Amid Complaints, Metro Reverses Cuts

Metro officials said a move to reduce costs by running smaller trains in off-peak hours angered riders. The larger trains have been restored.
Metro officials said a move to reduce costs by running smaller trains in off-peak hours angered riders. The larger trains have been restored. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

After hollers of protest from riders, Metro officials have reversed an unpopular decision to cut train service on weekends and weekday off-peak hours and restored service to its original levels, effective yesterday.

Metro will no longer run four-car trains on the weekends or during midday, off-peak hours, officials said. Instead, Metro will return to running six-car trains on the weekends and mostly six- and eight-car trains during the midday off-peak. The only time customers will see four-car trains will be after 7 p.m., when the evening rush is over, and on occasion when officials have to take trains out of service.

A four-car train holds about 720 people; a six-car train carries about 1,080.

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. said he decided to restore service after riding the Blue Line this weekend and seeing crowds at downtown stations. Riders told him that more rail cars needed to be on the tracks, he said.

"This adjustment obviously upset our customers," he said in an interview yesterday.

The initiative to run shorter trains during the winter months came from rail chief Dave Kubicek and was put into effect the weekend after Thanksgiving without notice to riders. Kubicek said the move would save money and reduce wear and tear on the cars during the agency's slowest periods, its winter weekends.

At the same time, Metro increased the number of eight-car trains running during rush hour, effective Monday.

But riders immediately criticized the weekend and off-peak cuts. They described trains crammed so full that people were left on the platform. Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said officials have seen video from cameras at station platforms showing passengers running to catch the shorter trains.

Weekend ridership is lower than weekdays, and winter weekend ridership is lower than during the rest of the year. In January, average Saturday ridership was about 335,000 and Sunday ridership was about 171,000. On a typical weekday, riders make about 700,000 trips.

Even though the numbers might have warranted reduced service, "the real world is different," said Catoe, who had signed off on the service change.

Rail service has been the focus of rider scrutiny and complaints in recent weeks because the Metro board is considering the largest-ever proposed increase in subway fares and parking fees. There has been an increasing number of service disruptions this fall, and rail riders are especially angry because the fare proposals would hit them the hardest. The board is scheduled to vote on the fare increases tomorrow.

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