Photo by Gary Denness on Flickr.

A group of staff from the WMATA member jurisdictions, called the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC), has been developing a list of possible service cuts to close Metro’s huge budget gap. They will present this list to the Board next Thursday.

WTOP and The Washington Post (whose story seems to have disappeared from the Web site new version just appeared), obtained advance information about some of the possibilities:

  • End service as early as 10 pm on weekdays
  • End late night service on weekends
  • Open at 5:30 am on weekdays
  • Increase headways for trains and buses
  • Run trains at 20 minute headways on Saturdays and 30 minutes on Sundays
  • Suspend the Yellow Line after 9:30 weekday evenings and entirely on weekends, except a shuttle (or perhaps a bus shuttle) from Huntington to King Street
  • Reduce Red Line trains between Grosvenor and Shady Grove on weekday middays
  • Close some station entrances at 8 pm weekdays and all day on weekends
  • Eliminate some low productivity bus routes
  • Consolidate some “duplicated bus service”

It’s good to see cutting duplicate bus service on that list. Michael also advocated cutting the lowest productivity bus routes yesterday.

Closing at 10 pm should be an absolute nonstarter. Metro is not just for commuters going to and from office jobs, even if it was built primarily with that in mind. 10 pm would basically ensure almost nobody took Metro to go out to eat, to a movie or theater, or more.

If such a drastic change as cutting the Yellow Line becomes necessary, perhaps it’d be better to cut the Blue Line to a shuttle between Pentagon and Rosslyn and sending alternate Yellow Line trains to Huntington and Franconia.

What would you cut?

According to the Post, nobody in the JCC wants to make these cuts. In fact, nobody even wants to suggest these cuts to the Board. Lena Sun writes,

The list of cuts is so politically sensitive that no one from the regional Metro advisory group who signed off on the measures is willing to sit at the table and give the PowerPoint presentation to the board’s finance committee Thursday, sources said. And Metro staffers are equally reluctant to make the presentation because they do not want to be associated with the proposals.

What’s really going on: Metro will probably have to increase fares. However, Board policy set after the last increase absolutely prohibits the staff from suggesting fare hikes. Therefore, the staff has to float this alternate proposal. The Board, on the other hand, can seriously weigh the worst of these cuts against the specter of another fare increase.

The cuts could also raise public pressure for jurisdictions to pitch in more money. New York’s “doomsday budget”, similarly draconian to this “close at 10 pm and no weekend Yellow Line” proposal, triggered serious propoals in Albany to rescue the perenially underfunded MTA, though those still may not pass. Our rail system has the highest cost recovery ratio in the nation. Rather than putting all of the burden on the riders, the jurisdictions and the federal government, which benefit from Metro in reduced traffic, better commutes, lower pollution, and more economic development, need to contribute as well.

Thanks to Michael, John, and Scott who all sent articles.

Update: In today’s Washington Post chat, Metro General Manager John Catoe insisted that “Metro is not considering, nor is it proposing scrapping late-night rail service, as some news accounts have outlined.” And later, “We have no plans or proposals to stop running Metrorail trains at 10 p.m.”

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.