Don’t drink and ride.
Richard Sarles, the no-longer-temporary general manager of Metro, appeared on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show last week to discuss some of the many issues surrounding what Nnamdi called the nation’s “second-largest transit system.” With so many people relying on the system, Nnamdi was critical of suggestions that Metro cut back its hours of service, saying a lot of riders would expect it to do the opposite.
At one point, Nnamdi asked, “If people cannot take Metro home after a late night out, won’t that contribute to more dangerous, drunk driving?”
Sarles replied, “I would hope that anyone getting on our train should not be drunk.” Nnamdi chuckled and moved on.
But it’s a serious point, and it’s a shame that Sarles doesn’t have a better answer. Of course people too tipsy to drive make use of Metro, on weekends and at other times. We’ve all had that awkward ride on the train with a loud, tottering inebriate. No one enjoys it, but no one would rather have that person behind the wheel of a car.
As the Washington Post wrote recently, “Let’s be real: The night train is the party train, and the people who depend on after-midnight service are the people who clean offices and work security, but mainly they are the nightcrawlers, those for whom the action doesn’t begin until 11 p.m.”
Moving back the weekend closing time from 3 a.m. to midnight would save $5 million per year -- cutting the overall budget by just 0.4 percent. An average of 13,400 riders use Metro trains during the times that would be affected.
Still, with a $72.5 million operating deficit, the temptation to make the cut is understandable. But the risks aren’t worth it -- and it would set a weird precedent. Metro, after all, could save millions by cutting off all off-peak service, or on all weekends and holidays. But no one would ever suggest that, because the whole point of Metro is to be a convenient public transit system.