Vote set in Metro hours standoff

The next stage of a showdown over Metro’s hours is set for Thursday morning’s Metro Board meeting.

Maryland, Virginia and federal appointees to the Metro Board — and the people who appoint them — strongly support Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s request for the board to continue current hours or something substantially similar to them to allow for ongoing preventive maintenance and to limit increased costs of additional service.

The District of Columbia’s appointees, though, have said they want to force a return to the hours that were in place before 2016 service cuts and additional cuts made in 2017.

Currently, Metro runs 5 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday, 7 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday. 

The previous hours were 5 a.m.-midnight Monday through Thursday, 5 a.m.-3 a.m. on Friday, 7 a.m.-3 a.m. on Saturday and 7 a.m.-midnight on Sunday.

Metro staff cite the reduced hours as an important reason they have been able to start doing preventive maintenance work that was either never done or ignored for years. Last month, they appeared possibly open to a compromise to keep the system open until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights and to open at 7 a.m. Sundays.

The Federal Transit Administration warned the region though that any change in hours could lead to a delay in the certification of the new local Metrorail Safety Commission, which could lead to up to $1.6 billion in federal funds being withheld from Metro and all other Maryland and Virginia transit projects.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who used to be on the Metro Board, said Tuesday that Metro should be more efficient with maintenance time in order to avoid extending the sacrifices the region has made the last several years.

“If Metro cannot commit to restoring full service on July 1, then we need a firm date for when they think those hours could be restored,” Bowser said.

Several Metro Board members believe Metro should never restore late-night service, and would prefer to have local governments provide small subsidies toward Uber, Lyft or cab rides.

Metro management initially proposed making the hour cuts indefinite, but after strong complaints from the District, the Metro Board approved the cuts through Jun. 30, 2019, which is why a new vote on hours is needed.

The Metro budget due to be approved next month is based around keeping current hours in place.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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