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WMATA Board ponders cutting late-night service

WMATA Board members, including federal representatives and new members from DC and Arlington, expressed a willingness to explore cutting back late-night weekend transit service at their meeting today. The tenor of the debate differed greatly from that of previous years, when Board members pushed hard against even the suggestion of such cuts.

Photo by camera_obscura on Flickr.

This move would save substantial money, but also would impair people's ability to go out in DC, Arlington, and other walkable communities without a car with confidence they can get home affordably.

Such a move risks shifting the DC region away from the "transit culture" that has been developed. On the other hand, if jurisdictions can't contribute more money and WMATA can't find other savings, other cuts could similarly cripple transit and take away vital access for riders.

Maryland's Peter Benjamin asked about providing bus, taxi, or other service as an alternative to rail service, to avoid completely cutting off riders from having transit options. Such a program could blunt the pain of such a cut.

Rail operations head Dave Kubicek said the late-night Friday and Saturday service forces WMATA to pay the equivalent "adding an eighth day of work" each week. Cutting back the hours to midnight from 3 am would effectively give them 45 more days per year to perform track work.

The Board also discussed plans to hold hearings and give the public a chance to weigh in on these issues.

New Board member Mary Hynes from Arlington suggested presenting the idea of earlier closings juxtaposed with whatever can be accomplished in the extra time. "Our goal is Metro 2.0," said Hynes. She argued that if riders knew what could be fixed and how much faster, it could help them decide whether to support late-night cuts.

Unfortunately, this also risks pitting rush-hour only riders, more often those who drive to stations and don't live in walkable areas with ready transit access, against people for whom transit is a 24-7 mobility tool. Federal member Mort Downey already started down that road by talking about how Metro is a "demand-driven" service, organized primarily around the times of peak usage, which also happens to be what matters most to the federal government.

Tom Downs, DC's voting member from the Gray administration, also expressed an interest in exploring this, though he also made very clear that rider input is vital. As Kytja Weir noted on Twitter, cutting late-night service is something Jim Graham constantly fought, often tenaciously and to the irritation of some of his colleagues or the Board of Trade.

We're seeing the effect in this meeting of the new Board. Gone are two of the more vociferous defenders of transit service, and the new members either won't be fighting as hard or haven't yet found their footing to do so. While the Board hasn't necessarily decided to make these cuts and members haven't committed to supporting or opposing them, in the old Board, we'd have heard members making impassioned speeches against this idea the moment it came up.

Or, perhaps members will just be more subtle about it. Another item on the list of potential cuts is Yellow Line service to Fort Totten off-peak, which keeps riders between Mount Vernon Square and Fort Totten from facing very long midday and evening headways. Tommy Wells asked staff to also add Red Line turnbacks at Grosvenor to the list, which represent a potential Montgomery County-only cut to parallel this DC-only cut.

About half of Red Line trains stop at Grosvenor rush hours instead of continuing to Shady Grove. Years past, this happened off-peak as well, but Maryland secured service sending all off-peak trains to Shady Grove and only turning any back during the peak.

If one is on the table, it's fair to put the other on as well, and perhaps a comparable service pattern in Virginia. All would be terrible, however, and the Board needs to look hard at alternatives before jumping to this option.

Update: Tommy Wells criticized this option when talking to reporters after the meeting.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Cabs are already difficult to get late at night in nightlife areas. I saw a fight break out over a cab on 14th Street a couple of weeks ago. If this change goes through, you will have pandemonium.

by Phil on Feb 10, 2011 11:08 am • linkreport

I hope the Metro board members take into consideration that cutting late night service could significantly increase drunk driving (and the associated economic and health costs). Metro is convenient and keeps people coming to downtown DC/U street/Dupont/etc. for a night out from getting behind the wheel at 2 a.m.

Tell many Metro riders to wait in the cold at a bus shelter instead of in an underground Metro station and we'll see people flee for their cars.

by LM on Feb 10, 2011 11:09 am • linkreport

Was there a response to Peter Benjamin's question regarding offering alternative forms of service? I've always thought that a night bus service that parallels Metro would be an ok alternative. But what was he talking about regarding taxis?

by Steven Yates on Feb 10, 2011 11:10 am • linkreport

Mary Hynes' comments only make sense in the context of a temporary cut. I don't think we're talking about that here.

The entire tone of the discussion shows an incredibly crass attitude toward the people who rely on Metro for more than just commuting to work. Metro comprises a huge part of what makes DC so attractive to newcomers. By limiting service, you're hurting real estate, hurting businesses, and stranding existing residents.

The economic benefits of these train services far outweigh their cost. I have an inkling that you'd see a larger drop in tax revenues in DC than whatever would be saved by implementing these cuts.

This doesn't even take into account the uptick in DUIs and petty crime that you'd almost certainly see after removing the service.

Horrible idea. Simply horrible.

by andrew on Feb 10, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

Steven: The response was that staff would look into that. They didn't have any details about possible programs or their cost at this time.

by David Alpert on Feb 10, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

After posting, I'll concur with Phil. For a city with an ungodly number of taxis, it's weirdly difficult to flag one down at night.

A few months ago, I ended up walking 3 miles to get home, after being unable to flag a cab for a good 30-40 minutes on 14th & U. The cabbies are always going to stop for a big crowd, rather than one guy, because it translates to a bigger fare for them.

by andrew on Feb 10, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

Can we be clear about why it is we're talking about cutting late-night weekend service? Is there a definite budget shortfall, or is this only an issue in the event that the feds cut funding?

by David S. on Feb 10, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

From a very parochial perspective, this is a very good thing for DC. Why the District would want to pay more to give people the option of living out in NoVa or Suburban MD, while still being able to 'party' in DC late nights is beyond me. Now those people who have used Metro to get in, and quickly out, of the city on weekend nights, will instead be incentivized to maybe move in here instead ... and contribute to our cosmopolitan life here in a more substantial way than just being our 'drinking buddies'.

Again, I know it's a parochial view. But given the lack of funding at Metro, maybe it's each jurisdiction for itself at this point ...

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 11:21 am • linkreport

David S: There's a budget shortfall of $72 million.

by David Alpert on Feb 10, 2011 11:27 am • linkreport

@LANCE; it is the 10% restaurant tax that goes on bar bills.

I'd be curious to know what usage patterns look like late night -- I suspect most of it is DC and Arlington. If you're coming in from Fairfax, you are probably already driving.

And this is more about cutting overtime or an excuse to raise late night fares?

by charlie on Feb 10, 2011 11:27 am • linkreport

I could see cutting down the frequency a bit at night, but metro provides an important role in avoiding drunk driving from our nightlife areas. I live next to one of the main routes into and out of Adams Morgan, and I can't imagine how bad things could get if metro service stopped at 12:00. As it is now, there is a huge wave of people walking from Adams Morgan after last call, and they hit Woodley Park just in time to catch one of the last trains.

I don't know how else you could possibly move the number of people walking at that hour. There are already hundreds of cabs in the area, I can't imagine what thousands would look like. I am also skeptical that you would see many people shift their drinking hours to catch the last train.

by Will on Feb 10, 2011 11:27 am • linkreport

How about they just hike the fares for 12-3 service and open an hour later on saturday/sunday? it would add 13 working days for track work. Make it a 5-10 dollar flat charge and it's still far cheaper than a cab, especially out to the burbs.

by anonymous on Feb 10, 2011 11:27 am • linkreport

At first, I thought this was horrible idea. Then I read Lance's comment above, and I tend to agree with him. It frustrates me how many people I know who live in Arlington who like to work in D.C. and occasionally drink in D.C. but generally contribute nothing else to the city or community. Let them fend for themselves.

by Ryan on Feb 10, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

Do we have any data on who uses the system late at night? Which stations?

Personally if it were down to a choice between Yellow Line to Fort Totten and late-night service, I would choose Yellow Line.

But the fact that our transit system shuts down at midnight period is sad.

by MLD on Feb 10, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

@David S. The feds only provide capital funding. There is a budget shortfall of about $76M on the operating side, which needs to be closed by cuts or increases in jurisdictional subsidy.

The cut in late night hours would open maintenance windows that would allow Metro to get more significant work done during the year. It is in this context that much of the benefit derives, rather than the simple reduction in operating costs. Between system closing after 3am and re-opening at 7am, there isn't much time to set conditions and perform maintenance.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 10, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

Have they considered just charging extra for late nights? Even $4-$5 bucks for a short ride is less than cab fare. If it's a financial consideration would that be enough to help them keep the service?

by Greta on Feb 10, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

A quick perspective perspective -- a lot of folks here have congratulated highway departments when they have the gumption to fully take down a bridge to do work in a short period of time as opposed to stretching projects out while doing "maintenance of traffic". DDOT under Emeka Moneme got some kudos for doing that.

