Metro budget gap could mean layoffs, service cuts, WMATA says

WMATA says layoffs, a hiring freeze and service cuts could be just months away if a large budget deficit isn't addressed. 

Metro is warning that if a $750 million budget gap isn't closed, it may have to start giving notices to employees this winter about potential layoffs and a hiring freeze. 

"I don’t see a scenario right now where the notice doesn’t happen and where the hiring freeze doesn’t happen," Metro General Manager Randy Clarke said Monday. 

To avoid big cuts, the transit agency says it would need more money than planned from D.C., Maryland and Virginia next year – hundreds of millions of dollars more. 

Cuts to staffing would not affect safety, WMATA said, but could hurt service – just as Metro ridership is starting to bounce back from the pandemic. Metro officials said without more money from local jurisdictions, they'll have to begin notifying the unionized workforce in January about layoffs. 

"To single-handedly close this deficit, Metro would require a scenario cutting service by 67 percent," according to a WMATA board presentation. 

That could look like increased wait times, shorter trains and bus lines being cut. 

Clarke said he's "still optimistic that this will get solved." 

There will be a briefing on the budget challenges on Thursday during a board meeting. The budget for the next fiscal year will go into effect on July 1, but is usually approved in the spring.