The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Metro’s very bad proposal to permanently close at midnight

A Metro car pulls into the Ballston Metro station in February. (Pete Marovich for The Washington Post)

Metro would never again be open after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and it would close at 10 p.m. on Sundays under a plan General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld will propose to the Washignton Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board this Thursday. The board should reject any motion to move this proposal forward.

Metro closed at midnight before 1999, when it extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays to 1 a.m. and midnight Sundays. The Friday and Saturday close extended to 3 a.m. in 2007.

The current SafeTrack rebuilding program moved closing times back to midnight temporarily. Now, Wiedefeld is proposing making that permanent and closing at 10 p.m. on Sundays, earlier than Metro has regularly closed in decades.

Any closing time is effectively earlier than the posted time, since the last trains leave core stations (where most late-night rides originate) with enough time to finish their runs at the closing time.

The press release says,

Under the proposed schedule, the Metrorail system would be open 127 out of 168 hours in a week. Prior to SafeTrack, the system was open 135 hours per week. The additional track time increases safety and reliability by giving workers the time and space they need to keep Metro’s infrastructure in a state of good repair.

I’ve spoken to transit experts who agree that Metro was not making enough time for maintenance. They say late night hours squeezed the repair work. Not only are there few hours, but it takes time to set up for maintenance, go through safety protocols to prepare the site, etc. and then reverse it on the other end.

When SafeTrack was announced, Dan Stessel told me, “the need for late-night service is lower since people are using [ride hailing] services” like Uber and Lyft, unlike before 2007. He said Metro serves only about 6,000 trips a night and that number is declining.

Stessel argued that this service only helps “the nightlife crowd,” because workers need service that’s available 24 hours a day. (I’d say, except for workers in the nightlife sector, and there are many of those.)

[Continue reading David Alpert’s post at Greater Greater Washington.]

David Alpert is board president and founder of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.