Why isn't Metro restricting or shutting down service to do system maintenance work faster analogous?

by jnb on Feb 10, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

Rats, here we go again...

Ryan, while it might be frustrating to see individuals live in the inner suburbs and work and party in the District, in large numbers, we're quite useful for tax revenue. However, in order to get large numbers of people in for nightlife, you need some mechanism to get them there... like a Metro.

You can't everyone drive in. There isn't enough parking and no buildings should be torn down for parking.

I have a lot of friends who live in the District and use the Metro for nightlife too. I have friends who live in Capitol Hill and NoMa who use the Metro to go out. My friends who live in Dupont also use the Metro for nightlife if they want to go downtown, Capitol Hill, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Old Town, or Clarendon. Not all nightlife is in the District.

by Cavan on Feb 10, 2011 11:38 am • linkreport

@Greta - that's not a bad idea. A post-midnight premium is something to consider. I would definitely pay $5-$6 to have a reliable, late-night Metro ride home. Still much cheaper than a cab.

by LM on Feb 10, 2011 11:38 am • linkreport

Do mean like what they are doing on Presidents Day Weekend? "On the Blue and Orange Lines, there will be no train service between the Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza Metrorail stations, and the two stations between -- Federal Triangle and Smithsonian Metrorail stations."

by RJ on Feb 10, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

If there are tough decisions to be made perhaps they can cut late night transit outside of DC borders? The majority of train stations outside the city are for commuters, no? If not, they need to just raise the late night fare.

by cmc on Feb 10, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

Don't transit riders have common cause with Dupont / Adams Morgan / U Street business owners on this one? Are they involved in speaking out about it?

by NemaVeze on Feb 10, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

What about combining some sort of fare hike for late-night service with the closure of some stations that receive little use during late-night service?

Obviously, stations in the nightlife hubs such as Woodley Park/Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and Gallery Place/Chinatown get a ton of traffic during late-night hours. But I often wonder why some stations -- Judiciary Square, Federal Triangle, Federal Center SW, Smithsonian, for instance -- are open after midnight on weekends, seeing as how so few people get on or off there.

by anon on Feb 10, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

Jnb, that's because more roads mean more negative externalities where more transit service has no extra externalities. Increasing transit service benefits everyone except the transit agency's budget.

We've been down that road before: and David's excellent Whirlpool of Induced Demand:

by Cavan on Feb 10, 2011 11:45 am • linkreport

They already do charge more for late-night service. And the post-midnight trains are usually packed, thanks to the 20-minute headways (which cannot be realistically increased any further -- if you've got a transfer, it's entirely possible that you could be spending a total of 40 minutes waiting on a platform)

If they're not making money off of these extremely minimal services, something is horribly awry.

Personally, I don't mind the occasional weekend closures. They're an occasional inconvenience, and Metro seems to have a pretty good track record of getting lots of stuff done during those closures. I'd be 100% fine with them taking entire lines out of service 3-4 weekends a year.

However, cutting all late-night service would be a constant inconvenience.

by andrew on Feb 10, 2011 11:45 am • linkreport

Hmm. On further consideration: What about cutting late-night service to certain stations?

Does anybody actually board at Judiciary Square, Medical Center, or Federal Center SW after midnight?

by andrew on Feb 10, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

I don't like the plan, but if it saves enough money then the Board should approve it. They should also seek to preserve as much service as possible (but no more).

What are the savings of opening closing at 2am or 1am as opposed to 3am? What about something like closing at 1:30am and opening at 7:30am? Or substantial fare increases? Or some sort of blend, where the system closes earlier AND fares go up?

What is the CEO's recommendation?

Finally, how can Maryland politicians be convinced to kick in the money they should?

by WRD on Feb 10, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

Hey Lance, How would you feel if the city proposed instituting a complete ban on driving on city streets after midnight? After all, that would save the city a lot of money in operating signals, and it would definitely cut down on the number of non-residents moving around late at night.

This isn't a rhetorical question. I'm serious. I want to know what you think.

by BeyondDC on Feb 10, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

@charlie My friends from Fairfax and Reston usually either drive to West Falls Church or Vienna and metro from there (taking a cab or sobering up by 3:30am when they get to their car).

@anon: Closing stations just for a few hours isn't really a substantial savings, though it does make sense

by Mony on Feb 10, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

To whom can we voice our opposition to this move? I will vociferously defend late night metro service.

@Lance: (1) Have you even stopped to think what a devastating impact this would have on revenues for late night business in the district? I live in Alexandria and all of my friends like to go out downtown. Trust me, there is a LOT of economic activity enabled by the metro.

(2) Have you stopped to consider all the DC residents to who use the metro to get from their homes to DC night life?

(3) Finally, as others have mentioned, this could increase DUIs

This is a TERRIBLE idea! But I do second the possibility of closing down some of the unused stations at night. There are plenty of stations that do not serve significant residential or late night areas. Perhaps costs can be saved by driving through them (like we already do with Arlington Cemetery)

by OB on Feb 10, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

OB: You can email

BeyondDC: Best analogy is shutting down roads entirely when there's road work, as jnb mentioned. DDOT might do that occasionally, but generally doesn't.

by David Alpert on Feb 10, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

Metro does shut down whole sections and stations to do repair work, usually on holiday weekends.

Someone who lives in Rosslyn is closer to dowtown than someone who lives in Brightwood or Deanwood, yes they could probably just as easily live in DC but they're technically closer to their work/extracirriculars.

by Canaan on Feb 10, 2011 11:59 am • linkreport


This is what happens when you run such enormous budget deficts and cutting back service during the time period when so few people are using metro makes perfect sense.

Staying open till 3am services no one else but people out boozing.

I will say that again. You are operating 86 stations and 106 miles of track and paying the many hundreds of people needed to operate it all for what probably comes out to what...10,000 trips over a couple hour period, if that. The number of trips is easy to find out, I am surprised WMATA didn't put them out.

So fine, if reducing the time to midnight saves 45 work days, reduce the time to 2am and save 15 work days etc.

And I am sorry, it shouldn't be the responsibility of keeping an entire metro transit system open till the wee hours of the morning so the drunks have a way to get home.

You want to drink till 3am then fine, do so while figuring out how you get home.

Staying open till 3 is a fairly recent addition to metro and I don't remember fire and brimstone falling from the sky before.

by freely on Feb 10, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

Wondering how it was for late night DC before 1999 when there was no after-midnight service. half of the late night riders are between midnight and 1am, so I find it very unlikely that it'll be rescinded earlier than 1 am

by Mony on Feb 10, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

I think it's a bad idea. But, if Metro does cut late night service on weekends, will there be earlier morning service (i.e., opening at 5 am instead of 7 am) on Saturdays and Sundays instead? That's a trade-off I might be willing to accept. Ultimately, though, chipping away at the opening hours and frequency of a metro system is anti-urban.

by DSDC on Feb 10, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

WRD hinted at this, and Michael Perkins also tweeted it, but how about a weekend closing time somewhere in the 1-2am range. Still allows the "partiers" to stay out yet gives a little more time for WMATA to do MUCH NEEDED maintenance.

by Froggie on Feb 10, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

A lot of DC residents on here seem to think VA and MD residents don't make the same contribution to the metro system, simply using it during commuting hours or to "exploit" DCs nightlife. Ryan's comment is particularly short sighted. DC businesses depend on business from both residents and commuters- reducing the number of customers to late night oriented business is going to have a negative impact on tax revenue, period. The idea that residents of adjacent jurisdictions "contribute nothing to the community" is moronic. Sports leagues, community groups, religious organizations and other community organizations cross the district's borders. Do you think that the Kennedy Center only serves DC residents or the Verizon Center depends solely on the business of district residents? Should residents of Adams Morgan complain about how people in Anacostia don't contribute to their civic organizations and thus don't deserve metro access to their neighborhood? Metro is funded by all three jurisdictions, not just the district, and eliminating late metro service will impact everyone. I get really annoyed with individuals who think that living in the District significantly differentiates you from people in Bethesda or Arlington. There is no good reason anyone should have to "fend for themselves" in this situation.

by Alan on Feb 10, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

@BeyondDC, I actually think this whole issue is wildly overblown. Facilitating unruly crowds geting to places like Adams Morgan to cause isssues isn't in DC's self interest in the least. Instead, giving these same individuals opportunities to fully integrate into the cosmopolitan life would be a far better use of funds. For example, building more parking garages in the District so that the cost of keeping a car in the city becomes a non-issue ... and these same people who only come in on weekends and nights because 'they can't afford to live in DC' because of the cost and incovenience of keeping a car, won't have that as a barrier.

And of course you make me laugh with your analogy about red-lights. Jeez, it sounds like the thought of 'party areas' not being as easily accessible anymore has struck a cord with some. Frankly, I think DC is worth more than that, ... Nothing wrong with folks wanting to party here ... but I don't see why we should help subsidize a crowd that wants to do nothing more than use our streets and neigbhorhoods as a place to party and trash.

