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Metro Board Considering Earlier Closing Time on Weekends

by ARLnow.com February 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm 1,980 50 Comments

As reported last Friday, Metro officials have suggested that one option for plugging the agency’s $72 million budget gap would be to end service at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

The idea, which was floated and roundly criticized last year, would only save $5 million per year and would have to be combined with other cuts. This midnight cut-off was not included in Metro General Manager Richard Sarles’ proposed budget — he advocates higher subsidy payments from local governments — but board members are at least investigating the possibility of ending service earlier than the current 3:00 a.m. on weekends.

Arlington County Board Vice-Chair and new Metro board member Mary Hynes says the Metro board asked questions about the feasibility of ending service at least an hour or two earlier.

Hynes tells ARLnow.com: “All of us wanted to see — if you did it until 2:00, what was that dollar savings? Go hour by hour and tell us not only how much money it saved, but how many riders might be affected.”

She suggested the board is looking at bus service options should Metro decide to reduce rail service at night.

“If we did this, can we fill in with other service?” she asked rhetorically.

Hynes said board members also asked about whether closing certain under-utilized stations at night (like stations near the ends of Metro lines) could potentially save money. Hynes acknowledged, however, that a reduction in late night could have negative implications for Arlington’s nightlife.

“I worry about it for Clarendon, absolutely,” she said. “Clarendon works because of Metro, there’s no question about it. So it’s really important to Arlington that we figure this out in the right way.”

Supporters of reducing late night service say that the extra hours of downtime could give crews more time to perform maintenance work. Critics question whether such a move would result in higher rates of drunk driving in the area, and whether the move could hurt certain sectors of the local economy.

Flickr pool photo by Mattron

  • Thes

    This isn’t just an issue of dollar operating costs. It also lowers drunk driving victims.

    • local

      Another reason the feds and localities should pitch in with more payments to Metro.

    • Lou

      No, adults acting responsibly lowers the rates of DUI.

      • y8s

        statistically half of all people are stupid. when drunk, that goes up. why not leverage this stupidity?

        Simply charge double for rides between midnight and 3AM to cover the additional costs. It’s still cheaper than a cab or a DUI and drunk people will hardly be aware that they are paying more.

        win win.

        • G

          Haha, hilarious. Paying more at night might not be a bad idea though. They could at least consider charging peak fares. Cabs and vans usually try to get away with charging ridiculous fares late at night anyway, especially in cities where metro stops running at midnight… like Boston.

  • Bender

    Once again proving that FREEDOM of travel by personal vehicle is far better than being a slave to government transit systems.

    If Arlington, et al. are going to be so enthusiastically anti-car, then it is incumbent upon them to provide full and conventient transportation options at all times.

    • Overgrown Bush

      Indeed. But they are at the mercy of a regional transportation authority. And Arlington manages to piss off the other jurisdictions in the region. At least they have the Pike trolley coming up they can control. Oh, wait, that also goes into Fairfax and Alexandria.

  • Travis

    Boooo, the metro is already poorly managed and only convenient during rush hour, if at all. The metro/subway systems are so much better in other cities like NYC and Chicago! Go ahead, because I stopped riding the DC Metro 3-4 years ago for these and other reasons. One week I was late to work 4 out of 5 days because of the metro and I left the same time every day and had been doing so for two years or more. If you are planning on using it to go out, you better pad your time by a lot and if you have 3-4 people a cab is about the same price!

    • Burger

      NYC and Chicago are double tracked so they can move trains around to different tracks to compensate when line are down for maintenance. The DC metro is single track so needs to complete chutdown to check for rail issues. or do you want more accidents?

  • R0bespierre

    “Adults acting responsibly” increases the rate of idealism. Keeping metro open during the most popular bar hours of the week realistically REDUCES drunk driving, whether one approves idealistically/morally, or not.

    Besides, people always wanting to talk about how DC is a prime time competitor with NY for social life, and our subway wants to contract its hours rather than expand them? Dumb.

  • wat

    It is great so many articles and commenters regarding this subject bring up taxi cabs, but I’ve never successfully had one take me more than 4 neighborhoods away from where they pick me up, let alone try to get one from DC into VA or MD. What does that do to the system?

    Right now I’m in Alexandria, I bet I couldn’t even get a cab from Arlington let alone Adams Morgan, Chinatown, U St., or H St.

    • LBski

      I cab from DC to Arlington typically once a week. It’s under $20 for two people including tip, and takes like 15 minutes. I’ve never had any cabbies forbid to drive me. I’ve come from all over DC — Columbia Heights, U Street, Chinatown, (never tried from Capitol Hill or H Street now that I think about it). Not sure what you’re doing to make cabbies mad!

      If I’m going out in DC I typically take the bus/metro in to the city to start the night and get a cab home. It’s the best $20 I spend all week. That Wash. Post article confirmed this for me — riding the metro after midnight sounds terrible.

    • AG

      According to the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission: “Is there a circumstance when a driver can refuse to take on a passenger?

