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In Slow Motion Death Spiral, DC Metro Announces More Cuts

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Leaders of the D.C. Metro are proposing to permanently cut service and limit late night hours on weekends to deal with critical repairs and a growing budget disaster.

Officials are moving forward with a proposal to close the system at 11:30 p.m. on weekdays, 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 p.m. on Sunday. The system will also open late on Sunday at 8 a.m. Proposal 3 was one of three possible solutions offered to the D.C. Council and Metro Board of Directors to keep the deteriorating system running after SafeTrack repairs conclude. Before SafeTrack began late night service extended through 3 a.m., reports NBC Washington.

General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in October that work crews need an additional eight hours each day to conduct repairs and preventative maintenance. Proposal 3 will give workers an additional three to four hours for track repairs. Wiedefeld originally proposed closing the system permanently at midnight but the idea was met with a whirlwind of public backlash.

The proposal will still need to be approved by the Metro Board of Directors and the D.C. Council will also weigh in on the cuts. Officials said they settled on “proposal 3” based on a survey showing a plurality of respondents preferred the option. At a public hearing in October, the majority of speakers decried all service cuts, saying none of the three proposals were satisfactory.

Mayor Muriel Bowser also came out against service cuts, fearing for the impact it will have on small businesses and the regional economy. Bowser called permanent late night cuts “a non-starter” in October.

The service cuts come as declining ridership and unreliability due to SafeTrack push the D.C. Metro further into a financial hole. Metro is strapped for cash and many localities appear reluctant to allocate additional funds to the transit system. The current budget shortfall at Metro is $275 million. Officials revealed Monday they estimate needing $25 billion in funding over the next 10 years.

Metro made 321 million passenger trips for the fiscal year, which ended June 30, marking a 6 percent decline over ridership in 2015. Metro officials previously estimated ridership would grow by 3.2 percent this fiscal year. Analysts warn that if the trend continues, the D.C. Metro will have a $1.1 billion budget shortfall by 2020.

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