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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Metro Board of Directors voted to keep the system’s existing rail service schedule for one more year to allow time for crews to perform maintenance, inspections and repairs and keep Metro safe.
The motion to continue using the schedule with reduced late-night service for a year passed, 7-1, with D.C. Board Member Corbett Price providing the lone opposing vote.
Price said he and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wanted late-night service to return.
“The (Washington, D.C.) mayor had provided me instructions, and which I concur with; we have to return to the hours,” Price said after the meeting. “We have a population of approximately 700,000 people in D.C., and I think they have sacrificed enough with these modified hours.”
Metro Board Chairman D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-3) confirmed he had discussed the issue of late-night service with Bowser prior to the vote, but he declined to say whether the mayor asked him to vote yea or nay.
Back in 2016, the Metro board voted to reduce the number of rail service hours per week by eight hours so that crews could perform maintenance, inspections and repairs, such as cleaning Red Line tunnels and testing cables for a power issue.
Evans, who represents D.C. on the board, said many times during the past few months he planned to use the jurisdictional veto with Price to block the motion, meaning he wanted to revert to the schedule in which service ended at 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
One of Evans’s arguments had been that residents who work in businesses with late-night hours, such as restaurants and hotels, deserve to have an affordable ride home. Some constituents told him they did not feel safe waiting at a bus stop at night at those hours.
During a board committee meeting last month, Evans was the single committee member who opposed the motion on service, which the full board would later put to a vote.
On Thursday, Evans did a complete 180 and voted in support of delaying late-night service’s return.
“I think everyone wants the system to be safe, and safety is our number one priority, and safety is determined by us getting these repairs done,” Evans said after the meeting. “I have confidence in my general manager, and I follow his advice on this, and that’s where we are.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said more work can be done in same amount of time with the addition of new technology Metro has recently acquired, which could expedite some of the work. Therefore, he said he is confident late-night service will someday return.
For the present, though, the organization still has a laundry list of tasks to complete and must have time on the tracks to do it, he added. The maintenance, repairs and replacements must occur for the system to be safe, Wiedefeld has said.
When given a choice of service or safety, “They (riders) want safety first,” Wiedefeld said after the meeting. “We need to make sure we meet their needs of safety, first. I think that when they step back and think about it, that’s what they want.”
In December, when the board was originally scheduled to vote on the future of late-night service, dozens of elected officials representing Montgomery and Prince George’s County signed a letter to Wiedefeld and the board, in which they requested the return of the late hours. Del. David Moon (D-20), who represents Montgomery County in the Maryland General Assembly, wrote the letter, and elected officials opted in to sign it.
“Our residents and businesses have now made sacrifices for two years, in order to provide ample time for track maintenance,” Moon wrote in the letter. “It is now time to try and win back riders with a restoration of service hours, and hopefully a reduction of headways.”
The board ultimately tabled the motion, asking Metro’s faculty to study new options for late-night-service schedules that would permit later hours of service but not reduce the number of hours crews had access to the tracks.