Earlier this week, Metro posed a couple alternative options to the agency’s much-criticized plan to end late-night service.
Now, officials have offered a fourth option, presented at Thursday’s board meeting: Return to late-night service hours, with the system closing at 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, but change opening times to 9 a.m. on Saturdays and noon on Sundays.
Yup — noon on Sundays.
To be clear, it’s likely to be the least popular option that Metro has offered thus far. The plan wouldn’t affect late-shift workers or party-goers, but it could affect the lives of churchgoers, those who commute to weekend service jobs, and tourists visiting the city. Even Michael Goldman, chairman of the Metro board’s finance committee, said he’s not likely to support that option. Goldman has said in the past that he thinks it’s a good idea to provide Metro workers with more time to conduct maintenance work.
But opening at noon? No way, he said.
“I can’t see how you can have a public transit system that starts operating at 10 a.m. on Sunday, or noon on Sunday. That’s not public transit,” Goldman said.
Here’s the rundown of Metro’s current four options for service cuts:
General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld remained adamant Thursday that allowing more time for maintenance work is necessary to improve safety and reliability. In particular, he wants to start conducting track inspections in the middle of the night.
Currently, most inspections are conducted during the day — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — but inspectors are frequently interrupted by having to jump on and off the tracks to clear the way for passing trains.
“What we found is that when we do this in the middle of the day, we’re not getting the quality we want or the time that we need,” Wiedefeld said.
Even so, board member Leif A. Dormsjo appeared unconvinced that it was necessary to institute permanent changes to the late-night schedule. Instead, he asked during the meeting, why not extend the current limited schedule — with midnight weekend closures for the duration of SafeTrack — for another three to nine months, and then reassess after that?
“Are we locking in inefficiencies?” Dormsjo asked, suggesting that there could be ways to shuttle in workers and equipment more swiftly during the beginning of each nighttime shift.
Reaction in the Twitterverse was equally swift.
Metro is expected to hold a public hearing on late-night service cuts in October.