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 12:06 pm • linkreport

You're tapdancing around the question.

Closing city streets at night is a direct analogy. It would severely limit mobility, would make it harder for non-residents to come into or out of a neighborhood (residents could always just walk), and it would save operating money.

Do you or don't you think it is a good idea?

For the record, I really don't care about whether or not we think partiers are good for the city. I'm concerned about overall mobility, no matter where you're going or what you're doing.

by BeyondDC on Feb 10, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

@BDC Continuing the logical path of that analogy...nights, weekends, and off-peak hours are of course the best times for WMATA to shut things down and do maintenance.

by Froggie on Feb 10, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

I was curious, so did some news archives searching:
Late night service began on Metro in November 1999 with a roughly 1am closing time on an 8-month trial. By Sept. 2001, Metro was closing at 2am (also same time that they began opening at 5AM, and by mid-2003 it was extended to 3am.

by Mony on Feb 10, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

Maybe there is some middle ground here. A LOT of subways shut down before 3am in cities such as Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Toronto. These are REAL cities. The difference is there is night bus service. You cut the service after 3am and offer night bus service as far as their is demand. Maybe you don't run all the way to Shady Grove but maybe only as far as Friendship Heights or Bethesda on one ond of the Red line and maybe only to Silver Spring on the other. Maybe, on the Orange line you only run as far as Ballston and on the Yellow/Blue only as far as King Street. That keeps the cost of the substitute bus program down and allows you to provide alternative service to those areas which have or ar developing a transit culuture.

by Dharm on Feb 10, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

Coming from someone who uses late night Metro regularly, it's not fair or sustainable to pay roughly the same when the system is being used much less than at other times. I agree with anonymous: hike up the fares dramatically after midnight. People will still use the service because it will still be a good deal financially and otherwise.

by Arnold on Feb 10, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

This is what happens when you run such enormous budget deficts and cutting back service during the time period when so few people are using metro makes perfect sense.

Stop making these comments without numbers to back them up.

Although it isn't rush-hour, Metro is far from a ghost town during these times. I'd go out on a limb, and say that far fewer people ride the rails between 10 and midnight during the week than between 12 and 3 on the weekend.

However, the fact is that we can't make informed decisions without numbers to back them up.

by andrew on Feb 10, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

late-night service is not just for entertainment or for suburbanites.

I live in the District and use it to get home from my second job (also in the District). I see a lot of folks on the metro late at night wearing work uniforms. I support the idea of a late-night surcharge rather than closing the system altogether. An expanded night-bus service is another possibility, but I doubt it would save much.

by sb on Feb 10, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

I think trying to do a bus option might wind up costing more than what they would propose in saving. I don't understand the notion that 12am indicates that things shut down. Try that in New York City. I know of alot of college students and adults alike who take in the DC nightlife and having them stuck in DC because of no rail service will do a great injustice. Granted there is already bus service until 3am, it's only limited to a few places and not as extensive as rail service.

I do like the idea of closing other stations at night such as Judiciary Square and Smithsonian to run services a bit faster.

I understand trackwork is a necessary process in maintaining the system, but I don't really see a 1 hour benefit in shifting from a 3am close 7am open to a 12am close 5am open, plus the weekends are already set as periods of trackwork according to the schedule. Maybe there needs to be some internal restructuring/consolidation needed to help offset some of the shortfall.

by Ken Conaway on Feb 10, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

I agree with BeyondDC. There are a ton of labor costs -- equivalent to paying workers 8 days a week, I'm sure -- in keeping the streets open to automobiles late at night. Just the gains from eliminating car crashes alone would make it worth considering. Unless, of course, this entire debate is about squeezing the mass transit budget and not about improving the quality of life.

by tom veil on Feb 10, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

To those (such as andrew) saying these late night trains are busy, Metro's own numbers show that half the after-midnight crowd is on the train by 1am.

Which tells me that midnight is too early. But IMO there are too few riders at the end to make the cost and the lack of maintenance time worthwhile. As I mentioned before, a happy medium is somewhere in the 1-2am period.

by Froggie on Feb 10, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

I think this needs to be separated out into its two components:

1) How much money is saved by cutting back service to 2AM / 1AM / Midnight?
1a) What are the adverse effects on regional nightlife (and thus tax income) by cutting back service to 2/1/Midnight?

2) How much more maintenance will get done by cutting back service to 2AM/ 1AM / Midnight? (Not talking about "available time," talking about what time would be used. Which I presume would be a lot of the available time)
2a) How much money does this save in the long run relative to our current maintenance schedule? How much are reliability/safety improved relative to current maintenance?

Also, I think sb brings up a very good point. Not everyone commutes during peak hours; off-peak service is sometimes viewed as a "social service" in this regard.

by EJ on Feb 10, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

I live in the District. The only bus that I can take stops running by 1AM. Sure, I live in an area that is less than covered by public transport. But I can walk 15 minutes to three different Metro stations, and that's kind of the point. So it's not just the people in the suburbs that depend on the Metro.

by R on Feb 10, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

@EJ I like that. Get the hard numbers for various scenarios before coming to a decision. As a GGW contributor once told me, it's better to use fact-based arguments than moral or emotional arguments.

by Froggie on Feb 10, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

The trouble with arguing about drunk drivers, tax dollars in bars, etc, is that none of that helps metro close their budget gap. The current level of service combined with the current level of funding is unsustainable, period. We either need to accept service cuts, or we need to find more funding.

I'd hate to see the late night service go, but if it has to, replacing trains with buses seems like a decent compromise, and should be much cheaper and leave time for maintenance.

by jcm on Feb 10, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

Now those people who have used Metro to get in, and quickly out, of the city on weekend nights, will instead be incentivized to maybe move in here instead

Get rid of the height limit and then we can start to talk about this being a realistic vision for DC's future. Otherwise, there's just not enough room.

by Anonymous on Feb 10, 2011 12:45 pm • linkreport

Also, the issue of maintenance is a red herring. If it were really just about that, they could close sections of lines during those hours as they needed to to get work done, keeping service available in other areas. Metro is in need of maintenance, but I'm not convinced yet that it's so far in disrepair as to need a permanent altering of its operating schedule.

Let's keep the region accessible during late night hours to keep up the growth in our nightlife that had the New York Times talking about us as a destination for entertainment and culture. A fare increase—especially during late night hours when people would probably be too drunk to notice anyway—is much preferable to service elimination.

by Anonymous on Feb 10, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

I'm relocating to DC this summer. It'll be quite a change going from 24/7 red & blue line service in Chicago (and a brown line that operates a shuttle until approximately 2:30 am) to relatively meager late-night transit in DC. For those living without an automobile (either by choice or lack of money), such a change is particularly unfortunate.

by Aaron on Feb 10, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

What if they closed metro earlier, but instead added bus routes along metro lines for the whole time metro is closed. Essentially enabling 24/7 mobility around metro lines? I wonder if this would be a net cost reduction?

by ErikD on Feb 10, 2011 12:59 pm • linkreport

Anonymous: if maintenance is a red herring, then so is the argument about "drunks on the roads instead of Metro"...

by Froggie on Feb 10, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

I live in Virginia at the moment, but I still think that cutting, not eliminating, late-night service is an option that should be seriously considered. It didn't have to be this way. At some point, the fundamental issues w/ respect to metro's reliability and funding need to get dealt with. Like David said, if it's not late-night service, it'll be something else that affects another group. Maybe some drastic measures are needed to ensure that Metro can be a high quality and sustainable service.

by Vik on Feb 10, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

For many years, the Metrorail system was not open past midnight on any day of the week with the exception of July 4. It sounds like it would be a return to those days. I know there are a number of other very significant transit systems (the London Underground springs readily to mind) that close earlier than the DC Metro does on weekends. London is arguably a city with a far more extensive late-night culture and is certainly a harder-drinking city than DC is, so I'm not convinced by the argument that a return to midnight closing would lead to a drunk-driving apocalypse on DC-area roads. Certainly people who live in cities without subways manage to get around. That's not to say the hours SHOULD be cut back. It's just a comment that the drunk-driving argument shouldn't necessarily be the major consideration.

