The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. Council calls on Metro to restore late-night service

The D.C. Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday calling for Metro to restore late-night service, setting up a showdown between the transit agency’s general manager and its board chairman, the council member who introduced the legislation.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) introduced the measure urging Metro to restore the service following the conclusion of SafeTrack, its yearlong rebuilding program. Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld says Metro needs eight hours of additional “track time” per week to perform needed maintenance and inspections.

D.C. Council to weigh emergency resolution urging Metro to restore late-night service

But Evans, who also is Metro board chairman had a clear message Tuesday: “If you want to find an additional eight hours somewhere else, that’s fine. But they don’t come at the cost of these hours.”

Metro imposed a moratorium on late-night service and extended hours for special events when it launched SafeTrack in June. For the duration of the program, the system will close at midnight daily.

But council members on Tuesday urged Metro to restore midnight to 3 a.m. service on weekends at the conclusion of SafeTrack.

“For our employees, who work at bars, restaurants, hotels, office buildings, when they got out of work late at night, they have no way to get home,” Evans said. “Taking Uber or some other transportation vehicle is not and option. It costs too much money.”

Metro has proposed a range of possible service adjustments to allow for additional track time. Evans’ preference would keep to the system open until 3 a.m. on weekends, but delay Sunday opening until noon. Another option would involve keeping the system open until 1 a.m. on weekends, but closing earlier during the week and pushing back the system’s Sunday opening by an hour.

Metro says it would boost bus service to make up for the lost rail service when SafeTrack ends, including routes that mimic the rail lines.

But D.C. Council members pushed back, saying night-owl rail service is a necessity in the region.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) proposed a system where needed maintenance and safety inspections are performed in segments — much like the SafeTrack “surges” the region has come to know.

Otherwise, he said, “the entire region suffers so that some work can be done on a segment.”

He said Metro is critical to the region’s economic vitality, an argument echoed by Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At large).

“I do think we need to keep late-night hours for our economy as well as psychologically…that we are a big city,” she said.

Evans made a similar argument.

“We’re not that Washington of 20 years ago that folded up the sidewalks at 6 at night and called it a day,” he said. “We are a major city like London and Paris and New York.”

Metro will hold a nine-and-a-half hour public hearing on late-night service cuts Oct. 20.