- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2016

Metro officials are proposing to close the subway at 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends for at least two years in order to execute a long-term maintenance plan that could cut track-related delays in half.

In addition, the earliest trains on Sunday would start at 8 a.m., while the start times for trains on weekdays and Saturdays would remain at 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., respectively.

Officials will present the proposal to the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday. The plan, which is set for two years and then a re-evaluation, was first reported by NBC News4.

Before Metro’s yearlong overhaul known as “SafeTrack” began in June, the subway was open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and midnight the rest of the week. The transit system now closes at midnight every night of the week to allow workers to conduct repairs on long-neglected segments of track.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld had said the nighttime service cuts were temporary, but he did not say that service would ever return to 3 a.m. weekend closings. He said he expected an intensive maintenance schedule would need to continue to keep the subway running safely and effectively.

The transit agency says the extra two hours on Fridays and Saturdays will allow maintenance crews to identify and repair problems before they can disrupt service, helping to cut track-related delays in half.

The plan, which would begin July 1, would have to be approved by the Metro Board before it can be implemented.

But that might not be an easy sell for the District’s representatives on the board such as D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who chairs the board, and financial consultant Corbett Price.

Mr. Evans has said he will oppose any late-night service cuts after SafeTrack ends; he even has introduced legislation condemning further cuts in nighttime operations.

A staffer for Mr. Evans said the council member would support the 1 a.m. closing if Metro promised that the service cuts would last only a year. The same staffer said that Mr. Price also would support 1 a.m. closures on weekends, but only for a year after SafeTrack ends.

Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is not backing off her opposition to extended late-night service cuts.

“Our position on [Metro’s] late-night service has not changed: soon after SafeTrack, late-night operations should resume,” Bowser spokesman Kevin Harris said in a statement.

Under Metro Board rules, Mr. Evans and Mr. Corbett together could veto the plan. The District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government each get two members on the board, and at least one representative from each jurisdiction must approve a measure for it to pass.

There has been no indication that Mr. Evans and Mr. Corbett plan to veto the plan on Thursday, and the Evans staffer said a veto hadn’t been considered.

Board bylaws say that, whenever possible, members should provide advance notice to the chairman whenever they plan to use their jurisdictional veto. The guidance is meant to mediate any issue before a vote, effectively avoiding a veto.

The two D.C. board members could be alone in opposing two years of service cuts. Board members from Maryland and Virginia, whose residents rely less on late-night service, have signaled their support for Mr. Wiedefeld’s proposal to close the system at 1 a.m. on weekends.

The Wiedefeld plan will be discussed Tuesday at a council-mayor breakfast at the John A. Wilson Building. The council has no real say over whether Metro will continue to cut late-night service, but it passed in October a resolution calling on Mr. Wiedefeld to restore service.

At the time, Mr. Evans, who represents downtown D.C., Georgetown and Dupont Circle — all areas heavily populated by bars, restaurants and hotels — said service industry employees often have no other option for making their way home after a late-night shift.

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