A Metro train prepares to depart from the Pentagon Metro Station in April 2015. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Metro’s importance cannot be overstated. As the backbone of our regional transit system, Metro has spurred development and aided in smart growth. It reduces road congestion, benefiting our environment and our quality of life. Hundreds of thousands of people ride Metro, including many with no other affordable options who rely on it to earn a living and to engage in social and economic activity that makes ours a dynamic and desirable region.

It is understandable, then, that there is resistance to Metro adopting a post-SafeTrack hours of operation schedule that trims eight hours of service each week. Without question, this will have a significant impact on how people live, work and play, but we must remember that the sole purpose of reducing service is to deliver a safe and reliable transit experience.

As we have come to learn, Metro has forgone preventive maintenance and used overnight hours to correct defects and malfunctions. Managing a rail system in such a haphazard way has led to costly, inconvenient and sometimes catastrophic outcomes.

To fulfill the primary mandate of his leadership, Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld and his team have determined that consistent blocks of time are necessary to implement a preventive maintenance plan to bring the system to a state of good repair. Simply put, that cannot happen with the limited maintenance windows that were available prior to SafeTrack.

After requiring detailed analysis and probing alternative approaches with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority staff, WMATA’s board of directors adopted, for two years, the service-hours proposal most favored by the public. In the end, the vote was unanimous, but right up to the end, the District of Columbia threatened to use its authority under WMATA’s governing rules to stop implementation of a proposal favored by a supermajority of board members representing the federal government, Maryland and Virginia.

Board members from the District described this as a vote against their interests. That is an unfortunate and myopic view. I appreciate that reducing service over the weekend places a disproportionate burden on the District. I, too, represent a jurisdiction with significant business activity that relies on workers and patrons being able to use mass transit safely and responsibly after 1 a.m. But our first priority must be that anyone using Metro can be confident that no shortcuts were taken when it comes to ensuring their safety and the reliability of their trip.

I would rather avoid the harm that reduced hours of service will bring. But that pain can be mitigated by using other transportation options such as bus, ride-hailing and carpooling.

These service cuts are necessary to protect our riders from the risk of injury or worse. It is our ethical and public duty to take every reasonable step to ensure that we don’t harm Metro riders in the worst and most irreparable ways.

The writer is a member of the Arlington County Board and alternate member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors.