Metro board committees to take up service cut plan, ridership drop

WASHINGTON — Plans to permanently cut back weekend Metro service and address the systemwide decline in ridership are set to come before committees of the Metro board of directors this week.

A proposal to permanently close the rail system at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 10 p.m. on Sunday, is on the Customer Service, Operations and Security Committee’s meeting agenda for Thursday. The committee was asked to approve a public hearing on the proposal, which Metro’s full board could approve later this month.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has said the service scale-backs were needed because there are fewer riders during those hours, when trains are already running less frequently and when Metro regularly does track work. He said Metro needed more time on the tracks.

But last week, elected leaders from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, in Maryland, challenged the broad nature of the proposed cuts. They said closures should only affect the parts of the system being worked on at a given time.

Transit ridership is dropping across the region at all times of day. In particular, Northern Virginia saw an overall drop of 6 percent compared to last fiscal year’s ridership figures. Metrorail ridership in Northern Virginia declined 6.7 percent.

The Metro board’s Finance Committee, which also meets Thursday, is expected to discuss the financial implications of a significant decline in ridership over the past several years.

Systemwide, the decline has been blamed on everything from changes in commuting, telework and gas prices to rider concerns about safety and delays.

The full Metro board of directors is also expected to meet in closed session Thursday to discuss legal, budgetary and investigative matters.

Metro Transit Police are investigating the derailment of a Silver Line train outside the East Falls Church station in July. The derailment occurred as a train was moving from one track to another. About 75 passengers were on the train at the time.

There was another derailment involving a six-car train in the Alexandria Rail Yard last week.

The train was moving across a switch to a track where the train was set to be stored overnight when the derailment occurred. Metro Assistant General Manager Andy Off said two cars left the track entirely, but remained upright.

No one was hurt, but there was “moderate damage” to the two rail cars and the tracks.

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