The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County will operate fiscal year 2023-24 with a $1.6 billion budget after board members unanimously adopted the amount during a Sept. 28 meeting.

Chief Financial Officer George Fotinos said at the meeting that METRO does not plan to issue any debt, specifically bonds, in 2024.

“The proposed capital budget for 2024 includes maintenance of METRO’s current buildings and infrastructure, maintaining vehicles, and purchasing new ones when necessary,” Fotinos said.

The details

The budget is a 7.2% drop, or $126 million less, compared to last year’s approved budget. Last year’s budget was the largest dollar amount approved in the agency’s history, totaling $1.76 billion.

According to METRO budget documents, the big-ticket items for the FY 2023-24 operating budget amount to $36 million, which includes $24.9 million to account for increased service changes. The $11.7 million in total payroll and benefit increases include:

  • Increased health care costs and cost-of-living adjustments for employees
  • 3% union contract wage increase
  • Adding 56 bus operators
  • Carrying 70 bus operators over budget

Also of note

METRO board members announced its FY 2023-24 business plan goals that include connecting people to more places with high-quality multimodal mobility options throughout its service areas.

A $5.5 million investment in the budget will go toward launching a new 24-hour service bike share program that is projected to launch in summer 2024. It will be an extended mode of transportation that METRO offers in addition to its rail and bus services.

“We’re trying to really connect the bike share network as another mode to our trip planner,” First Vice Chair Don Elder Jr. said.