The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (often abbreviated as WMATA and commonly referred to as Metro) is a tri-jurisdictional government agency authorized by Congress, that operates transit service in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, including the Washington Metro and Metrobus. WMATA is jointly funded by the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland.
WMATA operates rapid transit service under the "Metrorail" brand, as well as fixed-route bus service under the "Metrobus" brand. WMATA is also part of the public-private partnership that operates the DC Circulator bus system. WMATA also has its own police agency, the Metro Transit Police Department.
The agency's charter also directs WMATA to create a unified regional transit system by coordinating other public and private agencies within its jurisdiction. Examples of such coordination include: ensuring other local transit systems do not unnecessarily duplicate service; providing for the use of "SmarTrip" farecards on buses operated by other local transit agencies; and including local bus schedules and commuter rail routes (such as Maryland's MARC and Virginia's VRE) within WMATA's online "Trip Planner" guide.
WMATA was created by an Interstate compact, a special type of contract or agreement between one or more states, and operates in a similar fashion to the provisions of a treaty between countries. Pursuant to the Compact Clause of the Constitution of the United States, any such compact must be approved by Congress, and if approved, the provisions of the compact go into effect. The compact proposing WMATA was called the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact.
WMATA was created on February 20, 1967, after the compact was approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 1965, and passed through the Virginia General Assembly and Congress in 1966. WMATA broke ground for its train system in 1969. WMATA's bus system is a successor to four privately owned bus companies (DC Transit, the Washington, Virginia and Maryland Coach Company, the AB&W Transit Company, and the WMA Transit Company), which were sold to WMATA in 1973.
As a government agency, the compact grants WMATA sovereign immunity by all three jurisdictions within which it operates, and except for certain limited exceptions, it cannot be successfully sued unless it waives immunity. For the provisions of the compact, the authority is effectively a District of Columbia corporation.
Controversy surfaced in 2004, when it became known that employees of Penn Parking, the company contracted by Metro to collect parking fees at Metrorail stations, had stolen substantial amounts of cash. Metro terminated the contract with Penn Parking, and on June 28, 2004, implemented a cashless parking system, in which passengers are required to pay for parking with SmarTrip cards.
The parking lots typically fill up quickly on weekdays because of the appeal both for tourists and for commuters from outer suburbs to drive their cars to the outlying stations and take the train in. The cashless parking system created a problem because full, unmanned parking lots trapped drivers who were unable to park and leave without paying $10.00 - the minimum initial cost of a SmarTrip card via the SmarTrip vending machine ($5.00 for the card, and $5.00 initial value). The burden on tourists and single time parkers is highest, because the cost of the card itself is non-refundable and a single time user would be left with an unused balance of $0.25 to $0.50. On January 2, 2006, Metro implemented a change in parking lot revenue hours, so that on weekday mornings, the exit gates from the parking lot would remain open until 10:30 AM.
In 2005, General Manager Richard A. White led efforts to improve accountability and dialogue with passengers. This included independent audits, town hall meetings, online chats with White and other management officials, and improved signage in stations. Despite these efforts, however, the Board of Directors announced White's dismissal on January 11, 2006. Dan Tangherlini replaced White as interim General Manager, effective February 16, 2006. Tangherlini was considered a leading candidate for Metro's top job on a permanent basis before he resigned to work as City Administrator under Mayor Adrian Fenty. Tangherlini was replaced as interim general manager by Jack Requa, Metro's chief bus manager. On November 14, 2006, it was announced in The Washington Post that John B. Catoe Jr., the deputy chief executive of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a Washington, D.C. native, had been selected as Metro's new permanent general manager.
Currently, the Metrorail is being extended to provide service to the Tysons Corner area of Virginia, with further extension to Dulles Airport. Phase I to Tysons Corner is expected to be completed in 2011. Phase II to Dulles is expected to be completed in 2015. No stations will be opened until the completion of each phase. This will add another color to the Metrorail system, silver. Drilling began in mid-2006. There are other rumors of a Georgetown Metrorail connector, an extension of the Green Line northward to BWI Airport, another line along I-395 or Columbia Pike in Virginia, and the Purple Line, which is a circular line to go along the Capital Beltway, particularly the portion between Bethesda and New Carrollton. An extension from Franconia/Springfield to Ft. Belvoir is also a possibility due to the BRAC realignment which will place thousands of new jobs at Ft. Belvoir by 2012. While there has been much discussion about all of them, none are in any official planning stage. The Silver Line alone took more than ten years to start construction.
In October 2008, a new line, the Brown Line, was proposed. The Brown Line will not be a new section of track but an alternate route along the existing Blue, Yellow, and Green Line tracks. The Brown Line is proposed to travel from Franconia-Springfield to Greenbelt via the Fenwick Bridge. Plans are to have trains leaving Franconia-Springfield alternate between Blue and Brown Line trains. WMATA states that the new line is intended to address low ridership along the Blue Line between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom-GWU while also providing a shorter route into downtown Washington, DC for riders of the Blue Line in Northern Virginia. No date has yet been set for the addition of the new line.
