During the meeting, the board voted to approve plans for a public hearing in October on the proposed late-night service cuts. General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld is pushing for the cuts because he believes track workers need more time to perform maintenance and conduct inspections — a view that has been supported by reports from the Federal Transit Administration.
So far, Metro staff have released four different version of the cuts, all of which would add 7.5 to 8 more hours of undisturbed maintenance time per week. Those proposals are the subject of the public hearings, planned for the week of Oct. 17; at that hearing, Metro wants customers to weigh in on what alternative forms of transportation could help them get where they need to go.
Many riders, and several board members, have called for an after-hours bus service that would mimic the routes on the subway lines.
But Goldman, a representative of Maryland, said Thursday that he’s concerned about using bus service to reach the outer reaches of Metro’s system.
For example, he said, buses driving to the Shady Grove station — located more than 20 miles from Metro Center — may have only four or five passengers on board for the stations near the end of the line.
Using a bus for those trips, Goldman said, may not be “either the most cost-efficient, or a very comfortable way for our riders to meet their needs.”
Instead, Goldman explained in an interview Friday, he believes Metro might be able to subsidize travel with ride-share apps, directing late-night Metro riders to wait for pickups at designated pickup spots or at bus stops. Maybe, he said, the companies would be willing to cap their rates for late-night rides near Metro’s existing transit routes, in exchange for free advertising on trains and buses and in stations.
“It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to run 40 to 50 passenger buses that try to duplicate the Red Line or the Green Line or whatever to take a small group of people home,” Goldman said. “It’s worth investigating whether Uber or Lyft would be willing to do a kind of pool operation where they’ll be able to pick up passengers from origination points.”
Metro is already considering a potential partnership with Uber and Lyft to help provide paratransit service in an attempt to curb the costs of the expensive MetroAccess program. Boston’s transit system just started a similar program, in which people with disabilities or limited mobility pay the first $2 of each trip, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority covers up to an additional $13 of each fare.