By Dino Drudi, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
Of the four options the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has proposed for adjusting its operating hours, Option No. 2 — which ends late night weekend service permanently and ends rail service at 11:30 p.m. on weeknights — is least objectionable and Option No. 1 — ending service at midnight each night except Sunday, when service will stop at 10 p.m. — is barely minimalist.
But Options No. 3 — ending service at 11:30 p.m. during the week, 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday but opening later on weekend mornings — and No. 4 — preserving weekend late night service but opening at noon on Sunday — are unacceptable.
For me, Option No. 4 means that I cannot get to my church in Bethesda from where I live in Alexandria, and Option No. 3 forces me to attend the later service, even though the church function I per- form benefits from my sometimes attending the early service.
The public has a general need for morning Metrorail on weekends, whereas only the nightlife industry has a special need for late-night service. If the politicians — many of whom have some responsibility for getting WMATA into its current bind — go with the special interest of nightlife industry over the public’s general interest, it will persuade folks like me to demand a complete federal takeover of WMATA’s operations.
WMATA has proposed four options, but to some extent these four options stack the deck. WMATA should revert to the level of service and hours in 1998 when it had sufficient time during the night to maintain the system in a state of good repair.
From the very beginning, some of us warned that expanding service after midnight on weekends and earlier during weekday mornings would crimp WMATA’s maintenance schedule.
WMATA has learned this the hard way, nearly two decades in; these service expansions produced the proverbial death of a thousand cuts, which even the draconian SafeTrack maintenance surge may not be sufficient to overcome. For years, but not recently, WMATA would win the American Public Transit Association’s top award.
WMATA now ranks near the worst, for example, for employee and passenger fatalities. WMATA sacrificed its honored place among transit systems on the altar of its board members’ collective fidelity to the nightlife industry.
The nightlife industry most affected by WMATA’s various proposals to shorten or eliminate late-night service is motivated to speak. That industry, which contributes heavily to elected officials’ campaigns, is opposed to discontinuing late-night weekend service.
But elected officials’ willingness to cater to the nightlife industry by expanding service hours is what broke Metrorail’s ability to function in the first place. Another is the decision to open at 5 a.m. on weekdays instead of 5:30 a.m.
WMATA cannot be everything to everyone and serve every special interest’s transportation needs. A wide range of the general public needs WMATA service on Saturday and Sunday mornings, whereas primarily the nightlife industry needs WMATA service after midnight.