Metro's proposal to end late-night weekend trains rankles Washington's party crowd

Local Metro riders voice their opposition to the proposal to scale back the late night weekend hours of operation.
Sunday, February 13, 2011; 10:12 PM

After Metro transit officials proposed last week to trim their budget by ending late-night rail service on weekends, Washington Post staff writers J. Freedom DuLac, Brigid Schulte, Annys Shin and Theresa Vargas spent the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings riding the trains to gauge reaction.

It's 1:15 a.m. on Sunday, and George Dizelos is at the Dupont Circle Metro station, waiting with two friends for the Red Line to Bethesda. It's late, but it's early.

"I've missed that last train before," he says of the 3 a.m. bar-hoppers' express. "Like, you go to Big Slice or whatever to get some pizza, and then you have to take a cab home. And it costs $20." That's the equivalent of four Yuenglings at the Big Hunt, the bar where they've spent part of the night.

The Dupont station has a peculiar, after-hours odor. It's part distillery, part dirty ashtray and part Victoria's Secret body lotion, with a box of Krispy Kremes and something else, something putrid, mixed in. Especially that.

Let's be real: The night train is the party train, and the people who depend on after-midnight service are the people who clean offices and work security, but mainly they are the nightcrawlers, those for whom the action doesn't begin until 11 p.m. When they've had too much, it's the Metro car that pays the price.

On this weekend, the price of running Metro trains through the wee hours was the topic du jour, after officials floated a proposal Thursday to close the rail system at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, as on other days of the week. Metro's late-night service, which began in 1999, costs about $3 million a year, and system managers would love to get those hours back to add the equivalent of 45 days a year for track maintenance.

A crowded train pulls into the crowded station, where the platform looks much as it does during the evening commute - only younger, more untucked and a lot more inebriated.

"If Metro stops running trains earlier, we wouldn't go out as frequently," says Dizelos's friend Lucas Georgiou.

"If they cut the service, I might jump on the third rail," Dizelos says.

The late, late show

According to Metro, an average of 13,400 people ride the trains each Friday and Saturday between midnight and the 3 a.m. closing. But at Shady Grove at 2 a.m., not one of those passengers is around. The only face a reporter sees is that of Hosni Mubarak, staring out from a tattered copy of Friday's Express that somebody left on the floor.

There's also one half-eaten rib, an empty bottle of Tabasco, a crumpled Coke can, some popcorn crumbs and three copies of something called "Happiness Digest," whose inside pages promise to "bring you closer to God."

It's hard to be cosmopolitan if you can't stay out past midnight, says Stuart Levy, who teaches tourism and hospitality management at George Washington University. "What about D.C. wanting to be an international city?" he says. "D.C. is just changing its image. People think it's a boring town until they experience it. This is the old image we are going back to."

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