      It is against the law to refuse a person based on race, disability or destination in the District of Columbia. A taxicab driver is required to drive a passenger to any destination in the District of Columbia. However, if the driver has been operating the taxicab for more than twelve (12) hours of any continuous twenty-four (24) hour period, or the vehicle is on-call or off-duty for mechanical or other reasons, then he/she may refuse to take on a passenger. (See rule 820). The driver, however, is required to display the “on-call” or “off-duty” or “out-of-service” signs indicating that the vehicle is out of service and must have the cruising light turned off indicating that the taxicab is not for hire. (See rule 605.6)”

      So, it states “in the District of Columbia” meaning, I would infer, that cabbies could refuse you if you are headed out of D.C. It’s also been my understanding that D.C. cabs CANNOT pick up a Va or Md fare heading back into the city, so they don’t want to take passengers out one way and not get money for driving back into town. I have also been told many times by cab drivers that they won’t drive me to Arlington from DC . . . usually, after a couple of tries, I’m able to find a cab who will take me back to Va (I think being a woman helps).

      • SB

        Exactly. I have had to beg a cab driver to take me back to Arlington. At the end of the night most DC cabs do not want to leave DC when they won’t get a returning rider.

        Maybe if the metro shut down earlier, cabs would be more willing to take people across the state line, but in general this idea scares me.

      • ballston

        Yeah just tell them you are going to Rosslyn, “just across the river”, then once they start driving, tell them your actual destination. Zippy chance they will force you out once you are in the car already, if they do, jot down their info before they force you out and report them to the DC taxi commission.

        I have been doing this for about 3 years, the dc cabbies get bitter when we’re on the key bridge and I say “oh yes, we’re actually going to ballston” but they have never thrown me out….. much more inclined to take you if they think you are just going to rosslyn rather than further into VA..

      • MDP

        I can’t even count the number of times that DC cabs have driven off when I told them I was going to Courthouse, let alone my friends who live further out in Vienna, Huntington, etc.

      • MDP

        I can’t believe how may people under appreciate the METRO system in the DC area. I moved out here from Detroit about 4 years ago, and the METRO is one of the greatest aspects about this area. The nightlife in Detroit is absolutely embarrassing compared to Arlington/DC because there is no transit system.

        Further, just telling people to take a cab home after the bars close is not as convenient as it sounds. As someone previously mentioned, many cab driver simply refuse to give you a ride if your destination is beyond DC. If your lucky to find a cab that will take you out of DC, rides from DC out to Vienna, Huntington, etc. can be really expensive.

        In the end, closing the Metro earlier will only cause people to stay closer to home, thereby hurting businesses in DC and nearby Arlington.

        • wat

          especially if you are alone, not only will it be pricey, but a cab definitely will deny you because they don’t get that extra $2.50 or whatever if you would have had 2 more people in the car with you.

  • Jeff Miller

    Metro desperately needs to control costs, as well as to provide more time for much-needed rail system maintenance. Earlier closing times on the weekends will help both objectives.

    This cost-saving reform was proposed last year by Metro management and some responsible Board members; but it was blocked by grandstanding politicians on the Board (esp. Jim Graham and Chris Zimmerman). Fortunately, those obstructionists have left the Board.

    The late-night trains carry small passenger loads, but require keeping the entire system in operation. It would be far more cost-effective to provide bus service (or taxi vouchers) for those who need late-night transit service.

    And don’t forget that Metro already receives over $600 million a year in operating subsidies from state and local governments (plus millions more in capital subsidies). The system needs to look for additional ways to reduce costs, without further burdening local taxpayers.

    • John Andre

      Well…how do New York keep their systems open 24/7 and in working order???

      What’s needed is probably an area-wide tax on motor vehicle sales, motor-vehicle registration, and motor-vehicle fuel sales applied to WMATA. Private cars should be made to pay for mass transit.

      • steve

        people who ride it should pay for it

      • NYC Subway

        Last I checked, NYC are has about 11 million people versus DC having about 3 million. That’s a lot bigger resource pool.

        And for anyone raving about how great the NYC subway system is, I quesion how often you’ve actually ridden it. I grew up there and it’s not all that great.

        As for this: “Private cars should be made to pay for mass transit.” I couldn’t possibly disagree with that statement more.

      • Burger

        NYC has two track system – local and express. they can shift trains around slow periods to do routine maintenance. DC’s metro only has one line.

  • ChrisW

    Is moving the end time from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends that unreasonable? Don’t bars close well before 2 a.m. in Arlington?

    • ballston

      Yes but dc bars are open til 3 plus some people who work at bars in arlington use metro to get home. Many people that work until 2 AM clearly arent high rollers so that is a population that most likely needs public transit. Think the people who clean up the bars, cooks, etc.

      A cab ride for them home could be the total amount of $$ they make all night.

      • steve

        then dc bars should close earlier if they care anything about public safety over making a buck

  • TGEoAXx

    Let the drunks take cabs

  • DT

    I think the best way for Metro to become solvent it to only operate during peak hours. They should close the rest of the day. Clearly they have no intention of being something that people can depend on. What an embarrassment. Tourists always comment how nice and clean everything is. I tell them to try and get somewhere after 8 at night and then tell me how awesome it is.

