With a grim Fiscal Year 2014 budget outlook for Virginia Railway Express (VRE), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has endorsed potential fare or subsidy increases in order to prevent cutting service.
The service faces a $5.5 million deficit as it creates next year's budget.
In order to help the VRE Operations Board balance its budget, county officials recommended Tuesday supervisors support a jurisdictional subsidy increase and a fare increase of 3 percent each. Later, they were also given an alternative to consider – a 4 percent fare increase with no increase on jurisdictional subsidies.
Fairfax County’s share of subsidies for the commuter rail service is projected to increase $154,715 next year to a total of about $5.31 million, up from about $5.15 million in FY 2013. The increase is for rising operations cost as a result of a projected decrease in ridership.
The county’s exact subsidy will be announced Dec. 21 at the VRE Operations Board meeting.
Whether the VRE will get an additional $9.6 million from the Commonwealth for access fees to pay rail lines for use of their tracks is still uncertain. The Board sent a letter to Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton in November requesting the state fully fund the fees and avoid drastic reductions in service.
“If that full amount doesn’t come through, it could have a pretty huge effect on VRE,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee).
These gray areas prompted Board Chairman Sharon Bulova to make a motion that would not tie the Board to endorsing one specific recommendation.
“This is a motion that provides a lot of flexibility because there are a lot of uncertainties regarding the VRE budget at this time,” said Board Chairman Sharon Bulova.
Supervisor John Foust voted against Bulova’s motion, saying he supported the subsidy-free alternative.
“We always get these types of recommendations and frequently they are to increase the subsidy,” he said. “Now, the recommendation is that we don’t have to.”