Those anticipating a decision on whether Metrorail stations will once again stay open until 3 a.m. on weekends will have to wait at least another month.
On Thursday, Metro’s Safety and Operations Committee directed the transit agency’s staff to further research when to conduct 8-hour periods of needed maintenance work before it decides whether to keep the system’s current hours or revert to the late-night hours from a few years ago.
“I think if you were to ask everybody would you like to have late-night hours, we’d all say yes,” said Christian Dorsey, who represents Virginia’s Arlington County on the Metro board. “The question becomes how do we balance that with the necessary conditions of the system? It’s our responsibility to know Metro’s needs and to make those decisions about what’s properly balanced.”
Metro officials explained its need to continue a preventive maintenance program it launched and one General Manager Paul Wiedefeld continues to support.
According to Metro figures, maintenance and investments to clean track beds, install new cables and other infrastructure work led to an 86 percent reduction of track incidents in the first quarter of this fiscal year versus first quarter of fiscal 2017. During that same time frame, Metro experienced a 76 percent of emergency work.
Metro staff has said maintenance work mainly takes place when stations are closed, but reverting to the late-night service hours could force work to happen during the day.
There’s a minor problem: the representatives with the District could impart a jurisdictional veto, which means if board representatives from Maryland and Virginia vote not to support the late-night hours and the District does nothing, then stations could open late again by June 30.
Jack Evans, Metro board chairman and D.C. council member, said it’s based on a provision Metro approved to examine if shorter hours allow workers to make more repairs along the Metrorail system.
Currently, Metrorail stations close 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 p.m. on Sundays. Stations close at 11:30 p.m. the rest of the week.
If the previous hours go into effect next summer, stations would close at 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday and close at midnight Sunday through Thursday.
“The position of the District right now is to restore the hours as they were two years ago,” Evans said. “We need the late-night service.”
During a press briefing after the committee sessions and full-board meeting, Wiedefeld said a balanced must be reached into order to provide safe and reliable service and then possibly increase Metrorail hours.
“There is a balanced that we have to reach,” he said. “I would love to get more hours and service when we’re all comfortable.”
In other business, the board’s Safety and Operations Committee recommended approval for the agency to charge peak fares during regional events such as Fourth of July celebration, Marine Corps Marathon, or recent activities like this year’s March for Our Lives rally.
A summary of the resolution allows the general manager to determine “when a regional event requires peak service and implement peak fares as necessary to keep Metro safe, reliable and affordable.”
A memorandum shows the fare increase would range from 25 cents to $2.15.
Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, called it a “backdoor” fare increase.
“I think if we are being consistent with our objective, we ought to oppose this,” he said before the committee vote.
When the full board convened, members voted 7-1 to allow peak fares for regional events that will go into effect immediately. Goldman voted against it.
“This makes no sense,” he said. “The board will regret passing it today.”