Metro com­pro­mises on late-night ser­vice cuts

Main­te­nance hours will ex­tend to 2019

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY RYAN M. MCDER­MOTT

Metro will ex­tend late-night ser­vice cuts un­til 2019 to al­low more main­te­nance hours af­ter the sys­temwide over­haul known as Safe Track ends in June.

The Metro board of di­rec­tors on Thurs­day ap­proved what Chair­man Jack Evans called a com­pro­mise, giv­ing Gen­eral Man­ager Paul Wiede­feld more time each week for re­pairs but also set­ting a hard-stop date for ser­vice re­duc­tions.

Un­der a tem­po­rary sched­ule, the sub­way sys­tem has closed at mid­night daily since SafeTrack started in July. Be­fore SafeTrack, the sys­tem closed at 3 a.m. on week­ends.

Un­der the sched­ule that be­gins in July, the sub­way will close at 11:30 p.m. on week­days and at 1 a.m. on week­ends. Ser­vice on Sun­days will be­gin at 8 a.m. in­stead of 7 a.m.

That means Metro’s 118-mile sys­tem serv­ing more than 250 mil­lion rid­ers a year will op­er­ate 127 hours per week — among the fewest num­ber of hours for any of the coun­try’s ma­jor sub­ways.

The com­pro­mise came in the form of two mea­sures added to the ser­vice re­duc­tion plan: Metro will be re­quired to pro­vide a progress re­port in May 2018, at which point the board could vote to end the re­duced hours. The ser­vice cuts will sun­set au­to­mat­i­cally in 2019 with­out any board ac­tion.

The plan was ap­proved two weeks af­ter Mr. Evans, who rep­re­sents the District, said he would veto any pro­posal for ex­tend­ing late-night ser­vice cuts for more than a year.

Mr. Evans and Cor­bett Price, the District’s other board rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said the re­duced hours would dev­as­tate the city’s en­ter­tain­ment and restau­rant economies and hurt shift work­ers who rely on the rail ser­vice.

De­fend­ing his de­ci­sion to forgo the veto, Mr. Evans said he must make com­pro­mises as board chair­man and that all par­ties gave up some­thing in the deal.

“Two years is tough to swal­low,” he said af­ter Thurs­day’s board meet­ing. “But, again, part of my job as chair of the board is to try to avoid ju­ris­dic­tional ve­toes and bring com­pro­mises to­gether.”

Mr. Evans said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser sup­ported his de­ci­sion to com­pro­mise, but he added that the District gave up a lot for the sake of the re­gion.

“In the spirit of co­op­er­a­tion and at­tempt­ing to get Metro fixed, we’re will­ing to make that com­pro­mise and go along with it. This is a com­pro­mise. For me per­son­ally, it’s a com­pro­mise. I rep­re­sent 50 per­cent of the liquor li­censes and 75 per­cent of the ho­tel rooms in the city,” said Mr. Evans, who rep­re­sents Ward 2 on the D.C. Coun­cil.

City en­ti­ties with a stake in late-night ac­tiv­i­ties are protest­ing. Neil Al­bert, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Down­townDC Busi­ness Im­prove­ment District, said the harm from the cuts would be wide­spread.

“The loss of late-night tran­sit ser­vice is not sim­ply detri­men­tal to nightlife, it dam­ages the econ­omy of this re­gion,” Mr. Al­bert said. “For a city built around tran­sit, there are no ‘dis­cre­tionary’ trips. Even though more peo­ple com­mute via Metro dur­ing rush hour, Metro isn’t just a com­mut­ing tool. Metro­rail is the back­bone of our tran­sit sys­tem. It is a crit­i­cal part of down­town life at all hours of the day.”

Board mem­bers from other ju­ris­dic­tions seemed to rec­og­nize that the com­pro­mise was a bit­ter pill for a city with a newly thriv­ing bar and restau­rant scene.

“I know this was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion,” said Jim Cor­co­ran, a Vir­ginia board mem­ber, giv­ing a spe­cific nod to Mr. Evans and Mr. Price. “I ap­pre­ci­ate the ne­go­ti­a­tion that you did to get to a place where you can pro­vide these hours.”

Mr. Wiede­feld de­fended his call for the re­duced hours by say­ing the move is nec­es­sary for con­tin­ued main­te­nance. SafeTrack is an emer­gency mea­sure to get the sub­way back in work­ing or­der, he said, and the fol­low-up re­pair sched­ule will make sure the sys­tem stays that way.

The Fed­eral Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board said Metro needs more time for in­spec­tions and main­te­nance.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Un­der the tem­po­rary SafeTrack sched­ule, now ex­tended un­til 2019, the Metro sub­way sys­tem closes ev­ery day at mid­night.

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