I think the discussion boils down to a far more fundamental question about the mission of WMATA as a whole. WMATA is facing a crossroads on what it wants to be. Is the Metrorail system first and foremost a way to COMMUTE or is it first and foremost a WAY TO GET AROUND? Obviously the limited number of lines and the limited coverage of the area place some inherent limits on its usefulness as a way to get around the area, and it will never be the equal of the Tube or the New York Subway in those respects. Quite understandably, too, when you consider that those systems' first lines opened in 1863 and 1904, respectively, and that the systems have grown with their cities during a time when government spending on such projects was less controversial than it is today (not to mention that New York's first lines were privately-constructed by the IRT and BMT), whereas ours opened in 1976 and is essentially a system being grafted onto an already-developed area. It's not anti-Metrorail to recognize the inherent differences that serve as limitations on what can be done--it's just being a realist. Metrorail will never let you get around the DC area in the way that the New York Subway lets you get around New York. It's also fair to recognize the massive importance of commuters as the lifeblood of the Metrorail to a degree not necessarily the case in New York or London. But I think it would be extremely shortsighted and a major mistake to view the Metrorail system as having commuting as its focus. The WMATA board has already talked of viewing the system as more "commuter rail" than "subway" (presumably out of fear of the word "subway" back in the 1970s when New York's system was at its nadir). If they start operating it as commuter rail rather than as a subway, I think they'll destroy the system's usefulness for a lot of people.

Bus service seems like a very reasonable compromise, and it seems to me that maybe the best option would be to run express bus service that stops solely at the Metrorail stations along a line, or part of a line (i.e., a bus serving the Red Line might serve only the western half and terminate at Metro Center, or perhaps Union Station where there's more space, and a separate set of buses would serve the eastern half). That way people unfamiliar with the bus system--and I think it's fair to say that refers to the vast majority of folks in the DC area--could easily take the bus back from whence they came. Of course, we also have to recognize that one bus holds FAR FEWER PEOPLE than a subway train, so it's not realistic to expect that bus service could really be a full substitute for train service.

by Rich on Feb 10, 2011 1:14 pm • linkreport

Can someone explain how 3 extra hours of time for 2 nights per week adds up to 45 days? That's 6 hours a week and 13 days a year. Quite a difference.

In response to Lance, I just moved to the burbs after 15 years in DC. I now have children which are approaching school age. Get some schools that are in the same league as the burbs and I'll move back in a second. Until then, I'd like to still be able to experience DC nightlife and not completely drop out of society. And I used Metro latenight plenty when I lived in DC to get from one neighborhood to another.

by Morley on Feb 10, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

Cutting late-night service is a terrible idea... Such cuts would have grave consequenses for the DC AREA. We should instead be looking at how we can provide MORE tranist access AROUND THE CLOCK.

DC and its suburbs have emerged as one of the top and most sought-after destinations new businesses, students, and the young, creative types that drive our economy (not to mention the billions of dollars of recent investment in real estate near metro stations, largely for the 24/hour (or 20/hour) environment Metro helps to sustain near its stations)

Our elected leaders and representatives need to see the bigger picture here... this is not simply a question of how much money is made or lost by Metro between midnight and 3am, two nights per week.


by nwdcguy on Feb 10, 2011 1:28 pm • linkreport

"London is arguably a city with a far more extensive late-night culture"

A city which, until recently, had a mandatory 11pm closing time for all bars has a "more extensive late-night culture" than DC? I am not sure this is correct.

Also, in 1999 there was much less nightlife in the District. At that time Adams Morgan was just beginning to emerge as a destination, and 14th Street basically just had the 9:30 Club, the Black Cat, and a couple of jazz clubs. The extension of Metro's closing hours was likely a major contributor to the renaissance of nightlife in DC.

by Phil on Feb 10, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

A city which, until recently, had a mandatory 11pm closing time for all bars has a "more extensive late-night culture" than DC? I am not sure this is correct.

Depends on whether you define "late-night culture" exclusively in terms of bars and drinking. Rather sad commentary if that's the only thing considered.

by Rich on Feb 10, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

As a customer caught the very last train out of U st. sat night (Had to get some Ben's) I would hate to see the metro close earlier. My friend was in town from Philly the whole time we talked about how great metro is and that in Philly the Septa (septic as most call it) closes too early, when there I either stay within walking distance of my friends house or have to pay for a cab to go anywhere. To close the gap please raise rates to rushhour or higher after 12am or even 11 or 10pm & run less cars. I see no need to have six cars when 4 or even 2 would do fine. As far as skipping stations they did skip smithsonian because no one was there. When I had a part time job as a Valet I was often downtown working until 1am some times 2 or 3 and had to metro as there is no where to park when you start work around 6 or 7pm. Lastly it's hard to get some people to ride a bus, no need to argue the reasons it just is. P.S I live in Ballston but as a Caps season ticket holder I go out in dc often, maybe more then some of the posters who complain about us va people. (arlington people seem to complain about fairfax & others south/west too)

by JAY W on Feb 10, 2011 1:36 pm • linkreport

If you work odd hours in this town, you're out of luck. I bought a house near Metro so I could use it to get to and from work, but those of us who work evenings and weekends already bear the brunt of delays due to single-tracking, as well as less frequent off-peak trains. It is important for the regional economy as well as the environment that public transport remain available and efficient at all hours, not just rush hour.

by Cassius on Feb 10, 2011 1:39 pm • linkreport

This is being penny wise and dollar foolish. Or better penny wise and job & life foolish.

If metro closes earlier, less people will go out, or go out in the burbs, which will cost DC tax income, and jobs. Furthermore, more drunk people will drive, and kill and hurt themselves and others on the road.

Is anybody willing to put a price on the lives of those people?

by Jasper on Feb 10, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

To those (like Lance) who are saying that if you want to be able to drink in DC, then you should just LIVE in DC: Okay, where? If all of the Arlington residents who drink in DC suddenly decided they wanted to move to the District (either because the Metro stopped running after midnight, or else they were shamed into doing so by blog commenters), there wouldn't be enough apartments for limit. So are you saying you are in favor of removing barriers to density and development, like the height limit, in order to allow additional residents?

by LJ on Feb 10, 2011 1:45 pm • linkreport

should have said, "wouldn't be enough apartments for all of them"

by LJ on Feb 10, 2011 1:46 pm • linkreport

I don't go out late that much, but anymore its easier just to hang out close to home. No matter where you live.

by spookiness on Feb 10, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

@Anom Get rid of the height limit and then we can start to talk about this being a realistic vision for DC's future. Otherwise, there's just not enough room.

I guess you don't know that the District had some 200,000 (or more) residents living in it in 1950 than it does today with its 600,000 person population? AND the District had far less buildings in it then than it does now. Given that it's taken us 60 years just to reverse the downward trend in population ... I'm not too worried about the District 'filling up' because of the height limit. Many cities have height limits including Paris, and they still manage to fit lots of people.

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 2:05 pm • linkreport

@NWDCguy and others--

No one wants to cut service. But it might be the best of bad alternatives. A Crap Sandwich, to quote Speaker Boehner about another difficult choice.

The real question we should all be asking is what is the system's need? What do we hope to achieve?

If we need to save money, there is one set of solutions. Raising fares, perhaps to a flat $5 for all trips after 12am, might solve the problem. Or there are tons of other solutions, good and bad, in other posts here. I'm sure Metro's forecasters have some plans, too.

If it's about making time for repair work, then the solutions should be different. In this case cutting service late at night when there is track work might be quite a good solution. Presumably service would return when the work was finished.

So far, the Board's intention is not crystal clear. If they want to save money, why talk about all the maintenance time saved? I can't imagine cutting service back by 3 hours twice a week will save a ton of money especially in comparison to other options available. But the option should be on the table.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to a quantitative question: how much does it save? How much additional work gets done? Are there other alternatives that are less disruptive?

For full disclosure, I love late night service and use it at least once a week. Maybe I should have to pay more for it.

by WRD on Feb 10, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

And I guess you weren't aware that during that time household size in the District has been cut in half or more? 2 parents + 2 kids require fewer housing units than 4 singles.

by LJ on Feb 10, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

The DC delegation should propose reversing half of all trains at the DC border during rush hour. Red line would be Friendship Heights to Fort Totten, blue would be Foggy Bottom to Capitol Heights, orange would be Foggy Bottom to Deanwood, yellow would be L'Enfant Plaza to Fort Totten, green would be Southern Ave to Fort Totten.

As each jurisdiction pledges money for late-night service, full service returns to them.

by Tim on Feb 10, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

I do live in DC, and I don't even ride Metro late at night, but this change would still negatively impact me. I go out in the U Street area most of the time, and stay out past closing time quite frequently. I often take CaBi or the Circulator home but also take cabs when I have had a few drinks or it is cold/rainy outside.

If Metro closes at midnight, demand for all of these (already heavily used) modes will massively increase, and there will also be many more drunk drivers on the road. There will be literal fighting over cabs and CaBi bikes, and buses will be filled to crush capacity (they are already standing room only in many cases). This will negatively impact everyone, not just the people who are riding Metro back out to Fairfax.

by Phil on Feb 10, 2011 2:14 pm • linkreport

WMATA should be trying to find ways to encourage Metro ridership rather than finding ways to reduce the number of daily users. Shutting service down earlier would get people used to driving into the District if they still wanted to go, which will cause traffic issues, DUI issues and help get people used to living without Metro. I already know one formerly car free individual who recently bought a car because he got tired of waiting for Metro on the weekends. Additionally, all those current late night Metro riders back to VA and MD are paying taxes in the District for their food, drink and entertainment. Is it good to cut that off and send those dollars elsewhere? And it doesn't just affect MD and VA residents. Capital Hill to Adams Morgan or Dupont by any way other than Metro on weekend nights is not the way to go. Bad idea all around.

by ksu499 on Feb 10, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

My question is relatively straightforward: where do you draw the line?

