Small Businesses, Riders Lash Out At DC Metro Over Proposal To Permanently Close Before Midnight

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials with the D.C. Metro are under fire from riders and small business owners over plans to permanently close the transit system early and open late.

“Most of the concern goes to the employees,” Beggiato Tommaso, general manager of The Darlington House restaurant in Northwest, D.C., told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Some people will have to quit when the busy season picks up in the fall. I’m sure it will have repercussions on us.”

Leaders at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) proposed three possible alternatives Tuesday for Metro hours in order to allow more time for workers to conduct necessary repairs on the deteriorating system. Angered commuters criticized the Metro for ignoring the needs of small business employees with early morning or late night shifts.

Officials on the Metro Board responded to public concern with a fourth option Thursday that leaves the system open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, but severely curtails morning weekend service, reports WJLA.

Metro officials are trying to balance rider needs with safety repairs and the proposals are leaving everyone frustrated.

“In order to keep the economy flourishing, everything going in the city, I’d love to see that happen,” Katrina Holloway, a Metro rider, told WJLA. “But not in lieu of getting these needed repairs.”

Metro officials would not open the transit system on Saturdays until 9 a.m. and Sundays until noon in order to accommodate the late night service and still conduct SafeTrack repairs. Critics of this option, even among the Metro Board, point out late openings will still severely impact the local economy and any workers who depend on transit to get to their early shifts.

“I can’t see how you can have a public transit system that starts operating at 10 a.m. on Sunday, or noon on Sunday,” Michael Goldman, chairman of Metro’s finance committee, told The Washington Post. “That’s not public transit.”

The D.C. Metro previously closed at 3 a.m. EST, however, SafeTrack repairs have shut down the system at midnight since June, and Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld previously suggested making the change permanent. Two of the proposals push closing back even earlier to 11:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Small businesses in Washington, D.C., are already losing employees and profits because of midnight Metro closures from SafeTrack. Many restaurants in the D.C. metropolitan area have experienced a 20 percent drop in sales since the track maintenance began, according to the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

The biggest effect is on the employees who cannot afford peak Uber or taxi prices to get home after a 2 a.m. closing.

“Most of the employees work here and live across the beltway and now are not able to get home or have to leave at an earlier time,” Tommaso told TheDCNF. “It’s impacting our dishwashers, our late-night bartenders, so it’s been a problem. Businesses are not able to keep the proper staff.”

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