Metro held an anticipated public hearing Thursday, Oct. 20 on its plan to permanently scale back late-night rail service, with numerous people in attendance speaking out against the proposal.
Since the transit agency’s SafeTrack maintenance project began this year, Chauniece Jones of Largo said she spends more money and wakes up earlier to travel to her retail job at Forever 21 in northwest D.C. For example, she spent about $60, one way, using Uber after being unable to ride the bus that stops running at 8 p.m. on Sundays.
“[Uber] sometimes price-gouges,” Jones, 23, said. “Metro should expand the hours prior to SafeTrack. We are in the District of Columbia. Other cities offer 24-hour service. Why can’t we?”
Even the D.C. Council wants the hours restored once SafeTrack ends in the spring.
“You can’t ask people earning minimum wage to spend a whole lot of money. Metro provides a valuable service,” said D.C. Councilman and Metro board chairman Jack Evans, the first person of 63 people to speak during the 9½-hour hearing.
As of Monday, Oct. 24, nearly 600 written comments had been submitted to Metro.
Once Metro approved the SafeTrack plan in May, all Metrorail stations began closing at midnight.
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld proposed to permanently cut hours of operation to allow workers more time to make repairs and to replace some of the agency’s aging infrastructure.
There are four proposed scenarios:
- 5 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday; 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday;
- 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 a.m. to midnight Friday; 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday;
- 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday; and
- 5 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday; and noon to 11 p.m. Sunday.
Lessie Henderson, co-chair of the Prince George’s Advocates for Community-Based Transit of Glenn Dale, said low-wage service workers such as cooks and janitors would be affected the most.
“Many people are going to be stranded and they’re going to be unemployed, especially if their jobs will not … accommodate them because of this schedule,” Henderson said. “It’s now on the table because of years and years of mismanagement from [Metro] and it’s completely disgraceful.”
The board of directors anticipates making a decision in December.
One of the items up for approval during the Oct. 27 board meeting is special fares and service for the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.
Metrorail would open an hour earlier at 4 a.m. and operate at peak service levels until 9 p.m. Stations would still close at midnight.
The agency proposes to sell commemorative $10 SmarTrip cards good to use all day on the train and bus. However, commuters must purchase them in advance via email or bulk order.
If any of the special SmarTrip cards are still left on Inauguration Day, Metro would sell them for $14.50. The usual $2 fee to purchase the card would be waived.
To accommodate the thousands of visitors expected to arrive in the District, SafeTrack maintenance work would be suspended from Jan. 14-22.
In terms of public safety, the agency’s transit police will request at least 150 officers from the D.C. region and elsewhere to join its force specifically for the inauguration. Metro received a $250,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security with the majority of the money going toward overtime pay.