MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — Montgomery County is now weighing in on the debate over Metro’s operating hours, just days ahead of a critical vote.
DC officials have been pushing for the return of late-night service, but until now, we haven’t heard much from Maryland.
“I mean, we’d all love to see a restoration of the longer hours that were in place before 2016. The trouble is, Metro has rightly been very focused on safety and preventative maintenance,” said Montgomery County Council Member Tom Hucker, who chairs the council’s transportation committee. “And if you restore the hours now, it cuts down the available hours for preventative maintenance by 44 percent.”
That’s just one of several reasons why Hucker feels the time is not right for Metro to restore late-night service.
“Also the bombshell that dropped last week, the FTA, the Federal Transit Administration, threatened to withhold their funding by $1.6 billion if we go back to the old hours,” said Hucker. “So we really can’t allow that to happen. That would be catastrophic for the system.”
The loss of that federal funding would be especially hard on Maryland, because it would impact construction of the Purple Line.
“That’s the really critical thing,” said Hucker. “That’s a game changer. We can’t give up that funding.”
Hucker, along with County Executive Mark Elrich and Council President Nancy Navarro, recently sent a letter to the WMATA board to express their concerns. The letter asks that Metro’s current, shorter hours be kept in place for another year.
Back in 2016, Metro cut service hours to allow more time for much-needed maintenance of the system. Prior to the change, Metro stayed open until midnight Monday thru Thursday and until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Under the current schedule, Metro runs until 11:30 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
On Thursday, Metro’s Board of Directors is set to vote on a resolution that would maintain those current hours.
But DC leaders, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, want to restore the late-night service that was offered prior to 2016.
DC’s representatives on Metro's Board of Directors have said they will veto any proposal that fails to restore late-night service.
In the days leading up to Metro’s final decision, ABC 7 has learned several compromise options are now being considered.
Hucker said that Montgomery County leaders support a compromise that would extend service to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, as long as it does not impact the weekday start times for service at Metro stations in Montgomery County.
“Once we looked into the ridership numbers, there’s really only a thousand or so people that ride between two and three a.m. But there are tens of thousands, literally, that get on the train between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.,” said Hucker. “it’s important that we keep the first train leaving Shady Grove and leaving Glenmont, both ends of the Red Line, at 5 a.m. Because if you don’t, you’re forcing so many Maryland commuters into their cars and then they’re driving into DC, which doesn’t serve Maryland and doesn’t serve DC, and isn’t want DC residents want either.”
Metro’s Board of Directors will vote on the system’s operating hours on Thursday, February 28.