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First Look at Possible Metro Service Cuts

The Metro board this morning is holding a work session on how to climb out of a steep hole it expects to confront in the fiscal year that starts in July. (Share your thoughts.)

The Metro staff has offered the board a menu of options to consider: Eliminate duplicate bus services, widen the gaps between train and bus arrivals and close some station mezzanines on weekends or week nights. There's plenty of time left to consider options for the budget, which takes effect in July.

The potential savings: Reducing duplicate service could save $10 million, widening gaps between arrivals could save $10.8 million, closing mezzanines could save $0.7 million. That's a total of $21.4 million. But even if Metro did all those things -- and there's absolutely no indication at this point that it will do any of them -- and did some things that would increase revenue, at least on paper, that would still leave a budget shortfall estimated at $19.4 million

Here are some more details about the potential service cuts, but keep in mind that at the moment these are staff ideas that the board got late yesterday and has yet to consider.

The station entrances considered for weekend closing are these.
-- Anacostia North, the parking lot side, on weekends.
-- Stadium Armory South on weekends. (Unless there's an event at RFK.)
-- Navy Yard East on weekends (Unless there's an event at National's Park.)
-- New York Avenue South
-- Shaw Howard South on weekends
-- King Street North on weekends

All these entrances are lightly used on weekends, according to Metro's count. Fewer than 700 people use the fare gates on those sides.

Rail Service
There could be fewer trains in service between 6 and 7 a.m.
In the evening, the gap between trains could be widened from 12 to 15 minutes between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. and from 15 to 20 minutes between 9:30 p.m. and midnight.
The gap between trains could be widened on all lines from 9:30 3 p.m., using eight-car trains.
On Saturdays, the gap between trains could be widened from 12 to 15 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Bus Service
Metro staff names routes throughout the region where service overlaps and it's possible to reduce service.

-- Fort Totten-Petworth: Eliminate Route 60 and keep Route 64.
-- Connecticut Avenue: Eliminate the L4 and keep the L1 and L2.
-- Massachusetts Avenue: Eliminate the N3 and keep the N2,4 and 6.
-- Anacostia-Eckington: Eliminate the P2 and keep the P1, P6.
-- Mount Pleasant: Eliminate the segment of the line between McPherson and 9th and G streets.
-- North Capitol Street: Cut back trips between McPherson and Kennedy Center.
-- Certain School Trips: Eliminate trips excluded under Federal Transit Administration rules.

-- Greenbelt-Twinbrook: Eliminate C4 west of Wheaton Station.
-- College Park-White Flint: Eliminate off-peak and Sunday service.
-- Connecticut Avenue: Eliminate the L7 and keep the L8.
-- Oxon Hill-Fort Washington: Cut back to Southern Avenue Station.
-- Bock Road: Cut back to Southern Avenue Station.
-- Bethesda-Silver Spring: Eliminate J3 service and keep the J1 and J2.
-- 15 Prince George's Routes: Widen gaps between buses after 9:30 a.m.

-- Huntington-Pentagon: Eliminate all service after 11 p.m. on the 9A.
-- Huntington Towers-Pentagon: Eliminate 10 A weekdays after 9 p.m. and on weekends. Keep the 10E.
-- Burke Center: Eliminate 18R, and keep 18P.
-- Alexandria-Tysons Corner: Cut back service from King Street to Northern Virginia Community College.

Widening Gap Between Buses
Metro staff says that the impact of these widespread cuts in bus service would involve lengthening gaps of less than five minutes on each of the routes involved.Thirty lines are involved in the discussion. Twenty-one are in the District, 7 in Maryland and two in Virginia.

Vote in a poll and share your thoughts on possible Metro cuts.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 19, 2009; 9:42 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Next: Share Thoughts on Possible Metro Service Cuts


This isn't the absolute worst that could happen. I heard the idea of 30 minutes between weekend trains and closing the Yellow Line on weekends. If that were to happen, you know what would hit the fan.

