially if they are in public service.

    better sity planning under the new administration will make this all abundantly clear.

  27. Sen. Tom Coburn took a lot of heat earlier this year for refusing to endorse a bill that would increase DC Metro’s funding by $1.5 billion. Seems rather prescient now.

  28. nobody, I really hope that was intended sarcastically.

    There really needs to be an HTML tag for sarcasm. It’s so hard to detect around here, what with all the liberals and their soapboxes…

  29. [P]ublic transportation adds so much more to the economy through uplifting society that it can not accuratly [sic] be measured by the tiny sums it expends.

    Uplifting society, how? By amusement? Fun?

    [U]nion labor is so much more efficient than other labor that they deserve a premium, especially if they are in public service.

    Are you giving everybody a lesson in circular thinking?

    [B]etter sity [sic] planning under the new administration will make this all abundantly clear.

    You should meet Joe, he was also a [s]ity planner (no, not with an “h” and an extra “t”)

    [Yeah, sounds like sarcasm, but I cannot help myself and argue]

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