Despite pressure from the District of Columbia to extend late-night services, the Metro board of directors voted 7-1 Thursday, Feb. 28 to maintain Metro's current hours of operation.
The board indicated it would focus on other customer concerns — ranging from fare prices to extension of rail lines — later this year.
Metro originally cut back late-night hours for maintenance work in June 2016; a year later the cutbacks were extended two more years in order to address “safety recommendations and rehabilitate (the) Metrorail system.” The late-night hours were slated to resume in June.
The board had considered alternate schedules that entertained more late-night hours as well as a potential partnership with Uber to give discounted rides to late-night travelers. However, board members agreed to maintain the current hours in a private executive session before the board meeting.
The current hours of operation will continue to end weeknight services at 11:30 p.m., weekend services at 1 a.m., and Sunday services at 11 p.m. The original hours of operation, including 3 a.m. weekend services and midnight weekday services, will resume on July 1, 2020, without any further action on the matter by the board.
District board members Corbett Price and Jack Evans had pushed for late-night hours to be reinstated. After a decision by the Metro Safety Committee to maintain hours two weeks ago, Chairman Evans expressed confidence in the service hours being extended in the full board vote.
During the Finance and Capital Committee presentation of the 2019-2020 budget, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld stressed the importance of catering to riders’ demands to maintain public satisfaction despite service hours.
“At some point we want to put a better product out there, because we are now competing with other services,” Wiedefeld said. “We want to cater to customers who have requested these services and commented (at public meetings) on these topics.”
According to the 2019-2020 budget proposal, developed by Chief Financial Officer Dennis Anosike and Chief of Capital Planning and Program Management Thomas Webster, seven-day bus passes would be cheaper and a $2 flat rate on the weekend rail services would be enacted in July in efforts to increase ridership.
Evans suggested discounted rides on sports teams’ game days or major events in the District, such as the Cherry Blossom Festival.
“It’s up to the board if that is an expense they are willing to take on,” Wiedefeld said in response to Evans’ suggestion.
The budget proposal opted to expand rush-hour service periods and make all trains eight cars long, as well as extend the Yellow Line services to Greenbelt, Maryland, and all Red Line services to Glenmont, Maryland. The new initiatives are projected to cost $30 million.
The budget will be voted on by the board of directors later in March.
Maryland representative Michael Goldman expressed his concern with the estimated cost, arguing that it did not account for the maintenance work that would come with the expansions.
Christian Dorsey, a board member representing Virginia and chairman of the Arlington County Board, also raised concerns about the financial feasibility of the fare changes and route extensions.
“It’s worth a try,” Evans responded.
“I support all of these initiatives,” Dorsey said. “As long as they are going to benefit residents of our communities.”