Metro finds Cash Treasure by Selling Junk

WASHINGTON — One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is bringing in big bucks by selling items that would otherwise end up in the trash.

The transit agency made a record $1.3 million last year by selling old and damaged buses, outdated and unwanted parts, scrap metal and even used motor oil. Metro sold thousands of items last year through auctions, and online, walk-in and phone sales.

“It’s a creative way to manage resources,” Metro General Manager John B. Catoe said. “Efforts like these are especially important at a time when we are facing a budget shortfall and fare increases.”

Vehicles, unclaimed lost and found items, such as bicycles and cell phones, construction equipment, tractors, old computers, office furniture and other items are sold by a private auction company, which also sells the items on eBay.

Some of the buyers are from as far away as the Philippines and South America. Metro has sold machinery, old sections of track and even outdated Metrorail maps on its Web site and other online sites such as Craigslist and the Surplus Record Machinery & Equipment Directory.

Other materials, such as electrical breakers are scooped up by other bus and subway companies around the country.

“And what we can’t use and can’t sell, is sold as scrap metal.” said Adrian Sclawy, who manages the surplus property. “Even keys unclaimed at our Lost and Found Office have been sold as scrap metal.”

Other items, like drill presses or saws are sometimes reused in house by other departments.

“We had one employee build an entire machine shop at one of our rail yards out of used parts discarded by other departments,” Sclawy said.

Many items on the “for sale” list are stored at a 55,000 square foot warehouse in Landover, Md. Metro has been reselling old items since the 1980s. But sales really picked up in January, when the transit agency began selling vehicles and equipment online regularly.

“We have had more vehicles and equipment referred for sale since January which helped to boost sales. Also due to high scrap metal prices, even the non-running junk cars have brought higher prices,” Sclawy said.

With the holidays around the corner, Sclawy hopes to lure in more buyers with sales.

“I usually advertise old Metrorail maps on our Web site. A two for the price of one special,” Sclawy said, adding that the map sales have brought in more than $55,000 over the last several years. “I always tell people, ‘They’re a collector’s item.'”

— Special to