Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Tommy Wells criticizes idea of cutting Metro's late-night hours (Poll)

February 10, 2011 - 03:35 PM
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At one of today's Metro committee meetings, agency officials and board members discussed the possibility of cutting back Metro's late-night weekend train service to take a chunk out of Metro's nasty budget gap. It wasn't long before Twitter started popping with hostile reactions. Not many folks relish the idea of hunting for a pricey cab at the end of a night out, apparently.

The agency currently runs trains until 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings, typically carrying around 9,700 people between 11 p.m. and closing. Cutting off service at midnight would save the agency around $3 million annually.

Many riders immediately said such a move would encourage drunk driving. Others said it would discourage people from going out at all. And others pointed out that many people in this city actually work and commute at night. Officials and board members didn't get too deep into these possibilities today, though board member Peter Benjamin did wonder whether the agency could beef up the bus lines and whether SoberRide -- the cab service for drunks -- might pick up some of Metro's slack.

But after the committee meeting Ward 6 D.C. councilmember and new Metro board member Tommy Wells described the idea as foolish.

"We’re a world-class city," Wells said. "To be a world-class city you have to support nightlife. We don’t shut the lights off anymore at 5:30 in Washington. It does not make sense to believe Metro is merely for commuters."

Wells said that during the meeting today he sent an email to D.C.'s restaurant association to get a projection for how much money they would lose due to such service cutbacks. But even beyond lost tax revenue or the dangers of drunk driving, Wells said there are even more important image issues to consider.

"What kind of a city are we?" Wells said. "We want conventions here, we want tourists to stay here. But it’s more than that. It’s [about] being taken seriously as a city that has nightlife.”

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