Waste and Political Correctness at Metro

Washington, D.C.’s subway and bus system, Metro, is weighing a 29-percent fare increase for its riders, to overcome a multimillion-dollar operating deficit. Part of the problem is excessive employee pensions and salaries: A train conductor can earn more than $100,000 per year, with overtime. Another part of the problem, seldom publicly discussed because of political correctness, is the massive cost of the Metro Access program for disabled riders.

Metro Access has consumed hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to provide inefficient, unreliable transportation for small numbers of disabled people. This wasteful, unresponsive program is mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

It would be much cheaper to just give disabled people free cab fare to go wherever they need to than operate Metro Access. It would also be better for disabled people, since Metro Access is often late, even hours late, in picking up disabled passengers.

But the ADA requires that Metro and other mass transit systems transport individual disabled people, rather than letting businesses accustomed to transporting individual passengers or small groups — like cab drivers — do so. That makes no sense, since Metro’s purpose is to provide mass transit, not individualized transit. It’s like requiring a museum that features paintings for the public to come up with individualized sculpture lessons for blind people — something the courts have never required.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 1979 Davis case that the first federal disabled rights law, the Rehabilitation Act, was not an “affirmative action” statute, did not require institutions to offer fundamentally different services to the disabled than they do for the able-bodied, and did not require them to “fundamentally alter” their programs to serve the disabled. That common-sense rule applies to most institutions covered by the ADA, too.

But Congress chose to ignore that general principle in the special context of mass transit systems, which it specifically requires to provide a fundamentally different service for the disabled than for able-bodied people — individualized transportation rather than mass transit.

The Washington Post reports that Metro train riders pay 79 percent of their costs — a bigger percentage than motorists, whose gas taxes don’t pay the full cost of road building and repairs. But the percentage would be closer to 100 percent than 79 percent if Metro were relieved of its obligation to provide individual transportation for disabled people.

Metro also needs to stop paying its employees obscene amounts of money. As noted, many train conductors receive more than $100,000 annually, factoring in overtime, and that inflated pay is then used as the base for their generous pensions, which may bankrupt the system in the future if they are not curtailed.

Metro’s part time board has long been comprised heavily of liberal politicans like convicted felon Marion Barry and AIDS activist Jim Graham, who have shown little interest in curbing inflated union wages for the Metro employees who are their supporters.

The high wages aren’t ensuring competence. Metro employees are recruited and hired in a way that reflects racial favoritism towards African Americans rather than merit-based hiring. The percentage of white employees at Metro is so shockingly low as to provide powerful statistical evidence of discrimination, since it is much smaller than their percentage of both the qualified labor pool and the general population, both in the District of Columbia, and in the Washington, D.C. region as a whole. The racial breakdown of Metro’s workforce in and of itself easily qualifies as proof of a prima facie case of pattern-or-practice racial discrimination under the Supreme Court’s Teamsters decision.

Women also are heavily underrepresented in many Metro job categories, suggesting a possible history of discrimination against women.

Metro’s operator, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), is a case study in waste and inefficiency.