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In order to both save money and make time for track work, Metro discussed getting rid of its extended weekend hours, according to The Washington Post.
On top of a $72 million budget deficit, the troubled transit agency is trying to overhaul its outdated rail system -- for both the safety and sanity of customers. The National Transportation Safety Board has kept close tabs on Metro since several people died in a train collision in 2009, demanding safety improvements like track upgrades and new rail cars. Meanwhile, riding the rails in the summer can seem like riding with Dante, and Metro reports broken escalators like a broken record.
So Metro has implemented an aggressive improvement schedule that includes a lot of single-tracking on the weekends, especially on holiday weekends.
As mentioned at committee hearings Thursday, by closing at midnight Fridays and Saturdays instead of staying open three hours later -- past last call -- Metro would have the equivalent of 45 more days per year for improvements, The Post reported.
That, of course, presents two likely problems for partygoers and barflys: Tougher competition for cabs and more drunken drivers.
Metro trains first began running after midnight in 1999, when the system's hours were extended to 1 a.m. "At the time, Metro had the earliest closing time among the nation's major transit systems, and the move was celebrated as a sign that button-down Washington was getting a shade hipper," as an August 2007 Washington Post story put it.
The 1 a.m. closing slowly crept to 3 a.m. with the encouragement of businesses. The 2007 story ran because then-general manager John Catoe mulled dealing with a budget crisis that year by replacing late-night rail service with buses.
If Metrorail does decide to turn pumpkin at midnight on weekends, the transit agency should at least give us those late-night buses. Or maybe compromise by closing at 1 a.m., instead.
Says The Post:
In May 2006, the average after-midnight ridership on weekends was 22,376 trips, down 27 percent from 30,649 in May 2005. The number of late-night riders rose slightly this May, averaging 23,184 trips per weekend. Nearly half of those riders boarded trains between midnight and 1 a.m.
So a 1 a.m. closing time might only affect half of the after-hours riders.
Metro has no plans to cut back the late weekend hours, and no one has proposed it, but it did come up in discussions Thursday.