Metro Edges Closer to Late-Night Train Service Cuts

Metro board member Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George's County, pleads his case regarding the late-night service proposal during a Dec. 1 committee meeting at the transit agency's headquarters in Northwest. /Photo by William J. Ford
Metro board member Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George's County, pleads his case regarding the late-night service proposal during a Dec. 1 committee meeting at the transit agency's headquarters in Northwest. /Photo by William J. Ford

During a heated session that lasted nearly two hours Thursday, a Metro committee approved a proposal to scale back late-night rail service for the next two years, including the closure of stations at 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The four-member Customer Service, Operations and Security committee also stipulated the plan would be instituted only from June 2017 to June 2019, but District officials on the board nevertheless threatened to veto the plan.

“To use the jurisdictional veto, I want to go back and consult with the mayor and the council,” Metro board Chairman and D.C. Councilman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said after the session. “This is democracy at work.”

During the committee discussion at the agency’s headquarters in northwest D.C., Evans said the District wanted the proposed service hours implemented for only one year until June 2018. Once the time frame expires, then revert back to closing the stations by 3 a.m. on the weekends prior to the SafeTrack maintenance project.

: A list of the four late-night Metrorail service proposals are seen here. Metro officials said the majority of respondents chose proposal three. If the agency’s board of directors approve the plan, the hours would go into effect in July. /Photo courtesy of Metro
: A list of the four late-night Metrorail service proposals are seen here. Metro officials said the majority of respondents chose proposal three. If the agency’s board of directors approve the plan, the hours would go into effect in July. /Photo courtesy of Metro

As some of the board members tried to offer some compromises to the plan, Evans said the District has done enough.

“I am not representing myself. I am representing the District,” said Evans, who’s not a member of the customer service committee. “We are very firm in this position.”

The proposed late-night service hours are as follows:

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

Tom Bulger stood in solidarity with the District as the only committee member to vote against the plan.

Committee members Catherine Hudgins of Fairfax County, Robert Lauby, who represents the federal government, and Malcolm Augustine of Prince George’s County voted in favor of it.

During the session, Augustine pushed against part of the proposal which assessed how minority and low-income populations would be affected under the Title VI equity analysis of the Civil Rights Act. However, Metro officials said it wouldn’t violate the act because maintenance work must be done to improve the system.

In addition, the majority of respondents favored the current late-night shift proposal that was approved by the committee.

He also presented a proposal to close the stations by midnight Sunday through Thursday, but the motion failed.

“It’s not what I want. It’s a difficult decision, but I know we need to do preventive maintenance,” he said. “Doing nothing is unacceptable. If nothing [got] done here at the committee, then we would be going back to 3 o’clock in the morning and that’s just unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, the board’s Finance Committee recommended to hold a public hearing the week of Jan. 30 on the proposed $1.8 billion 2018 fiscal budget. A public comment period will last from Jan. 14 until Feb. 6.

Board members representing the three jurisdictions presented alternative Metro bus changes that includes eliminating certain lines, raising fares and combining routes.

For example, the W19 Indian Head Express that stretches from Temple Hills in Prince George’s to Charles County, Maryland, would be eliminated.

Another proposal would be to raise fares to cover the entire $969,000 subsidy for the DC-Dulles 5A bus line in Virginia, or simply get rid of it.

One proposal for discussion in the District includes a decrease in parking fees at the Anacostia station in Southeast by 25 cents; and an increase by that same amount at the Minnesota Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue stations in Northeast.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld already presented the budget with proposed fare increases that include:

  • One-way bus fares from $1.75 to $2 and Express bus fares from $4 to $4.25;
  • Metrorail peak fares to board a train from $2.15 to $2.25 with the maximum fare at $6;
  • All parking fees would increase by 10 cents.

The board would need to approve the budget in March to implement any fare or service changes by July 1.

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 285 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com
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