The WMATA Board is nearly ready to move forward with new, shorter late-night hours, and the vote to make them official is in two weeks. But there’s another big potential hurdle: DC’s representatives on the Board might veto the cuts.
Update: As of 10:30 on Friday morning, it looks as though DC will in fact OK the late-night cuts lasting for two years.
On Tuesday, WMATA staff submitted its final proposal for late-night hours to the Board: end service at 11:30 pm Monday through Thursday and 1 am Friday and Saturday and runs between 8 am and 11 pm on Sunday. Moving to this schedule would provide an additional eight hours per week for needed maintenance.
On Thursday, the Board’s Customer Service Subcommittee, which is tasked with sussing out the details before the December 15th full Board vote, said the hours cuts are fine as long as the changes expire in two years, at which point new approval would be required to keep them in place. This came after a few hours of back and forth and arguing about how the cuts would impact low-income and minority riders, as well as how they would hurt businesses, employees, and the region’s economy.
Most Board members (emphasis on “most”) appear to be ok with either one or two-year cuts as long as there’s an expiration date. Metro staff say the programs they need to get done require at least two years to get started.
There won’t be any service cuts if DC vetoes them
Generally, once a subcommittee approves something, it’s well on its way to Board approval. But that’s not so clear here.
Since the late-night closures first became a possibility, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has been a strong opponent, insisting that Metro bring back 3 am weekend closings and return service hours to pre-SafeTrack levels. On Thursday, WMATA Board Chairman Jack Evans, who is also a member of the DC Council, reinforced the Mayor’s stance, saying that even being open to the cuts was a huge compromise from DC. Evans warned the Board that if any new cuts were to be enacted, they would need to be limited to a year or the jurisdiction’s Board reps would veto the measure.
Federal member Robert Lauby is in favor of two-years of early closings. But @JackEvansWard2 promises D.C. will veto that.— Martin Di Caro (@MartinDiCaro) December 1, 2016
Evans says DC would use veto: “It's not a threat.”
Goldman: “Of course it's a threat.”
Evans: “We believe we have compromised enormously.”— Martine Powers (@martinepowers) December 1, 2016
If Evans and the DC contingent of WMATA Board members (four of the Board’s 16 total members) use their jurisdictional veto power, the Board goes back to the drawing table. The existing service hour reductions that Wiedefeld put in during SafeTrack would eventually expire, and the system might end up going back to its normal service hours— but without the time WMATA staff says it needs to do much-needed preventative maintenance.