The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors approved reducing Metro hours of service for one year to provide more time for repairs and maintenance Thursday.
Board member Michael Goldman said General Manager Paul Wiedefeld will determine whether he wants to extend the plan to a total of two years after one year with the new schedule.
“Optically, it’s easier for the District (board members) to swallow,” Goldman said.
Metro Board Chairman and D.C. Council member Jack Evans said weeks ago he would oppose the schedule change if it lasted two or more years.
Under the approved schedule, Monday through Thursday, stations will open at 5 a.m. and close at 11:30 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than the schedule used since the start of SafeTrack. Stations will open Fridays at 5 a.m. and remain open until 1 a.m. On Saturdays stations will open at 7 a.m. (no change) and close at 1 a.m., one hour later than the SafeTrack schedule. Sundays, stations will open at 8 a.m., an hour later than the SafeTrack schedule, and close at 11 p.m., an hour later than the schedule Wiedefeld initially proposed.
County Council President and Transportation Committee member Roger Berliner (D-1) said he was glad the board agreed on a schedule.
“I applaud the board’s decision and am grateful that parochial concerns did not outweigh the larger public interest in moving us closer to the day when Metro is safe and reliable,” Berliner said.
He added he believes Metro’s future trumps the concern of one of three jurisdictions represented on the board.
“There were concerns expressed particularly in D.C. as to the District of Columbia restaurants closing early, and while I understand those concerns, we need to put the long-term interest in the system as our top priority,” Berliner said. “And the board’s vote today is a positive step in that direction.”
Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, said he supported the change because Metro workers need more time to maintain the tracks. He said before the vote, he was hopeful the board members representing the District of Columbia would vote in favor of the change as well. The general manager’s one-year report after the service change had been added during the Customer Service, Operations and Security Committee meeting Dec. 1, when the committee tentatively adopted the schedule.
Board member Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County, said during the committee meeting he was concerned about how the changes would affect minority riders and riders of low income. However, he said he approved the schedule in committee because Metro needed additional hours to make repairs.
On Wednesday, board member Corbett Price, who represents the District, said he would wait to decide his position until after the full board discussed the matter just before the vote.
Originally, Wiedefeld proposed to have a closing time of midnight every day except Sunday (10 p.m. close). However, staff later created three alternatives, all of which would provide eight more hours of trains not running so workers could perform preventative maintenance on the tracks.