Yes, it's not the end of the world if Metro shuts down at midnight or 1am - fewer people are using it. But is this then going to be used next year to justify curtailing service at 9pm? After all, Metro is pretty deserted (in fact, probably a little more so than after midnight) between 10pm and midnight.

This is on top of the highest fares I have seen, for some of the lowest amount of service. Five years from now, are we going to be paying $10 for service that runs between 8am and 6pm on weekdays and not at all on weekends?

If that's the case, that points to many deeper structural problems that Metro needs to start working on now, not piecemeal for the next ten years. If the problem is operator cost, then it's time to start testing automated trains. If it's station "manager" costs, it's time to start closing stations and perhaps have a roving manager for the core stations, and 2-3 people answering call boxes. If it's electricity costs, then time to consider more efficient trains and stations (coming from the developing world where electricity costs a crapton, I'm horrified at the absolute lack of air curtains or doors that cause heat and cooling to leak out). If it's some other issue - then we need to talk about it now. Metro will otherwise die by a thousand cuts, rather than live by doing something dramatic and useful now.

by varun on Feb 10, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure why metro hasn't actually thought this through..cut back 30 hour every day. open an hour later in the morning on weekends. Thats 5:30 hours per week - 286 hours per year. Save money by running less trains between the hours 9:30-2:30. Make it essentially a train. The metro will leave king street every 45 mins. Advertise the schedule for the routes with popular night spots. People will learn when to go and when to leave their destination. DC doesn't have the bus culture of London or amsterdam, etc...not a fair comparison.

by Whoa_now on Feb 10, 2011 2:16 pm • linkreport

I think only sb made the point that many riders are likely commuting themselves. Service industry workers in particular. It is their commute and their commute is just as important as one at 8 and 5. The trains are not just a drunk train.

Also, it is 10,000 rides, but a good number (but not all) of those people also rode to their destination, so that is up to 20,000 rides affected.

Also, perhaps we should improve the quality of the maintenance, not the quantity of it.

by guest on Feb 10, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

Some people I'm sure use metro late at night to stay in Virginia or MD. There's plenty of nightlife along the blue and orange line in Va.

by Canaan on Feb 10, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport


It's probably the case that the need is for several more consecutive hours to complete maintenance tasks. Making up numbers here, but crews probably need 5 hours in a row to complete hypothetical repairs. Giving them 5 hours in 30 minute chunks spread over 10 days doesn't get the job done. And this assumes the problem is repair work, not budget shortfalls.


Regardless of your slippery slope argument, Metro's Board should take on "deeper structural problems" now. If shutting down late night service is necessary for the moment, we should do it.

by WRD on Feb 10, 2011 2:28 pm • linkreport

@Canaan: No, I was referring to rush hour, not late night. The Va and Md delegations seem to be mostly concerned with getting their citizens to and from work in DC, so why not hit them where it hurts?

by Tim on Feb 10, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

Lots of comments here clearly this is a very important issue. I think people have made a lot of good suggestions.
1. Charge more - though the metro fare system is already very complicated people will pay what they have to pay to go out.
2. Cut out stations - This is a no brainer really at least in the city, but for the burbs this becomes more difficult. How much does dropping a station really save anyway, about 3 hours of pay for one employee, some electrical costs? Small amount overall.
3. Loss of revenue - clearly they city and its businesses stand to lose quite a sizable chunk of money if they drop the metro after midnight.

by Matt R on Feb 10, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

@Morley Can someone explain how 3 extra hours of time for 2 nights per week adds up to 45 days? That's 6 hours a week and 13 days a year. Quite a difference.

The right thing to be thinking about here is revenue - operating cost. Given the relatively few number of people using Metro at this time I don't think the 45 day calculation is unreasonable.

by Anon on Feb 10, 2011 2:34 pm • linkreport

Why do people need to get shit-faced at 2AM? Seems to me that most of what happens after midnight is people getting into fights, littering, hollering in the street, vomiting, and generally making life worse for other people.

Is this healthy behavior that we as a society should encourage and accommodate with our tax dollars?

(I'll admit I did my own share of heavy drinking in my 20s--and it was unhealthy for me as well. Though I don't think I ever stayed out past 1AM.)

Cut the late-night hours. Then have cops waiting near the bars with their breathalyzers. The DUI revenue will more than make up for the lost tax income.

If businesses bitch about the lost revenue, then maybe DC can lower the property taxes. And, oh yeah, quit tearing down affordable business spaces to replace them with high-end TOD, the rents in which can only be paid for by selling lots of high-margin booze into the wee hours.

by JB on Feb 10, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

@BeyondDC, like I said earlier, it was a parochial view I was expressing given what we have to deal with.

Remember, I'm the one who's made the case over and over that in the larger scheme of things mass transit (including Metro and streetcars) is really far less efficient, far less flexible, and much more costly in terms of 'per person' cost than personal vehicles unless they are being used in very specific situations (i.e., times/places) where you otherwise would have congestion on the roads. (Or seen another way .. 'where the per person costs for people wanting to go to a specific destination at the same specific time is less than the average cost to do the same trip via a personal vehicle. It's the question of where do you use a mainframe vs. a personal computer.) In this case, it's not justifiable to run the trains at the time of night UNLESS we charged accordingly more. And if it's that important to keep this service that's the solution I'd buy on to. But looking at it not from a 'transportation standpoint' but as a resident/activist in this city, I have to step back and say to myself 'so, the whole issue here is how do you get people back and forth to the bars? ... Shouldn't we be a bit more concerned about the fact that there are people who live work and play in DC ... but don't live here for --- among the reasons I constantly hear from the younger suburban folks I work with --- because 'parking is too hard in DC.' I can't tell you how many times I've heard these people say 'I'd love to live in the city, but you know what it would cost for me to park my car?' And that to me is the thing we really need to be addressing. Currently the law mandates only 1 parking space per 4 apartments in the District. Rather than weakening that law we need to be fighting to strenghten it so that anyone looking to move to the Washington Metro area doesn't take parking costs into consideration when deciding where to live. I.e., I'd rather they took into account where they want to go drink ... And btw, just to be clear, when I'm talking parking, I'm not talking about 'parking so you can drive into the District ..." I'm talking 'parking so that you can live in the District ... " We ought to be pushing for a minimum of 1 or 2 parking space for each living unit. Perferably even making it a variable amount based on the number of bedrooms in a living unit. I.e., Putting the emphasis on making DC an attractive place to live is to me more important that making it an attractive place to drink.

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 2:43 pm • linkreport

* who work and play in DC ... but don't live here for ---

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 2:45 pm • linkreport

Metro should be fully financed by a combination of state and federal revenue. They have already extended their rush-hour times, added ridiculous "peak of the peak" fares (were people trippin' when they came up with that?), cut bus transfers, eliminated the discounts for $20 buys, and of course they raise fares regularly.

Now it's time for the government to pony up, this is for the public good because it gets people (drunk and sober) off the street.

The parochial comments from the DC residents here saying this would bring people back to DC are laughable.

by Stike on Feb 10, 2011 2:56 pm • linkreport

I don't see the problem with jacking up fares to an 8 dollar flat rate, closing a half hour earlier on Friday and Saturday nights and opening up an hour later on Saturday and Sunday Mornings.

Also, DC has a big stake here, but intercity transit improvements like the circulator and Cabi could be expanded to reduce any impact.

by JTS on Feb 10, 2011 2:59 pm • linkreport

I use late night weekend service often to get home from work. A taxi is not an option as I am a black male and live in SE Washington. If a cab does stop they apologetically refuse the fare as they are on call and only stopped to see if they could help me out. Driving is an option, but parking is not. DC has two hour limits on weekends now.

Why don't we revert to the hick town we used to be. Pass laws closing businesses at 11:00 PM on weekends. That will give people ample time to get to a Metro station. This area is not transportation friendly. They shrink driving areas for bicycles, eliminate free parking, and cut public transportation to force people to drive. Voters need a break. Go to work, come home and stay in the house. Save your money for out of town vacations to some sensible welcoming place.

by george on Feb 10, 2011 2:59 pm • linkreport


And I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say "I'd love to live in the District, but do you know what it would cost me to rent an apartment/buy a house?" If only the District were more supportive of building a variety of housing types, or would ease certain onerous regulations and allow the market to supply more affordable rental units, then everyone who wanted to live here could. Wouldn't that be something.

by JS on Feb 10, 2011 3:02 pm • linkreport

Couple things:

- Metro long-term budget outlook is not good thanks to health and pension expenditures that are rising much faster than GDP (and thus subsidies) can. About 6%/yr for health, which is not so bad, but >8%/yr for pensions.

