Ken Breznay will be up early Friday, ready for work as usual as a vice president at Chevy Chase Bank. But Metro is sleeping in, starting subway service at 8 a.m. instead of 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 31. And that's causing Breznay and other commuters more headaches than a New Year's Eve hangover.
"I wasn't happy when I heard about this," said Breznay, who must be at his desk at 8 a.m. in the bank's Bethesda headquarters. Breznay typically rides the Red Line from Dupont Circle to the Bethesda station.
On Friday, he will reluctantly drive his car to work and hunt for parking off Old Georgetown Road rather than take the train and be late. "I just have a lot to do that day, since it's the last day of the year," said Breznay, who works in trust operations and handles investments. "A lot of people might be trading securities that day to get their position in shape by the end of year."
Unlike Breznay, Allyson Cook has no alternative transportation from her home in Suitland to her downtown D.C. job at the Marine Center for Conservation. Cook is hoping her supervisor in the accounts payable department will understand if she's late because of Metro. "I don't have a car," she said. "I don't have a choice."
Metro originally planned to start subway service at the normal weekday time of 5:30 a.m. on Friday, which is both a federal holiday and District holiday. But after Metro officials failed to get federal assistance toward the $1.8 million cost of New Year's Eve bus and train service, they decided to delay morning service to trim costs. The later start will save about $50,000. The agency also dropped its tradition of free fares after midnight on New Year's Eve, saying passengers must pay their way.
Metro trains will run from 8 a.m. on Friday until 3 a.m. on Saturday. Buses on Friday will operate on a Saturday schedule.
That level of holiday service is lowest among the country's major transit systems.
San Francisco's BART, the system most often compared to Metro, is providing regular weekday service that starts at 4 a.m. and will continue around the clock. In Philadelphia and Boston, trains will start rolling at 5 a.m. New York City and Chicago transit systems run 24 hours a day. The Long Island Rail Road plans regular morning rush-hour service on Friday and a second rush hour in early afternoon and will run trains until 6 a.m. on Saturday.
Metro expects to provide up to 750,000 passenger-trips New Year's Eve, more than double the number last Dec. 31. The transit agency budgeted $800,000 for holiday service but realized several weeks ago that crowds generated by the Mall celebrations would raise transit costs $1 million.
Metro officials recommended a 5:30 a.m. start but were overruled by the agency's board of directors.
"This is an unfortunate byproduct of not having any federal contribution for New Year's Eve service," said Katherine K. Hanley (D), chairman of both the Metro board of directors and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. "Without federal help, we had to choose to treat Friday as a regular holiday. So we will have a regular holiday opening."
But Friday is a workday for many in law, financial services and--especially, with millennium celebrations planned for that night--the hospitality industry.
"There are people other than government employees in the D.C. area, and Metro needs to support those people," said Breznay, the bank executive. "Most people I know are working."
At the busy Hay-Adams Hotel, where all 143 rooms are sold out for Friday night's festivities, the first shift begins with restaurant staff at 7 a.m. "Our staff members have brought this up as an issue, asking if they can get a break because of the Metro situation," said Graciela Lewis, director of human resources at the hotel. Lewis said the hotel expects most employees to be on time and is asking workers to car-pool or take buses or cabs. "Some people will walk, a few will even bicycle," Lewis said. "They're being very innovative."
Because of street closings near the Mall and limited availability of private parking garages, hotel workers who would normally drive to work were planning to take public transportation, she said. Of the hotel's 160 hourly workers, at least 100 will be affected by the delayed Metro hours, Lewis said.
Although Metro is opening too late for some riders, it is closing too early for others. "The restaurants are open until 2 a.m., and there are lots of parties going on. So by the time your food and beverage staff is done, it's after 3 a.m., and they've got no way to get home," said Cherry Crawford, human resources assistant at Hay-Adams. She plans to walk eight blocks from her home to the hotel.
CAPTION: Metro board Chairman Katherine K. Hanley said schedule changes were caused by not having a federal contribution to New Year's Eve service.