Posted by: tengoalyrunr30 | February 19, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

A lot of the bus, and all of the rail reductions (the C4 would be one example) will cause riders to have to transfer. If Metro could institute a timed transfer policy for those routes, the changes would be a lot less painful.

The BART in SF does this - one rail line holds until the other train arrives, giving passengers a chance to catch the train that they are transferring to. In a similar situation, a Metrobus supervisor could determine that the C4 was less than 5 minutes away, and hold the Q2 (which duplicates its route) so the C4 folks can change buses and not wait for the next one, which would undoubtedly now have a longer headway before it arrived.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | February 19, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

The only thing that should be cut is Catoe.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | February 19, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

The one thing metro always misses when discussing cutting that cutting service does not always equal the added savings they discuss. If you cut service, you WILL lose customers. Losing customers means loss of revenue. Loss of revenue means the projected savings do not occur.

Metro needs to find ways to save money without cutting service. I am not saying it is easy, but that is what has to be done.

Posted by: happydad3 | February 19, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Metro must have a policy of purposely timing trains so that you *just* miss transfers, which is real frustrating. Waiting can be as long or longer than the actual time spent on a train if it involves a transfer.

Posted by: blafhhhh | February 19, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I agree that cutting service does not lead to service. Metro seems to miss the idea of what they are there for and that is to move people around. Instead of running 8 trains with 15-20 minutes in between each one which leads people to find other means to avoid the wait, they should do as other subway systems do and run 4 or 6 trains at at 5-10 minute wait time moving the people around. As with a few other things in the city there is a lack of management. There never seems to be a plan just an option do decrease service. What a waste.

Posted by: nelsmith1 | February 19, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

How about reduction in force, pension and benefit cuts? Streamline the operations before stiffing the consumer

Posted by: joebananas1 | February 19, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

How about getting rid of bus service entirely? Buses just clog up the roads and If you ride the bus, you suck.

Posted by: wapo9 | February 19, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter if the train is 8 cars or 6 trains, if you still have to wait longer for it to come. It's not like at off-peak times people are waiting for a less crowded train to come. They can usually get on the first train that comes by. So there is no point making them wait for a longer train.

Posted by: epjd | February 19, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Have they considered pay and benefit cuts like most of the private sector?

Posted by: Its_the_Truth_Anyhow | February 19, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I think it's already ridiculous to schedule 12 minutes between trains after 6:30pm since Metro is charging me rush hour (oops - i mean regular) fares. I can't see us paying these fares to wait 15 minutes for a train! My husband regularly leaves work after this time, and his commute usually takes much longer than mine because of it (not to mention the number of missed busses). We've started to look for and take other options to get home whenever possible.

Posted by: jrjumper | February 19, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

How much does it cost to switch from 6- to 8-car trains and back again? I assume there's some cost involved in getting tracks back to the yard and staff responsible for lengthening and shortening trains. How does that balance with the cost savings of running fewer trains and the electricity for fewer cars?

Posted by: nashpaul | February 19, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Would running the trains slower or more efficiently save any energy costs and/or help the environment, or reduce the wear and tear on the cars and tracks? It does for planes, but not sure for buses or subways. Has metro implemented any study to see what maintenance procedures will maximize long term savings or compared the policies and procedures with other cities? What does DC do to learn from other cities? Are there current cost effective green technologies that can be added onto buses to reduce fuel consumption?
I know that this posting may open the door for snide remarks on the inefficiencies of Metro but I would like to promote proactive discussion on improving service and would like to see more articles on these topics with ways that Metro area citizens can help push for responsible long term change that is grounded not just in the current economic difficulties but is guided by long term smart growth which accounts for economic justice, smart urban growth, and environmental responsibility.

Posted by: nate3456 | February 19, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

They should raise fares to cover the deficit.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | February 19, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

At least that idiotic idea of closing Metrorail at 22.00 nightly is apparently off the table, as is weekend Yellow line closure (with season tickets at six area pro sports teams, I need my late-night Metrorail!).