- Height limits and Paris: Parisians live in really really tiny spaces. That's why their population density is so great despite the height of their buildings. Now Lance at least is on record as wanting to follow Paris' lead in general, but I don't see much demand for Parisian-style accomodations in these parts.

by EJ on Feb 10, 2011 3:03 pm • linkreport

If Metro needs more time for repairs, they should just cancel late night service on individual lines as needed. NYC does this all the time, as do other cities.

by Phil on Feb 10, 2011 3:08 pm • linkreport

@George, dude you beat to it.

It's already difficult to hail a taxi (to SE DC) during the day but evenings/nights are even worse. I've been told that the cab I just stopped was "out of service" more than I care to remember.

If they decide to raise the fares even more, I can imagine many will opt to drive.

by HogWash on Feb 10, 2011 3:10 pm • linkreport


I've heard that argument too. But those that make the jump are routinely surprised to find they are saving money after they ditch their car or go car-lite. My GF saved almost six grand last year after she moved to Petworth from Germantown, sold her car and signed up for zipcar.

by Barry on Feb 10, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

Seems to me to be a step backwards in time, turning metro back into the suburbs commuter rush hour transit system. And that will make me sad and angry. I take metro to go visit my friends in Cap Hill on the weekends, and oh my, I stay til past 1 am and then I take metro home. we play cards while their children sleep. On the metro, i see many "night lifers", I see many coming out of concerts, and I see quite a few workers coming home from work. This is not a "drunkards free ride" it is a transit system.

I have lived in Dupont/Adams Morgan/U St since 1995. Adams Morgan was hopin then. Buses were useless, cabs were impossible and parking was a mess (and this was before the parking garages on 18th & FLA). Dupont was more lively than it is today, though mostly in-town gayboys, so less on the driving scheme, and more cabs flowed thru. U St was a much smaller area, but there were 4-5 bars that got packed, as Howard students came over, and Black Cat and the newly moved 9:30 were bringing more people in. I know 9:30 pushed for the late night metro.

Charge more. Single track more. Close unneeded stations. Close at 2, not 3. Open later on weekends - what do we need a 7 am Sunday opening for? Start single tracking on weekenights at 8 pm til midnight.

Acch, metro, it's really why I bike.

by greent on Feb 10, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

@JS If only the District were more supportive of building a variety of housing types, or would ease certain onerous regulations and allow the market to supply more affordable rental units, then everyone who wanted to live here could. Wouldn't that be something.

The District is extremely support of all this. Probably the most of any jurisdiction in the area. I don't know of another area here where you can buy anything from a $36 M manse in Georgetown to a 4 bedroom $110,000 home in Ward 8. Rent anything from a multi-million dollar penthouse to getting section 8 subsidized housing. We have no housing shortage here. The more people move here, the more our buildings are willing to build from scratch, renovate, or add on to as the case may be.

If maybe you've bought on to some supposedly smart 'smart' growth hype that building a highrise lowers rent/sale prices, I invite you to go see for yourself what you'd pay for a place to buy or rent in a Manhattan or Chicago highrise. Or a highrise just about anywhere for that matter. It's a myth that building high will lower prices or give you more housing stock.

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 3:21 pm • linkreport

*our builders

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

@Barry -

I don't don't doubt it. My comment was more in poking fun at the absurdity of one of Lance's earlier comments (hence my attempt to mimic the form of said comment).

I haven't had a car in 6 years - it's great. I think that for a lot of people raised in a car-centric environment, envisioning life without a car can be somewhat difficult. For these individuals,a car is just a way of life/safety blanket that's hard to give up. I know a lot of people that, having given up a car, are incredibly happy they no longer have to deal with the headaches of ownership.

by JS on Feb 10, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

I don't know of another area here where you can buy anything from a $36 M manse in Georgetown to a 4 bedroom $110,000 home in Ward 8.

But, of course, the problem here is that Arlington is actually closer to a lot of the places that the infernal Virginians want to go to than Ward 8. So the transportation problem remains. It's not like moving to Mt Rainier is going to solve the problem of getting from Arlington to 14th and U.

by oboe on Feb 10, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport


The opposite is true about height. Chicago and Manhattan are different locations (meaning you aren't holding everything else equal). You cannot just look at rental or housing prices in different areas without controlling for other factors. More supply is lower prices, everything else equal. Of course, if you provided evidence to support your assertion, I'd love to read it.

You argue for more parking, but who should pay for it? Land and parking spaces are valuable. Most people pay very much below cost for their parking spaces. We should move in the opposite direction and repeal parking maximums and minimums.

by WRD on Feb 10, 2011 3:28 pm • linkreport

To piggyback on what greent said, does anyone know how to get ridership statistics comparing the 1-3am late-night hours to the 7-9am weekend hour? if we're going to cut service, we should focus on the hours that have the fewest riders, so i'm interested to see what that difference is

by JES on Feb 10, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

Half of you have bright, well thought out ideas, the other half? Clearly have no clue and should stop talking. Keeping it open to cut down DUI? Are you insane! How about personal choices, and being responsible for those choices? Next I suppose you want tax breaks for a baby sitter to watch your kids so you can go get drunk on the weekends? Get a grip, grow up, and wait until there are solid numbers before ranting like an idiot. You sound ridiculous.

by DC Lawyer on Feb 10, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

@Oboe, It's not like moving to Mt Rainier is going to solve the problem of getting from Arlington to 14th and U.

... and getting back to my original comment ... Actually moving to 14th and U (or maybe 9th and U ... or 5th and U) DOES solve that problem. Just saying ... I'm not going to worry about how/why 'we' the taxpayers should be paying to give people easy access to their play places. Now, if these folks were willing to pay what it really cost to run the Metro at this time of the night, then we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place, would we? Or, if alternately, the really can't afford to pay what it really costs to run the Metro at that time of the night, then shouldn't they be making the smart decision ... and just moving to where they want to be ... rather than depending on the rest of us to pay to get them were they want to go? Just saying ...

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport


Please point to the part of my comment where I advocated building high-rises in DC. I am pretty sure I didn't. I'm merely saying DC should be more amendable to revising the zoning code to allow for denser construction in more areas, somewhere along the lines of four to six story buildings. This would make DC much more like Paris, a city which you earlier referenced in a positive manner. If that's your position, I am all for it.

I am puzzled by your assertion that building a high rise apartment lowers the available housing stock, but that's neither here nor there.

by JS on Feb 10, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

what do we need a 7 am Sunday opening for?

Churchgoers. Probably the most powerful political lobby in DC. Messing with that schedule is a complete non-starter.

by andrew on Feb 10, 2011 3:32 pm • linkreport

Perhaps a compromise would be to close Metro at midnight but allow people to drink on the train.

by JimT on Feb 10, 2011 3:36 pm • linkreport

This is total bullshit, ughhh we'll never be on NYC's level, let alone Chicago at least they have two lines that run 24/7. Just great fucking great....

I mean shit they could just set a $5 base fare after midnight and run a train every 30 minutes on all lines, thats better than no service at all or taking a cab. Plus buses are limited not everyone lives along the 70, X2, 42, 32/36, A42, A46, A48, 93, etc.. you know all the buses that run really late.

This mess proves that D.C. is a southern city....

by Yo cuz on Feb 10, 2011 3:44 pm • linkreport

Odd, I thought @JS' point was that the perfidious Arlingtonians couldn't move into the city because there's not enough low-cost housing in DC for them. Then you said, sure there's low-cost housing--in Ward 8. Then I said, "Why...that get's us no closer to the goal! That's even farther away than Arlington!" Now you say, "Of course it is! That's why they should move to 9th and U!" Of course, @JS will just repeat that they can't move into the city because there's not enough low-cost housing...

...and round and round we go...

by oboe on Feb 10, 2011 3:44 pm • linkreport

@JS ... Our building code already allows for a fair amount of the kind of construction you're talking about. No, you can't build that in every part of the city. But you can build it in a lot of the city, and most of the areas you can build in like that are almost out there shouting for people to move there and build like that ... with nothing in the building code to keep them from doing it. The problem usually though is that the folks advocating this aren't just looking to have this high density just anywhere, there're looking to put it in a place that they find nice. A place that probably is nice because it already is fully built out ... (e.g., Georgetown or many parts around Connecticut Avenue.) In a perverse sense of logic, they like an area because it's already dense enough to support the kinds of they want (and not too dense to make it undesireable), but they're wanting it to be even denser 'so that it'll be cheaper to live there' without giving a thought to the fact that they're advocating to change irrovocably the place they say they like so much? And all this when there are blocks upon blocks of this city which could benefit from renovation, infill, etc.

by Lance on Feb 10, 2011 3:44 pm • linkreport

It's frustrating how so many people with 9-5 jobs seem to not notice everybody else in the world.

