Restaurant interests and others are whaling on a new proposal to end late-night Metro service—permanently—after the SafeTrack maintenance program is over, saying that stopping service at midnight six nights a week and at 10 p.m. Sundays would devastate nightlife, business, and the ability of workers to get home after theirs shifts.
Greater Greater Washington calls the move “a terrible idea.” And in a statement Tuesday, Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington President Kathy Hollinger said restaurants are worried that reducing service indefinitely would inconvenience patrons and staff who travel at “non-typical hours.”
“We have heard from member restaurants that sales are down as much as 20 percent due to early Metro closures and the current SafeTrack schedule,” Hollinger added. “The impact of the Metrorail’s schedule on restaurants and small businesses cannot be ignored, and we welcome the opportunity to be included in the upcoming discussions to share the true effect of this decision.”
Under the ongoing SafeTrack maintenance plan that the transit agency began in June, Metrorail closes at midnight every day. Before, it had stayed open until 3 a.m. on weekends. Under a new proposal by Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, the rail system would continue to shut down at midnight every day—except Sundays, when it would close at 10 p.m.
“The Metrorail system would be open 127 out of 168 hours in a week,” the transit agency explains in a release. “Prior to SafeTrack, the system was open 135 hours per week. The additional track time increases safety and reliability by giving workers the time and space they need to keep Metro’s infrastructure in a state of good repair.” Metro adds that Wiedefeld consulted with “peer transit agencies” and rail consultants in arriving at his proposal.
Metro officials began signaling that the earlier closures could persist after SafeTrack concludes when the plan was announced in May, but had not publicly announced a decision. Local businesses (particularly nightlife and entertainment venues) expressed concern that their profits would be hurt. Wiedefeld argued that the 33 hours Metro had to conduct repairs before the implementation of SafeTrack was just not enough to sufficiently do them all.
Wiedefeld is expected to discuss his proposal at the Metro board meeting on Thursday. SafeTrack is now in its fifth of 15 “surges.” If all goes well, it would accomplish three years’ worth of maintenance work in one year, and the plan is scheduled to wrap up in March.