In response to a demand for immediate repayment of a $43 million debt, WMATA sought a temporary restraining order against the KBC Bank Group. KBC claimed that the WMATA was in technical default of a contract following the collapse of AIG, which had guaranteed the loan that KBC made to WMATA in 2002. The contract involved the sale to KBC of the WMATA's rail cars, which were then leased back to WMATA. WMATA asked for an injunction from the U.S. District Court of Columbia on October 29, 2008.
After three days of negotiations in federal court, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer announced a settlement on November 14, 2008. Both parties agreed not to discuss the terms of the settlement, which ended the leaseback arrangement.
WMATA had 14 similar lease agreements with other financial institutions when the KBC case went to trial. Waivers were requested from the banks to allow WMATA time to replace AIG with another insurer or guarantees by the federal government.
WMATA was set up with a board of directors, with twelve members. Of those, six are voting members, and six are alternates. Virginia, Maryland, and the District each appoint two voting members and two alternate members. The position of board chairman rotates between the three jurisdictions. Board members serve without pay, but may be reimbursed for actual expenses. The board appoints a CEO and general manager to supervise the day-to-day operation of the agency.
In response to the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, the WMATA Compact was amended on August 19, 2009 to allow the appointment of four Board members by the federal General Services Administration. Two of the new directors will be voting members; the other two will be alternates. This will bring the Board's size to 16 members.
At the outset, WMATA was led by general manager, Jackson Graham, a retired general in the Army Corps of Engineers, who supervised the planning and initial construction of the Metrorail system. He retired in 1976, and was replaced by Theodore C. Lutz. Richard S. Page, head of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, took over as general manager of WMATA in 1979.  Page resigned in 1983, amid increasing financial difficulties for WMATA. and was replaced by Carmen E. Turner, who served for seven years. Former New York City Transit Authority chief, David L. Gunn, took over as head of WMATA in 1991, followed by Lawrence G. Reuter in 1994, and Richard A. White in 1996. White served as general manager for the next ten years. Dan Tangherlini replaced White as Interim General Manager in February 2006, and Jack Requa, WMATA's current Chief Operating Officer for Bus Service, assumed Tangherlini's duties as Acting General Manager on November 6, 2006. John B. Catoe, Jr., who was previously the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, became the agency's eighth permanent General Manager in January 2007.
On January 11, 2006, the Board of Directors announced the resignation of general manager, Richard A. White. He was replaced by board member Dan Tangherlini, as Interim General Manager, effective February 16, 2006. White had three more years in his contract to work for Metro, but had come under fire for mismanagement; however, he was also "widely credited with saving the Metrobus system from collapse and with keeping Metro running during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."
John B. Catoe Jr. was sworn in as the General Manager of Metro on January 25, 2007, replacing Jack Requa, who had served as the Acting General Manager since November 6, 2006. Requa reassumed his duties as COO for Metrobus.
Catoe announced his retirement from Metro on January 14, 2010, with April 2, 2010 as his last day at Metro.
Helen Lew became the Metro's first Inspector General on May 14, 2007, establishing the WMATA Office of Inspector General. Her appointment by the Board of Directors replaced the former Auditor General's Office. Unlike the Auditor General, the Inspector General and her office report directly to the Board and are organizationally independent of WMATA management.
The Office of Inspector General was originally authorized by Board Resolution 2006-18, approved by the WMATA Board on April 20, 2006. With the amendments enacted on August 19, 2009, the Office of Inspector General became part of the WMATA Compact. This change was one of the requirements for the $1.5 billion federal grant offered by the Passenger Rail Investment Act of 2008.
District of Columbia:
As of February 2, 2010, the federal General Services Administration had not appointed any members to the Board.
Fares and other revenue fund 57.6% of the Metro's daily operations while state and local governments fund the remaining 42.4%. Since the Metro's inception, the federal government has provided grants for 65% of the system's capital costs. Metrorail is unusual among major public transportation systems in having no dedicated source of funding. Instead, each year WMATA must ask each local jurisdiction to contribute funding, which is determined by a formula that equally considers three factors: (1) population density, as of the 2000 Census; (2) average weekday ridership; (3) number of stations in each jurisdiction. Under this formula, the District of Columbia contributes the greatest amount (34%), followed by Montgomery County (18.7%), Prince George's County (17.9%), Fairfax County (14.3%), Arlington County (9.9%), the City of Alexandria (4.7%), the City of Falls Church (0.3%), and the City of Fairfax (0.3%).
In 2004, the Brookings Institution released a report entitled "Deficits by Design" that found the agency's serious budgetary challenges owe in large part to its problematic revenue base. Most notably, Brookings found that WMATA's extraordinary lack of dedicated funding sources has necessitated an over-reliance on annually appropriated support that makes the agency vulnerable to perennial financial crises. As a result, the region's political and business leaders created a committee to look at new ways to fund the system, including some type of dedicated tax.
Title VI of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, signed into law by President George Bush on October 16, 2008, authorized a grant of $1.5 billion over a 10-year period for Metrorail capital maintenance projects. The grant was contingent upon the establishment of dedicated revenue sources for the Metro by the Compact jursidctions. An amendment to the Metro's Compact on August 19, 2009 added the requirement for payments "from dedicated funding sources" by the Compact's participating jurisdictions.