  • Pip

    Take a cab or leave earlier, no excuse to drink and drive

  • MC

    London closes it’s subway at midnight, and it is much more exciting a place than DC.

    In general, there is a correlation between the shabbiness of a subway system and how many hours it operates. At a minimum, people who ride late at night should pay a surcharge, since they add costs to the system and don’t utilize it except selectively. This should apply to riders whether out drinking or attending a game at the Verizon Center. It’s expensive to keep the whole system open so just a few people can get home.

    • asheryuki

      This works for London because for the time being, most bars in London are closed by midnight, so there isn’t as much of a need, and there seem to be more cabs available in London than DC since fewer people drive there.

    • MDP

      This comment is completely baseless. First, who cares what London, England does?? Taxes from the people of London are also given to a “Royal Family.” Needless to say, I don’t think DC needs to do the same.

      Second, I take the metro to work in DC and home to Arlington every single day. If I have to head into the office during the weekend to work, I again use the metro. Shockingly, when I spend an evening in DC and stay out with friends until the bars close, or maybe grab a bite to eat after the bar closes at maybe a Ben’s Chili Bowl, I take the metro home. I do not utilize the metro “selectively.” It is my primary means of transportation, along with hundreds of other people in the DC area.

      As always, it’s just another instance where decisions are being made by people who aren’t going be affected by the change, and could care less about the people their decisions will affect.

      • steve

        so begin your evening earlier so you can leave earlier

    • G

      I lived in London for some time and I have to agree, it worked for them, but this is mainly because people start heading out for the night around 7pm. Getting Americans to do this can be tough. Even in Boston where the metro closes at midnight, people still go out around 9:30-10pm and stay out much later than midnight. Then it’s a big competition for taxi-cabs that charge 3X their normal rate and speed away if anyone questions them before they can get the cab information. I’ll admit it was kind of nice in London being able to go out with friends on the weekend or even on a weekday and not get home after 3-4am.

    • SoCo Resident

      Paris Metro closes at midnight. Everybody takes the Nachtbus. Partiers also stay out until the subway starts running in the AM.

  • Sophia

    I would only support this idea IF there were Metro Buses substitution. Close the rail at midnight but have buses running until 2am or 3am.

  • charlie

    two options:
    1. privatize METRO. Since TransUrban has little to do, give them the contract.
    2. close METRO. it is an insane waste of money.

  • John Andre

    Typical Metro…jack up fares, cut back service!!! Together with all that track-work mess, this just means reduced service at greater cost.

    What Washington needs is a 24/7/365 mass transit system…just like New York or Chicago!

  • Bender

    For all of those “just take a taxi instead” people —

    The reason for having late night Metro is not to benefit drunks. Rather, late night Metro is for the benefit of OTHER PEOPLE whose lives would be put at risk if those drunks drove instead (as many would because taxis are too expensive).

    It is for public safety, not for convenience of drunks.

    • libs

      If people can afford expensive drinks outside of the home when they could drink at home for much, much cheaper, they can afford taxis, or if not, have fewer drinks so you can afford the cab ride.

      • Bender

        Go tell that to the person who is maimed or killed by some drunk who drove because the Metro wasn’t running.

        Way to miss my point entirely.

        • steve

          metro forces people to drive drunk?

          • Maria

            Really?

          • Bender

            Woosh!

            No need to duck though. This is apparently going so far over your head there is no chance of it hitting and getting through your skull.

      • Maria

        Just because someone can “afford” to take a cab doesn’t mean they want to spend the money, regardless of what they spend on other aspects of their lives. I mean, I can “afford” to fly to Europe and spend a month there, enjoying life, not working, blah blah blah, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, financially.

        Some people actually like to save money in some areas (transportation costs) so maybe they can spend more in others (getting out to spend time with friends and meet new people, etc.).

  • justmk

    It seems obvious that Metro does not have a guiding principle about making our transportation system truly “urban”. If they did transportatuin would be avaliable 24/7. The whole system still seems “small town”. How do we chnage that kind of thinking?

    • libs

      Not possible. You’d have to start over. No express tracks, or anything. Even in 19ty century NYC they could think further ahead than the designers of metro did.

  • Drunk Driving

    For all of the “increase in drunk driving” arguers, do you have any statistics to back that up? The Metro used to close at midnight, but I forget what year it was the lengthened the hours.

    If you can find the stats for drunk driving incidents for the 3 years before the change and the three years after the change I think it would bolster your argument. Otherwise you’re just “legislating against stupidity” (drunk driving). And if that’s the case, half the people in this region should have their licenses suspended.

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  • DC

    SERIOUSLY? Worst idea EVER. One thing that has kept me from going into fits of rage over INSANE METRO DELAYS IN THE MORNING was that the metro could get me home late at night on the weekends. Closing earlier is just stupid, and will hurt late night business.

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