Leaders of the D.C. Metro Board of Directors approved an unpopular proposal to cut late night service for two years beginning in the summer.
Officials say the contentious plan is necessary in order to conduct preventative maintenance to avoid future disruptions like the current SafeTrack program. Metro Board chairman Jack Evans, also a member of the D.C. Council, voted in favor of the plan despite promising Dec. 1 to veto any proposal that cut late night service in the long-term. Evans feared the impact on the regional economy, but was ultimately swayed by a last-minute compromise with fellow members of the board, reports The Washington Post.
An amendment was added to the proposal that requires Metro to release a progress report on preventative maintenance measures in May 2018. The report will give the public greater oversight over how workers with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) are spending their added time.
The system will shut down at 11:30 p.m. on weekdays, 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 p.m. on Sunday, beginning July 1, 2017. Business leaders in the city and surrounding regions are lashing out at Metro officials over the decision.
“The loss of late-night transit service is not simply detrimental to nightlife, it damages the economy of this region,” Neil Albert, executive director of the DowntownDC Business Improvement District, told The Washington Post. “The WMATA board of directors must insist on restoring late-night service as soon as possible, without compromising the system’s maintenance needs.”
The Board endorsed the same plan in a vote Dec. 1, where Evans dissented and promised to veto future iterations if they did not restore late night service to the traditional 3 a.m. closing. The vote highlighted some of the current dysfunction at the upper levels of Metro leadership.
“We believe we’ve compromised enormously,” Evans said at the Dec. 1 meeting. “The board can do what it wants to do. I’ve made my decision clear on behalf of the District of Columbia. We will exercise jurisdictional veto.”
Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld has maintained since October that work crews need an additional eight hours each day to conduct repairs and preventative maintenance. He originally proposed closing the system permanently at midnight; the idea was met with a whirlwind of public backlash.
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