Metro Board set to vote on plan cutting hours

WASHINGTON — The Metro Board is set to vote Thursday on plans to cut back service hours every day of the week.

The recommended plan, which General Manager Paul Wiedefeld argues is needed to allow for more inspection and maintenance work, would see the system close at 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, 11:30 p.m. weeknights and 11 p.m. on Sunday nights. The system would also open an hour later on Sundays, with trains starting after 8 a.m.

The plan nearly failed to advance to the full board amid disputes over the discriminatory impact of the cuts and whether the changes should be permanent.

The District’s Metro Board members have threatened to veto the changes if there is no end date attached. Initially, Metro Board Chairman and D.C. Council member Jack Evans threatened to veto the service cuts if they are scheduled to last longer than one year.

Evans’ office said late Wednesday that the veto threat remained on the table, but that he would work to adjust the current proposal.

Wiedefeld said he can live with a two-year sunset clause that he believes would allow enough time to demonstrate what the changes are helping accomplish.

Opponents of cuts argue that Metro could be significantly more efficient with the time it already has or could rotate shutdowns to areas impacted by late-night or evening work.

Opponents of this particular plan argue that closing the system for an additional eight hours each week is arbitrary, especially when two hours each week would be added through the 11:30 p.m. closings on weeknights which would not make work zones significantly more efficient.

The 11:30 p.m. weeknight closings and the Sunday changes have the largest impacts on low-income and minority riders.

If the board cannot agree on the changes Thursday, the vote could be delayed or brought up again any time over the next few months as Metro works through its budget process for the year starting in July.

The Metro Board is set to approve a very limited amount of additional bus service that would provide a handful of connections when these service changes take effect in July.

A few of those changes are reflected in new Metrobus schedules that begin Sunday. The changes Sunday are the first time Metro is offering any type of additional options for riders after the system closes since June when Wiedefeld made the temporary change to close the system at midnight every day including weekends.

While much of the impact of these changes is already included in Wiedefeld’s budget proposal for next year, the hours cuts are separate from the proposals that will be voted on in the next few months to run trains less frequently at all times of day and to raise fares across the board on both bus and rail.

The budget proposal that is expected to go to a public hearing the week of Jan. 30 will also include an addition from the Metro Board that could provide a bus fare discount program for low-income riders.

 

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