Metro Board to Hear Suggested Changes to Night, Weekend Service Hours

WASHINGTON — Metro’s board will hear several proposals Thursday to alter service hours at night and on weekends in order to give track crews more time for repairs and maintenance.

The suggested service cuts include General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s original proposal to permanently close the rail system at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays along with a new 10 p.m. closing time on Sundays.

A second option would close the system at 11:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays. And a third proposal would close the system at 11:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, at 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and would run from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays.

All three options would add an extra 8 hours of track work time each week.

Metrobus to help fill in service gaps

In documents prepared for Thursday’s Metro board meeting, staff state that the service changes would have a disproportionate impact on poorer riders.

“Metrobus is developing multiple late-night service scenarios for the public to consider,” the documents say.

Bus service changes could include filling in some of the many missing links in existing bus service at night, adding more late-night routes or adding service to existing routes.

As part of the pitch to the board, in addition to an explanation that workers need more time on the tracks, Metro staff cite the low number of riders using the system after the proposed closing times.

Wiedefeld has said he needs to give workers unfettered access to the tracks overnight and to focus on times when the system has more riders, during the traditional rush hours. He has cited declining ridership particularly late on weekend nights as a reason to cut back those hours.

Overall, ridership has dropped sharply amid increased track work, delays and longer waits for trains outside of the rush hour.

The number of riders entering the system after 11:30 p.m. is significantly lower than others times of day in part because there are a limited numbers of stations where riders can be guaranteed to catch a train with just 30 minutes of service remaining before the system closes for the night.

A midnight closing actually means the final trains leave the ends of the line as much as 50 minutes earlier. Those trains do not reach the other end of the line in some cases until after 12:30 a.m.

Timeline for public feedback, approval process

Any of these schedule changes would require a public hearing, which Metro is planning for the week of Oct. 17.

A Metro board committee would discuss the public feedback on Dec. 1, with final approval for the changes set for Dec. 15.

Any service hour changes wouldn’t take effect until July 2017.

A number of regional leaders and riders have criticized the proposal, suggesting that only lines that are being worked on or inspected be closed, or more significant night bus options be made available.

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