Metro Punts Decision About Extending Late-Night Hours

    The board that operates the Washington, D.C. area’s commuter rail system has deferred a decision on late-night subway service, after receiving an appeal from more than 60 leaders from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

    The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board had been expected to vote Thursday on a proposal to keep the current hours in place.

    Currently Metrorail runs until 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, till 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

    Previously, subway service in DC, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia ran until midnight during the week, 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and midnight on Sunday.

    The cutback was adopted at the recommendation of General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, who said the earlier closing would give work crews more time to do maintenance. Metro has been plagued by service disruptions that the GM believes can be traced to long periods of inadequate maintenance and repair.

    Backers of the longer hours argued that they benefited people who frequent and work at the region’s bars and restaurants, and kept drunk drivers off the road.

    On Wednesday, on the eve of the WMATA board’s expected vote, the panel received a letter from Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D), several municipal mayors, members of the Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils, and state legislators from the two counties, advocating a return to more robust late-night service.

    “Our residents and businesses have now made sacrifices for two years, in order to provide ample time for track maintenance,” the letter said.

    “It is now time to try and win back riders with a restoration of service hours, and hopefully a reduction of headways. We want Metro to be both safe and convenient, and we believe the suspension of late night service should end on schedule in July 2019.”

    In a statement, Sherri Ly, media relations manager at Metro, said that beefed-up track work over the last 18 months has paid significant dividends.

    “This preventive maintenance, combined with capital improvements, have reduced track incidents and emergency work while improving on-time performance in September to the highest level in seven years, with 90 percent of all passenger trips arriving within the expected travel time,” she said.

    The WMATA board is expected to revisit the late-night service issue again next month.

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    Bruce DePuyt
    Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.