WASHINGTON — Metro unveiled a fourth, drastically different service cut proposal Thursday as a Metro board committee approved a public hearing on a series of plans to scale back hours.
A public hearing on all four proposals is expected to be held in mid-October after it is formally approved by the full Metro board of directors next month.
The new proposal, suggested by D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, who also chairs the Metro board, would maintain Metro’s 3 a.m. closing time on Friday and Saturday nights, but cut back Sunday service to run only between noon and 11 p.m. The system would also open later on Saturday mornings.
“We are a big-league town and, in order to be, in my view, a big league town, you have to run your subway later than midnight, particularly on the weekends,” Evans said.
Evans said he had an additional duty to support late-night service given the area he represents on the council, which includes areas like Georgetown and Dupont Circle.
This proposal could be mixed and matched with the three others that were outlined earlier this week, but that would require a new formal analysis of the impact on minority groups and low income riders. Metro acknowledged previous service cuts would hit poorer riders hardest.
General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Metro needs more unfettered track time. He plans to shift inspections to overnight rather than midday hours as well as to add increased preventive maintenance inspections overnight.
“What I’m looking at is what I have in front of me, and what I have in front of me is basically a system that we do not maintain and inspect to the level that we should,” he said.
Wiedefeld told the board that eight hours of additional time with the system closed each week could still allow the majority of trips to be handled while getting basic maintenance done.
“This isn’t the heavy lift type stuff that we’re doing with SafeTrack,” he said. That separate work would still be needed.
Board members were most vocal in their questioning of Metro leaders about how they could guarantee that significantly more work would get done and done right during expanded maintenance windows, why any change to hours should be permanent, and why the permanent change is being brought up now when a number of major reviews are still underway.
Wiedefeld said major service changes longer than the “temporary” yearlong midnight weekend closings he implemented in June require public hearings and analysis that take months. Metro then must schedule workers and contractors around the new hours and communicate the changes to riders.
Overall, board members appeared resigned to the need to cut back hours in some form.
Responding to the suggestion that only parts of the system impacted by work should shut down early on a given night, Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader said riders would not be able to keep up with regularly rotating work or inspection zones.
“They wouldn’t understand it, they wouldn’t know coming into the night where we were actually working,” Leader said.
Metro is looking for other ways to get more done during existing work time, Leader said. That includes moving work vehicles into positions near the work zones before all passenger trains are stored in rail yards.