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Metro Officials Split on Late-Night Service Plan

Metro officials presented Thursday four options for changing late-night operating hours at rail stations, but the proposals were met with skepticism from some board members wary of the effect on the region’s after-hours workers.

For instance, one proposal has stations open from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 5 a.m.-3 a.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday. However, Sunday service wouldn’t begin until noon and would stop at 11 p.m.

The other three proposals would have the stations close even earlier, except one, which would halt service at 11:30 p.m. on Sundays.

General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said after several board meetings Thursday the late-night schedule changes would allow maintenance workers more time to improve the system’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Wiedefeld said he also plans to shift track inspections from daytime hours to overnight because workers can get more done when trains aren’t operating.

“I understand the cosmopolitan nature of the District [and] region and we want to maintain that,” he said. “But I think we also have to recognize what’s in front of us.”

The other three options would have stations closing between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., which some board members said would not only affect patrons who seek late-night entertainment, but also weekend workers.

Board chairman and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said some type of change must be made.

“I would love to run Metro 24 hours a day, but we have to make hard choices to get the additional hours” of needed maintenance work, said Evans, who crafted the 3 a.m. weekend proposal. “We are big-league town. In order to be a big-league town, you have to run your subway later than midnight, particularly on the weekends.”

Fellow board member Christian Dorsey, who represents Arlington, Virginia, said more analysis of the plan is needed, especially on how it would affect low-income commuters.

“I have a lot of concerns,” he said. “I am very skeptical that the GM and [Metro] has done the necessary work to figure out if this is the best way to go about getting maintenance hours that they need.”

Board member Leif Dormsjo questioned the need for maintenance workers to have eight additional hours of track access that would increase the weekly hours to 41. Since the ongoing SafeTrack maintenance project began, the weekly number has increased to 39 hours.

Dormsjo, director of D.C.’s Department of Transportation, said other transit agencies have less weekly service time for maintenance: Los Angeles County at 22.5 hours; Boston with 28; Atlanta with 30; and San Francisco with 34.

“This is unusual,” he said. “It is not within our peer group. I’m sold that eight hours is the magic number.”

Michael Goldman, who represents Maryland on the board, said he supports any proposal that will increase safety.

“We have to reestablish [Metro] as the number-one transit system in the country,” he said. “We hired Paul Wiedefeld to talk straight to us and tell us what has to be done to be number one, again. He told us he needs eight more hours to do track work. So if that’s what we need to do to become safe and reliable again, I’m going to support that.”

The board’s Customer Service, Operations and Security Committee recommended a public hearing on the service-hour proposals, which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2ct1qQd.

Once the full board formally approves one of the proposals, a public hearing will be held in October.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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