Dis­trict to re­ject ex­tended cuts to Metro late-night hours.

Board told of harm to mi­nori­ties, busi­nesses

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN M. MC­DER­MOTT

Metro Board Chair­man Jack Evans vowed Thursday that the Dis­trict’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives will veto a plan to keep late-night sub­way ser­vice cuts in place for two years after the tran­sit agency’s SafeTrack re­pairs end next year.

“We be­lieve we’ve com­pro­mised enor­mously. The board can do what it wants to do. I’ve made my de­ci­sion clear on be­half of the Dis­trict of Columbia,” Mr. Evans said at a board com­mit­tee meet­ing Thursday. “We will ex­er­cise ju­ris­dic­tional veto.”

A rarely used op­tion in Metro’s 40-year his­tory, a veto would force Metro to re­sume sub­way clos­ings at mid­night on week­days and at 3 a.m. on week­ends when the SafeTrack main­te­nance ef­fort ends June 30.

The Metro com­mit­tee on Thursday ap­proved a plan to ex­tend the cur­rent closing times — 11:30 p.m. on week­days and 1 a.m. on week­ends — un­til June 2019. In ad­di­tion, the ear­li­est trains on Sun­days would start at 8 a.m.

Metro of­fi­cials say they need the ex­tra time that the re­duced ser­vice hours would pro­vide in or­der to con­duct long-ne­glected re­pairs and main­te­nance through­out the sub­way sys­tem.

The full Metro Board is to vote on the mea­sure at its reg­u­lar meet­ing in two weeks.

Dur­ing nearly two hours of de­bate Thursday, the Dis­trict’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives said the late-night ser­vice cuts dis­pro­por­tion­ately harm low-in­come and mi­nor­ity rid­ers as well as the city’s bar, res­tau­rant and ho­tel econ­omy.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of other ju­ris­dic­tions ar­gued that the re­duced ser­vice hours are nec­es­sary to im­prove sub­way op­er­a­tions.

“We’ve heard from man­age­ment that they need more time be­cause of de­ci­sions in the past where main­te­nance was de­ferred. “The longer we put it off, the big­ger the prob­lem gets,” said Metro Board mem­ber Robert Lauby, chief safety of­fi­cer for the Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion. “I think we need to bite the bul­let here and make a de­ci­sion.”

Each ju­ris­dic­tion Metro serves — the Dis­trict, Mary­land, Vir­ginia and the fed­eral govern­ment — has two rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the board. A ju­ris­dic­tional veto oc­curs when both rep­re­sen­ta­tives from a sin­gle ju­ris­dic­tion vote against a pro­posal.

Mr. Evans, a D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber, and fi­nan­cial con­sul­tant Cor­bett Price rep­re­sent the Dis­trict on the board. They al­ready had voiced op­po­si­tion to ex­tend­ing re­duc­tions in late-night ser­vice.

Mr. Evans this week helped bro­ker a com­pro­mise that would have main­tained late-night ser­vice cuts for just one year and then re­quired of­fi­cials to as­sess whether a sec­ond year of cuts would be needed.

Many thought the com­mit­tee would ac­cept the com­pro­mise, but the panel voted Thursday to keep the ser­vice cuts for the full two years. The only change was the ad­di­tion of a sun­set clause to end the ser­vice re­duc­tion im­me­di­ately after two years. With­out the clause, the board would have had to vote in two years to end the cuts.

That leaves the Dis­trict with only one op­tion for re­course: ju­ris­dic­tional veto.

Metro Board by­laws say that, when­ever pos­si­ble, rep­re­sen­ta­tives should pro­vide ad­vance no­tice to the chair­man when­ever they plan to use the ju­ris­dic­tional veto.

The guid­ance is meant to me­di­ate any is­sue be­fore a vote, ef­fec­tively avoid­ing a veto.

Ques­tions arose Thursday about the le­gal­ity of ser­vice cuts un­der the fed­eral Civil Rights Act.

“The Mayor’s po­si­tion has not changed. We will con­tinue to ad­vo­cate for a Metro sys­tem that works for ev­ery­one, and re­mains open for as late as is needed to con­tinue our growth.”

— A spokesman for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, on a Metro com­mit­tee’s vote to keep late night sub­way ser­vice cuts in place for two years

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