Posted by: Lukashenko | February 19, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

neismith, but by running 4 8 car trains in an hour = 32 cars of people @ 4 "operators", they move the same amount of people that they would with with 4 6 car trains = 24 + 2 4 car trains = 32 cars worth of people, but now at 6 operators. You move the same amount of people with 2 less trains in service = cheaper. Obviously, during rush hour, we need the most performance we get out of the system, but at off hours it's a challenge.

Posted by: aaronw1 | February 19, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Fight the union and cut the pensions like every private sector organization did awhile ago. I could even take another fare hike (within reason) but dont start reducing service and extending wait times. Weekends are bad enough with rail maintenance and single tracking, and early morning commutes are already extended with long waits before 7 am.

Posted by: BTdc | February 19, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

20 minutes between trains is a horrible idea. It's already hard enough to get home from events at the Verizon Center.

And if they're going to cut back on the number of trains from 6-7am and 6:30-7ish they should stop charging full rush hour fares for those times since the rider is not getting anywhere close to rush hour service.

Posted by: EricS2 | February 19, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

If we are experiencing record ridership how the heck do you justify cutting service. For as long as I can remember, and I've been riding Metrorail for over 10 years, managment has always been warning about cutting service due to lack of funds, yet ridership and fares have been going up.The only thing I can think of is that the revenue is being diverted elsewhere. Its like the gas issue - oil prices are down but gas prices are still going up. Funny how when oil prices were going up gas prices immediately went up sometimes more than once a day - we the people are being shafted any which way !!!

Posted by: Buckystown | February 19, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Metro's current schedule makes it grossly inconvenient to midday trips or anything in the evening after rush hour. To lengthen the wait will simply turn more potential customers into drivers.

Posted by: eomcmars | February 19, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

As bad as it sounds, it could be worse. While nobody wants service cuts, there will need to be some sort of cut.

I think they should study the idea of raising fares slightly in the non-peak hours. Rush hour riders just had their fares raised, while those riders in the later hours did not.

This would be conducive for two reasons:
1. It would help to justify Metro not cutting back late night service (such as early closings or yellow line closure etc)
2. There has been a tremendous surge in late night ridership due to the development along metro lines (think red line and orange line corridors)

Posted by: m1ke3i6 | February 19, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Huntington Towers-Pentagon: Eliminate 10 A weekdays after 9 p.m. and on weekends. Keep the 10E.

Uh... there are no 10Es after 9pm on weekdays or on weekends. So basically I'll have almost no bus service then? That's just great. Those evening & weekend 10As are always packed. Idiots. Didn't they just announce that metro is getting 200 something million dollars from the stimulus bill? Why don't they use some of that money to NOT cut service instead of wasting it all on fancy-schmancy display screens & junk?

Posted by: esmith22015 | February 19, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Bus fares need to rise to roughly $2. Train riders shoul dnot be subsidizing a more expensive way of transportation. Until Metro can get the balls to say what is politically incorrect and partly racially "insensitive" they will continuously be looking for ways to save money.

Buses are the drain on the system at the current price. Too many bus riders still pay in currency and not a smart card which causes more wear/tear to the machinery. That also holds up the buses while loading. Too many bus riders refuse to pay or underpay (parents of kids over 5, people released from jail, etc) in certain parts of town. Buses are slow due to people all exiting from the front instead of from the back. Plenty of things metro could do to save money. Raising fares on the bus shoul dbe number 1.

Posted by: nathanmboggs1 | February 19, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

It's highly ironic that the topic of "service cuts" comes up today of all days. This would imply there is "service" to be "cut".

After this morning's rush hour melt down on the Virginia - DC corridor (Orange/Blue lines) and my waiting one solid hour at a freezing bus stop to be passed by from about 6 38B Metro buses - which were already overcrowded, not allowing the bus to pick up any additional DC bound passengers. And in view of the ART bus only going as far as Courthouse and thus not providing a link to the only other way into Georgetown (the Georgetown shuttle bus from Rosslyn station) - and being passed by hundreds of taxis with only ONE passenger - I would laugh if it weren't so sad.