You know that clerk working at 7-11 at midnight? How do you think he gets home?

How about the nurse working until 2am?

Do you think the staff at the restaurant that is open until 1:30am teleports home?

And of course, when you cut the fringe service, you don't just kill one kill two.

If Amy works from 6pm-2am on Friday, she takes 2 metro trips. She also does not own a car, because she can rely on metro.

If the 2am trip is canceled, she can no longer rely on metro. So she either quits her job, or buys a car. Either way, she goes from making ALL her trips on metro, to NONE of her trips on metro.

Not exactly the best choice for society is it?

Transit agencies love doing this.

"Oh the last bus of the evening (1am) only has 10 people, lets cut it"
And bam, 20 round trips are cut.
And now the last bus is at 12:40am, and it also only has 10 people. So lets cut it.
Bam, 20 round trips are cut.

If you keep cutting the fringe service, you end up with no service. Or at least a rail system that looks like Miami. 30 minute headway's anyone? 7am-11pm service hours? Go live in Miami for a month and tell me how great their mobility situation is.

by JJJJJ on Feb 10, 2011 3:52 pm • linkreport

Lance -

Actually, the density folks want density build in areas where it can leverage transit networks. Many of the areas "shouting for people to move there" lack decent transit access, which is part of the reason DC's moving forward with the streetcar project. I can see from your previous comments on this site that you're all in favor of that project, as it allows people to move to the parts of the city that you're trying to help develop.

by JS on Feb 10, 2011 3:57 pm • linkreport

Also, to add to that, the last train/bus of the evening will ALWAYS have the lowest ridership because people are risk averse. Nobody wants to risk missing the last train and being stranded.

People know service ends at they head to the station at 2:30am, just in case.

Add a 3:20am train, and suddenly the 3am train will spike in usage.

So if you cut the service to 1am, that really means 12:30am for most.....or in reality, no metro at all.

Remember, metro is competing with FREE street parking at those hours.

by JJJJJ on Feb 10, 2011 3:58 pm • linkreport


the reason i could afford to live in the district is because i could buy my place separate from a parking spot. if parking had to be included, i would have been priced out.

i do not own a car. i live in an area where i can walk/bike everywhere i usually go. this wouldn't work for everyone, but it works for me. your suggestion of 1-2 parking spot per unit would have made this impossible for me to do.

by guest on Feb 10, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

"It frustrates me how many people I know who live in Arlington who like to work in D.C. "

It frustrates me how many people think like this.

One, people get jobs where they get jobs. If you've applied for and/or taken a job based on its geography in the metro area alone, you either live an extremely charmed life or have an odd set of priorities. I, personally have worked in Bethesda, Dupont, Capitol Hill, K Street, Old Town and Crystal City (bike/walk/transit commute always). Should I have moved every time?

Two, D.C. has(generally) significantly higher rents than anywhere else. You either make a lot more than your friends do, have significantly less debt (did Mom and Dad foot the whole college bill?), or are willing to live in a smaller place, less desirable neighborhood, or with a larger number of people than your friends are. Get over yourself.

by Catherine on Feb 10, 2011 4:21 pm • linkreport


An economist would find this part really strange:

A place that probably is nice because it already is fully built out ... (e.g., Georgetown or many parts around Connecticut Avenue.) In a perverse sense of logic, they like an area because it's already dense enough to support the kinds of they want (and not too dense to make it undesireable)

"Density" can only happen if three things happen: (1) People want density in the location; (2) Developers want to build at a price people are willing to pay; and (3) the Government doesn't stop the whole process.

Clearly, developers wish to build more, denser, and taller buildings in DC. Clearly, people want this to happen or else they wouldn't demand the construction in the first place!

You say more density will make a place undesirable, yet how is that possibly true? If the developments really did that, then no one would move there in the first place! Again, this clearly is the opposite of what's happening!

Supply caps have real, dollar consequences. Renters pay more money every month. Developers, construction workers, plumbers, and everybody suffers because there is trade that does not occur. Economists call this "deadweight loss."

What I think you're saying here is that additional development--while clearly desirable to developers and renters--is undesirable to you. You value a certain type of city. But you don't have to put your money where your mouth is because your side was successful at lobbying the government. Absent government, you, and others who share your values, are free to negotiate lower density in the market (if you value it enough). But you don't, and instead seek to impose the real costs of your values on others using supply caps. It is a form of rent seeking especially common in DC.

I think one of the contributors here should really expand on why Coase Theorem is so important to the density issue. Lance's opinion is not wrong any more than a preference for density is wrong.

However a fair, efficient allocation of resources requires that Lance pay for his preferences. In the absence of the damaging government regulation, Lance--and others, of course--can buy land and prohibit dense development. Or they can negotiate with developers and pay them for the lost profits that result from shorter, less dense buildings. We should resolve the difference in values through free exchange, not through lobbying the government.

Not that it was off topic or anything.

by WRD on Feb 10, 2011 4:22 pm • linkreport

Unbelievable- When will they allow metro riders to voice their opinion on this? I am ready to give them a piece of my mind...

by J on Feb 10, 2011 4:23 pm • linkreport

"what do we need a 7 am Sunday opening for?"

Churchgoers. Probably the most powerful political lobby in DC. Messing with that schedule is a complete non-starter.

Based on the media reports over the years, I was under the impression that the majority of the DC churchgoers drove and simply double-parked wherever they wished. (A practice that would annoy the hell out of me if I lived in an area affected by that sort of behavior. There's no excuse for blocking in people who live in an area just because you don't want to go to a church near where you live.)

by Rich on Feb 10, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

Ways for WMATA to save money:

Local agencies take over non-regional bus routes (such as FFX Connector, Ride-On, DASH, etc). This reduces the number of staff at WMATA for operators, cleaners, pension costs, the power of the ATU Local 689 Union. Bus routes 2T, 24T, 22A, 28T, T2, C11, C13 etc.

Cut severly unproductive bus routes (speaking of the 24T).

Truncate bus routes where they overlap/duplicate Metro rail service such as A9, 7Y, 16Y, P17, P19, D5, 38B or local bus service (38B and new Circulator over the Key Bridge. 2C and Fairfax 401 along Gallows road.

Eliminate rush hour only routes where there is service available via transfer (H1, N3, S1, for example).

Open rail service at 5:30 instead of 5:00 am weekdays; close rail service at 2:30 instead of 3:00 am on late night service.

by Transport. on Feb 10, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

Local agencies take over non-regional bus routes (such as FFX Connector, Ride-On, DASH, etc).

Uhhh, those already are local agencies. They aren't operated by WMATA.

by MLD on Feb 10, 2011 5:20 pm • linkreport

@rich: exactly. all the suburban church-commuters druive their SUV's and double park whereever they choose.

besides, it is way past time to "touch" the powerful church lobby. Free double parking should mean little metro service.

@JJJJ - exactly again. When I bartended at a restaurant downtown, it closed at 11. If I huslted, i could get out and on the last metro @ 11:35 to take it home. Else I was waiting on the bus (+transfer) or cabbing home. When I switched jobs to a restaurant that was open til midnight, I started biking. And I lived in 20009, so it was still walkable if need-be. If I lived in any of the 'burbs or was a SE resident, I would have been forced to cab.

I remember having to hail cabs for my co-workers, and GET IN the cab with them, and then duck out the other side... as the law states once in a cab, the fare must be taken to the destination.

Public transportation is needed. Metro cannot go back to being a 9-5 suburban commuter train. But it will, I fear.

by greent on Feb 10, 2011 5:25 pm • linkreport

"Open rail service at 5:30 instead of 5:00 am weekdays"

That's a non-starter. A lot of people in government jobs (especially at the Pentagon) start work very early.

by Phil on Feb 10, 2011 5:28 pm • linkreport

Don't even think of cutting those 5:00 AM trains! I regularly catch that train or one within 15 minutes of it and they are packed with commuters. The headways at that time are longer, transfers less frequent and yet you still pay peak fares. The only consolation is that you don't hit that awful "peak of the peak".

by Craig on Feb 10, 2011 5:58 pm • linkreport

You've gotta be kidding me. Aren't they considering adding tolls to the highways to attempt to make people use the metro more? It's already way too expensive, covers way too little territory, and now they want to cut back hours? Can't wait to see all of the drunk drivers... although they can probably make tons of off the DUI tickets and court appearances. This metro system sucks.

by Melissa on Feb 10, 2011 6:33 pm • linkreport

Some of these comments are ridiculous. DC is the nation's capital; the place where the business happens. We want to be considered a major metropolitan area but we're going to tell people to go home at midnight when many businesses and work places are open? Absurd. Clearly metro has work to do but they don't do it efficiently now-what makes you think that's going to change? I'm sorry but as a district resident I wouldn't be comfortable walking from one side of town to the other. This isn't exactly the safest walking city for a person on their own.

by DCChica on Feb 10, 2011 7:37 pm • linkreport

Cutting late night trains would be a disaster economically. I agree with Wells about adding turnbacks on the red line as well as cutting yellow line service to Fort Totten. Additionally, they should also look to charging a late night surcharge, adding additional peak of peak charges to certain metro stops such as Farragut North, and eliminating certain bus routes. I guess my big overall question is how did WMATA end up in such an untenable position? It really seems like the system is falling apart.

by Nicoliavich on Feb 10, 2011 10:28 pm • linkreport

I say all service on WMATA should start and end at the same time Monday-Saturday. We should not be providing special service to people who want to go out late at night or get drunk.

