Last Train Home?
When it comes to late-night weekend ridership, Metro's most popular stops are not surprising: Dupont Circle, U Street, and Gallery Place. (If that raw data's hard to grasp, Greater Greater Washington made this very handy graph.) While that's probably not all late-night revelers, all those stops are inside the District—so some District officials don't want to give Metro its $50 million in dedicated funding if late night service on the weekend is cut in order to save money, according to WTOP.
That itself could set off a whole chain reaction of funding problems. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are all supposed to chip in $50 million every year to keep Metro running. There's no telling what would happen if Metro were to lose all that funding—the $150 million pays for 42.4 percent of Metro's daily operations cost. Any recovery from a funding loss that extreme could involve even larger service cuts. Which is sort of a catch-22 for the transit agency.
Late-night businesses in D.C. could lose, too. Saturday night travel has been increasing far faster than ridership for the rail system overall. The number of people entering Metro after 7 p.m. on Saturdays has increased 142 percent between 1995 and 2010. In the same time period, commuter growth only increased 43 percent.
D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who's a new addition to the Metro board, has been against the proposal since the beginning. At a committee meeting in February, TBD reported he found the whole idea "foolish":
We're a world class city... To be a world-class city you have to support nightlife. We don't shut the lights off anymore at 5:30 in Washington. It does not make sense to believe Metro is merely for commuters.... We want conventions here, we want tourists to stay here. But it's more than that. It's [about] being taken seriously as a city that has nightlife.
Wells continued his argument at a hearing this Wednesday. "I am strongly opposed to cutting back the night hours of Metro," he said. "It would not only economically injure the District of Columbia substantially, but it would decrease our status as a major city in this country."
WTOP reports preliminary figures suggest weekend service on midnight could save Metro between $3 million and $5 million, as well as giving it an "8th Day" for track repair. That's a far cry from the $50 million they'd lose if the District follows through on its threat. (Not to mention the $7 million some estimate D.C. late-night businesses could lose if the cuts are approved.)
Though, hey—at least Metro General Manager Richard Sarles wouldn't have to worry anymore about drunk people riding Metro.
Photo by isuperwang via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0