Give me Manhattan any day - where city buses can be mobilized when there is rail trouble (which is rare anyway) - and where ordinary drivers would stop at bus stops and corners and ask if anyone wanted to carpool; and where taxis would immediately pool to "popular" destinations - such as work downtown.

If laws in Virginia are prohibiting ART buses from changing their route to serve Rosslyn or taxis from pooling in such situations - then those laws need to be changed immediately and common sense must be allowed to prevail.

Posted by: jqw3827 | February 19, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Why does Metro always propose service cuts?

Why is there no talk about cutting management positions or management salaries?

Posted by: googleguy | February 19, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Buckystown--the problem is that despite record ridership, the costs of running the Metro have gone up more than the income of increased ridership. The recent power rate changes over last 2 years have been devastating to many including WMATA. Additionally, the unions have been abusing their hold and have not reduced any of the prohibitively expensive rates. Last, the states, MD and VA, have not held up their end of the bargain and are not putting nearly enough money into the system. What we need is a way to force MD and VA to pay their share. As a MD resident whose wife uses the Metro, I am annoyed that my state does not pay its fair share of the public transit bill and leaves it up to the WMATA and Congress to cover its financial tail.

esmith--the stimilus money is supposed to go for shovel-ready projects that would increase employment and stimulate spending on tasks that were not being covered. It is not intended to shore up deficiencies in the infrastructure or budget shortfalls. WMATA has to be careful how it applies the money and be able to justify and document how it spends the money or Congress could recind the stimulus money.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | February 19, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

"esmith--the stimilus money is supposed to go for shovel-ready projects that would increase employment and stimulate spending on tasks that were not being covered. It is not intended to shore up deficiencies in the infrastructure or budget shortfalls. WMATA has to be careful how it applies the money and be able to justify and document how it spends the money or Congress could recind the stimulus money."

Oh, I see. Thanks for the clarification. (It's still a bit nauseating).

Posted by: esmith22015 | February 19, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I am pleased that someone realized that the yellow line serves many low income folks who often must travel to the district later at night or on weekends. I am not low income but DO ride the yellow line after 9 nearly every evening. Now if only we could get the bus service (Fairfax Connector) to run later in the evening to service folks who work retail. Folks cant make a 9:30 bus when the stores dont close til 9:30 and closing down the store takes about 45-60 minutes after that...

Posted by: tunatofu | February 19, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see that my comment yesterday making fun of the orange line was censored. It only took what, 12 hours for the line to then implode?

Posted by: zippyspeed | February 19, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

If not some of the entrances, which may pass muster, let station managers cut off extra escalators. L'Enfant Plaza, for example, has two elevators heading down or up when the crowd has dropped off to barely needing on.

Posted by: lisaswanson | February 19, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

MARYLAND Service Cuts:
Eliminate Service in C-4 West of Wheaton.
YEAH RIGHT. . your gonna dump the C4 at Wheaton Station, a heavily traveled cross county route, onto an already OVER CROWDED Q-2 going up Viers Mill Road. yeah RIGHT. . makes NO Sense.

College Park-White Flint line (C-8)
Eliminate Sunday service?
There is currently NO Sunday Service on this line as it is.

Connecticut Avenue Line: L7 & L8
L7 is only a Rush Hour bus Mon-Fri, with alt service on Ride-On #34 Wheaton to Friendship Heights. This is the ONLY service cut that makes sense.

Silver Spring-Montgomery Mall (J1, J2, J3)
Eliminating J3. . its only a 1 block diversion on Rockledge for the business park. I'll bet METRO keeps same number of trips, just rebrand the J3's into J1's & J2's.

What DR G isnt saying here, is that Ride-On is also proposing service cuts in 2010. Some of these service cuts will directly impact the routes DR G has listed, as well as some he didnt.

Posted by: Robbnitafl | February 19, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Cut out the Circulator bus routes which duplicate Metro bus routes and put the money that subsidizes the Circulator to use for Metro bus service.

Posted by: robertevans20024 | February 20, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

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