DC nightlife, economy feel sting of limited late-night Metro service, study reveals

A new D.C. study reveals the lack of late-night Metro service has hurt the city’s nightlife industry and its economy.

A study by the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture, or MONC, found that transportation access is the “most critical issue” faced by many nightlife businesses.

At a rally Wednesday night, Mayor Muriel Bowser put the pressure on the transit agency to restore late-night service hours on Metrorail.

“To think that we have hours that they’re just not comparable to world capitals. That’s a problem for how we grow our economy,” Bowser told a crowd of people, which included business owners, bar and restaurant personnel, and labor unions representing employees who work late and need transportation options to get home.

A union member calls for extended Metro service. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

Those who participated in the study overwhelmingly reported that their businesses “suffered as a result of Metro’s reduced hours.”

“We think that it’s very important to encourage Metro to extend the hours and give the full-service hours that have been denied the past few years,” bartender and DC Bar and Restaurant Workers Alliance member Mike Haresign said.

Eighty-one percent of businesses that participated in the study — or 4 in 5 — believed that extending Metro hours — especially during closing time — would benefit their establishments.

“Our nightlife is thriving, and it’s growing,” Shawn Townsend, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture, said.

D.C.’s nightlife is a $7.1 billion industry that employs 65,000 people at more than 2,400 businesses, the study said.

The Office of Nightlife and Culture was established in 2018.

“The nighttime economy in Washington, D.C., is more than fun, food and games,” Bowser said.

Office cleaners and security guards are among the workers represented by the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, which has joined the call for Metro to extend its rail-service hours.

“What workers would like to see … is the hours restored back to what they were in 2016, which was 3 a.m., I believe,” Jaime Contreras, Capital Area SEIU vice president, said.

Service hours were cut starting in 2016, when Metro said it needed more maintenance time to get things done during a major system overhaul in the aftermath of several catastrophes, including a fatal smoke incident at L’Enfant Plaza.

Contreras believes that restoring Metro’s hours would be good not only for workers, but also for the economy.

Currently, Metrorail hours are:

  • Monday to Thursday from 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
  • Friday from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Sunday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s 2020 budget proposal recommended a 2 a.m. closing on Friday and Saturday nights and a return to midnight closings Monday through Thursday.

Wiedefeld’s plan is moving in the same direction as the mayor’s request but does not go quite far enough, she said.

“This proposed addition gets us closer to where we need to be,” Bowser said.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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