PRTC Proposes Service Cuts, Fare Increase

Jan. 12, 2016

While declining gasoline and diesel fuel costs are providing an economic benefit for consumers and business, public transit authorities are losing significant revenues as the result of declining motor fuel taxes. The loss of those revenues for the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) has created a $9.2 million budget deficit that is forcing a proposed cut in commuter and local bus services, and a proposed fare increase starting in July. 

“This is a critical time for public transportation in Northern Virginia,” said PRTC Interim Executive Director Eric Marx. “The need has never been greater, but the funding model that supports vital transit services is unsustainable.”

In addition to the loss of motor fuels tax revenue, PRTC’s budget gap for 2016-2017 is due to:

  • The imminent depletion of a motor fuels tax reserve fund that Prince William County has used as the sole source for paying its public transportation obligations since 2008
  • The loss of federal funding due in part to the conversion of the I-95 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.

PRTC and Prince William County, which provides the majority of PRTC’s local funding, have been projecting a shortfall for years, and PRTC has made substantial changes in order to maintain its transportation services for as long as possible. Since 2009, PRTC has implemented cost-saving service reductions amounting to 9 percent of its scheduled bus services and increased fares by nearly 30 percent. The proposed budget calls for a 5 percent average annual fare increase starting in July along with service cuts that will impact all routes and affect an estimated 125,000 annual passengers.

“These proposed cuts,” adds Marx, “will result in more single-occupant vehicles on the roads and fewer opportunities for non-drivers to access jobs, schools, health care and other community resources. We are working with local and state government officials to find both a stop-gap solution to avoid further service cuts and develop a long-lasting funding strategy.” 

PRTC, which provides the OmniRide commuter bus and OmniLink local bus services in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, carried approximately 3.1 million passengers in fiscal year 2015. OmniRide buses carry passengers on I-95 and I-66 to destinations including Washington, D.C., the Pentagon, Crystal City, and the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor. OmniLink local buses offer routes in Dale City, Dumfries, Quantico, Woodbridge/Lake Ridge, Manassas and Manassas Park. PRTC also offers Metro Direct bus service to/from the Franconia-Springfield and Tysons Corner Metrorail stations and Cross County Connector buses between the Manassas area and eastern Prince William County.

Among the proposed cuts:

OmniRide commuter bus

  • Elimination of the Capitol Hill route
  • Elimination of two trips on the South Route 1 route
  • Elimination of one trip on the Dale City – Washington route
  • Elimination of neighborhood routing on all Lake Ridge routes
  • Elimination of neighborhood routing on the Dale City and Lake Ridge DL and DLX trips
  • Route consolidation of all trips serving Crystal City requiring Dale City passengers to transfer at the Pentagon
  • Elimination of Modified Holiday service
  • Reduction of service on Fridays.

Metro Direct commuter bus

  • Elimination of two trips on Linton Hall Metro Direct
  • Elimination of all non-rush hour and reverse-commute trips on Manassas Metro Direct
  • Reduction of frequency of mid-day trips on Prince William Metro Direct.

OmniLink and Cross County Connector local buses

  • Reduction of frequency on all OmniLink routes
  • Elimination of one trip on the Route 1 OmniLink route
  • Restructuring of Manassas and Manassas Park OmniLink routing including a reduction in frequency of service
  • Elimination of three Cross County trips and reduction in frequency of service.

Under the proposed fare increase, new one-way fares would be:

  • OmniRide SmarTrip fare - $6.50
  • Metro Direct SmarTrip fare - $3.25
  • OmniLink and Cross County Connector fare - $1.50
  • OmniLink and Cross County Connector reduced fare for seniors/disabled - $0.75
  • Local bus day pass - $3.40
  • Local bus weekly pass - $13.65