Arlington taxpayers would be on the hook for additional funding to help subsidize Virginia Railway Express (VRE) service in the next fiscal year, but the total funding from Arlington tax coffers would still be no higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The draft fiscal 2024 VRE budget now being circulated proposes a subsidy of $218,219 from the Arlington County budget, representing 1.2 percent of the total subsidy being sought from local governments served by the commuter-rail system.
The proposed Arlington subsidy is up about $57,000 from the current fiscal year, which concludes in June, but the same as in the last pre-pandemic fiscal year of 2021.
The proposed operating expenses for the train system in the coming fiscal year are projected to be about $109 million, up from $98 million in the current fiscal year. VRE officials are hoping that a rebound in commuter travel will allow fare revenue, which has plunged during the pandemic era, to rebound and cover about 15 percent of costs, still well below the desired recoupment rate for VRE and other transit systems nationally.
There is some rebound occurring – November’s average daily passenger count of 5,844 was up from 3,036 a year before – but potentially permanent changes in commuter patterns in the wake of COVID make projections of a continuing rebound difficult to estimate with any sense of confidence.