MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Time now for our weekly transportation segment "From A to B."
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
This week, we'll explore something that's been quite the hot transit topic of late in everyday talk and on the Internet, the Metro weekend curfew. Last week, the transit agency announced it might start shutting its rail system down three hours earlier on the weekends so that would be midnight instead of 3:00 a.m. This declaration didn't sit well with many of the region's night owls who depend on Metro Rail to get their party on, on the weekends.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
But are weekend revelers the only ones who'd be at a loss if Metro goes to bed three hours earlier? WAMU transportation reporter, David Schultz, set out to find out.
MR. DAVID SCHULTZ
In her post on WAMU's local blog "Deccentric" Anna John focuses on two perennial concerns here in the nation's capital, race and class. When news broke that Metro may be pushing back it's weekend curfew, John was surprised. Not by what people were talking about, but what they weren't.
MS. ANNA JOHN
I couldn't believe there was an entire section of our city or our neighbors who are not even present in that veracious online debate.
She says no one seemed to be worried about how Metro's proposal could affect workers in the service industry.
Like the bartenders or the cocktail waitresses or the bar backs who facilitate all that late night reveling. You know, there are actual people who need to do those jobs and who presumably would like to get home safely and in one piece after helping D.C. be a great city to party in.
And that's a shame, John says, because these workers often depend on Metro to get to and from their jobs.
And if they don't have access to public transportation, this ends up impacting their paycheck or their bank account because maybe they would want to stay on for an extra shift or cover someone else's, but if they don't have transportation, they can't do it.
The thing is this isn't the first time Metro's considered shutting down at midnight on Friday and Saturday. In budget debates last year and the year before that, Metro weighed this option as a way to save money. But in both years, the decision makers, Metro's board of directors, ultimately rejected it. Now, it's budget season again and while this proposal is back on the table, Metro's not framing it as a money saving measure. This year, the transit agency wants to shut down three hours earlier to have more time to rehab its aging tracks.
MR. TOM DOWNS
This is the largest construction dollar value, at least in the history of the authority and we're trying to do it under traffic.
Tom Downs is on Metro's board. He says Metro's staffers told him they can finish the track work much more quickly if weekend trains shut down at midnight.
They said it would be the equivalent of 45 additional construction days a year.
Downs says this track work is critical in making the system safer and preventing fatal accidents like those we've seen in the recent past. But still, he understands there's a downside.
It's a painful set of choices. Somebody has to be disadvantaged and is it weekend riders? Is it holiday riders? Which affects tourism. We don't have a quick and an easy answer here.
Last year and the year before, calls to cut back Metro's weekend hours were shot down by the D.C. representatives on Metro's board of directors. Their argument, that the District with its thriving nightlife industry would be hurt the most by an earlier closing. But with an administration in city hall, D.C. has new people representing it at Metro. Downs is one of those new people and despite the fact that he reports to Mayor Vincent Gray, he says he's breaking with his predecessors and considering this politically unpopular measure.
I highly value the mayor's input in this process because he appointed me and I care a lot about his tenure as mayor. This is not just a District issue, it is a regional issue. Everybody is paying at least some price for the dislocations that this rail reconstruction is causing.
But for some, that price is very high. John says she released just how important late-night Metro service is to many people after a recent encounter with the receptionist at her apartment building.
We walked past the front desk and I noticed that the person who usually works an earlier shift was still sitting there so I got concerned. I said, are you all right? What happened? Why are you still here? And she said, I had to stay a little bit late and then the Metro closed. And I'm like, what about your baby?
'Cause she has a small child. And she said, I had to have my mother go take care of her. And I could see she was visibly upset and she was just trying to hold it together. And the worst part was, she said, and my baby's sick. I’m going to have to stay here all night until the Metro opens.
If the board approves this measure, Metro will start closing earlier in July at the start of the agency's new fiscal year and in the heart of another D.C. summer. I’m David Schultz.
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