Saving people from drunk driving should not be a reason to keep WMATA open longer. The solution to that would be enforcing laws, raising fines (10-20x current) and giving jail time.

WMATA should charge 1.5x the fare for late night and early morning service (bus and rail)

We should have limited latenight service like other places around the globe have. Perhaps we could have all bus service that starts after 12:30 and before 5:45 operate as limited stop routes which only stop every 1/8 mile and start and end at a station. This could be doable for routes within the beltway by extending some routes and merging others.

I have a question for people who go out late a night.

For those going to clubs/bars/restaurants
Have you considered traveling places closer to home? Have you considered not going or going/leaving earlier ?

For those working odd hours
Do you have a backup plan if WMATA (rail/bus) may not be available? Did you consider this when you took the job ?

For both
Have you ever considered walking, biking, taking rail, taking bus or a combination of those just mentioned ?

by kk on Feb 11, 2011 3:50 am • linkreport

Some of these comments are ridiculous. DC is the nation's capital; the place where the business happens. We want to be considered a major metropolitan area but we're going to tell people to go home at midnight when many businesses and work places are open? Absurd. Clearly metro has work to do but they don't do it efficiently now-what makes you think that's going to change? I'm sorry but as a district resident I wouldn't be comfortable walking from one side of town to the other. This isn't exactly the safest walking city for a person on their own.

by DCChica on Feb 10, 2011 7:37 pm

I'd like to point out that boozing is not the only reason people stay out late. There are even people who socialize over only one or two glasses of wine till that hour. Other people play cards or games, or have sex in someone else's house and then need or want to go back to their place. It's not just boozing in other words.

DC Chica is right, and that's the reason I opposed fare hikes however months ago: at the time I said there'll be these hikes and they will STILL reduce service. So now they'll reduce service and then they'll raise the fares again, I just know.

by Jazzy on Feb 11, 2011 7:58 am • linkreport

I really object how this is turning from a discussion on Metro hours to moral judgments on people who take the late train. YES I have been one of those drunk people on a train. I am over 21. Sometimes I drink. YES I have been one of those late night riders coming home after baking a pie and studying for the GRE at a friend's house. And every time I've taken one of those late night trains I've seen workers, students, drunk people and everyone else. Can we please dissociate this argument from the question of WHY people are taking the Metro?

by R on Feb 11, 2011 8:40 am • linkreport

"or have sex in someone else's house and then need or want to go back to their place."

hmmm ... well, that's a better reason to keep it running late ...

Actually, I really think the whole 'problem' could be solved if Metro had the stomach to make the early/late riders just pay the incremental costs it takes to open it early and keep it running late. It shouldn't be that difficult to figure out how much more it costs to keep it running the additional hours. Just take that number and divide it by the number of riders expected to use it then ... and make that the fare amount. That's how private enterprise would handle it. You want a special service, you pay a special price. And if there are alternatives ... such as cab rides ... that are cheaper, then we'll quickly see those being used instead ... and can then cut the hours then. Like kk implies in his post, people have choices. I know we'll hear the argument from the bleeding hearts about the restaurant worker who can't afford to live near where they work AND can't afford to pay a high fare home. What we won't hear, but is actually the truth, is that that restaurant (or bar or whatever) has to have workers. And if their pay isn't enough to bring in workers who have to pay for an expensive cab late night, or horror of horrors, has to pay for a parking space for their car, then that restaurant (or bar or whatever) will have a shortage of workers ... and will quickly raise the wages they pay out to get people in to work for them. (I.e., Subsidizing fares at odd hours isn't subsidizing the workers using the Metro, it's subsidizing their employers.)

by Lance on Feb 11, 2011 8:41 am • linkreport

I amused that Lance is taking a simple yes/no question about closing streets and turning it into an essay about how the city would be oh so much better if only it had a lot more parking.

It's a simple yes/no question, Lance. We all know it's not really going to happen, so it's hypothetical.

Just answer it.

by BeyondDC on Feb 11, 2011 10:30 am • linkreport

@BeyondDC, Sorry, I don't want to play your games. You know as well as I do that you can't close streets. And that closing a street is not in the least analogous to not providing Metro .. which if you read my posts you'd see I'm not for shutting down early. I'm all for actually extending it around the clock. Just let the folks using it pay for it. In the same way the folks driving cars and buses and trucks around are paying for all the traffic signals etc. AND paying to subsidize the rail ... including building the silver line. The coversation isn't really about anyone shutting down anything, but about people paying their own way. If Metro riders were willing to pay their own way, like motorists do for example, the question of restricting hours wouldn't even come up, would it?

by Lance on Feb 11, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

I really object how this is turning from a discussion on Metro hours to moral judgments on people who take the late train. YES I have been one of those drunk people on a train. I am over 21. Sometimes I drink. ....

"Late train"? Heck, when I was younger (talking 10 years ago) on a few occasions I was the drunk guy on an earlier (9 or 10 PM) train. Slept all the way to Vienna. Those days are long gone, though.

by Rich on Feb 11, 2011 12:27 pm • linkreport

@ kk: Have you considered traveling places closer to home? Have you considered not going or going/leaving earlier ?

Are your neighbors the folks you go out with?

Have you ever considered walking, biking, taking rail, taking bus or a combination of those just mentioned ?

Yes, actually. I found it impossible. Perhaps you are smarter than me. Just tell me how to walk, bike, rail or bus from downtown DC to Lorton at 3am. Hmmm. That may be too harsh. How 'bout you get me the 8 miles from Old Alexandria to Franconia-Springfield.

by Jasper on Feb 11, 2011 4:05 pm • linkreport

Late-night cuts would not only affect people going out to bars, but people whose jobs require them to work late. I used to work at the Kennedy Center and would often depend on Metro's late-night service to get home. Waiting alone at a Metro stop (where there are Metro employees) is much safer than waiting alone at a bus stop. Cabs are not only expensive but often hard to find. I agree with others who have suggested a late-night surcharge.
Does anyone know if there is a petition going around about this issue?

by NearNortheastPedestrian on Feb 12, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

I'm so tired of only hearing the same stale ideas from WMATA knobs. They seem to have zero curiosity or imagination.

They should consider what the lions share of their cost is for late night service. It is the blood sucking leaches that are the union employees. Eliminate the train drivers, put late night trains on ATC and save a ton of money while providing even better service than before.

by james on Feb 12, 2011 2:04 pm • linkreport

@James, That's actually a very good idea. Given that the technology is there to drive and control all the trains via a centralized IT system, why not invest some dollars into implementing that and doing away with drivers altogether. With the money that is saved there long term, the trains could easily operate around the clock.

by Lance on Feb 13, 2011 10:42 am • linkreport

Lance: "pay their own way, like motorists do for example,"

Sputters with laughter. You mean those city streets paid by tolls, right? The gas with a tax to cover the military cost of keeping oil flowing from the Middle East?

Oh wait, now Lance will post that link to a discussion discounting all said costs and saying there are no subsidies. Good ol' disingenuous Lance.

by John on Feb 14, 2011 12:22 am • linkreport


You are forgetting the bars and other services in your equation. If you get rid of Metro after hours, or hike the Metro cost then people simply make a cost decision. Do I spend my dollars in DC or elsewhere? If there is no Metro service or the cost is prohibitive then they take their spending elsewhere.

So you should see that "paying" their fair share of keeping the Metro open late at night, should at the very least include all the tax revenue generated by out of area patrons. Now we can make a decision.

Of course as previously mentioned this does not include any of the shift workers, but one item at a time.

by Mike D on Feb 14, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

Put that turn back in at Grovesnor. That's why I like Grovesnor so much. They do it so much during track work, they might as well keep it coming. Not many people up north of there that much. SO useful. If I get on at Rockville, I am able to dismount at Grovesnor and wait for an empty train to come around and I sit able to choose my seat.

by Peekay Than on Jul 9, 2011 9:03 pm • linkreport

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