WASHINGTON — Metro wants to extend its reduced rail service hours for at least another year, but Mayor Muriel Bowser and members of the D.C. Council weren’t shy to let Metro know they’re unhappy the rail system is not ready to restore full weekend and late-night rail service.
Metro’s preventive maintenance program began after major safety problems, including derailments and track fires. Metro said it had to cut back hours to give track repair teams access to the system to tackle long-neglected maintenance.
“I see it as temporary. We want to get more hours, that’s what we want to move back toward, but when we can do it safely,” said Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.
Wiedefeld said the catch-up work the past couple of years has helped, but more time is needed.
“We’re not quite there yet. We have gotten more productive. We think technology can help us into the future so we want to get this to where we can add more hours,” said Wiedefeld.
Wiedefeld is expected to ask the Metro Board to extend the reduced service hours past July, when current plans call for a restoration of full late-night and weekend service.
But Mayor Bowser is not happy.
“All of us have made a substantial commitment to making sure Metro has what it needs and I think Metro needs to do a little bit more to make sure that this region has what it needs to stay open,” said Bowser.
The mayor reminded Wiedefeld the rail system has suffered ridership declines and local governments have helped bridge the gap with increases in dedicated funding.
“We didn’t go through all of that so we have a system that can’t support our workers, can’t support our businesses and can’t support our people,” the mayor said.
Tuesday evening’s public hearing on Metro funding, which would have likely included discussions of Metrorail’s reduced service hours, was canceled because of wintry weather.