Matt Ingoglia: Give Metro a late-night break

The news that Metro is considering ending Metrorail service after midnight on the weekends has, predictably, elicited complaints from many students. Since this would undoubtedly throw a wrench into the plans of hard-partying college students like us, it’s tempting to accuse Metro of indifference to its customers. The reality, however, is that this idea makes sense and Metro should enact it no matter how much people complain.

The current proposal would close Metrorail stations at midnight Friday and Saturday nights, rather than 3 a.m. Service during the week will not change.

As students, it’s hard not to feel entitled to a subway ride whenever we want it.

But that line of thinking is precisely what has helped put Metro in the position in which we find it today.

Since Metro’s creation in the 1970s, the system has grown rapidly. It has been difficult for Metro to keep up. The high numbers of weekly Metro riders exert tremendous wear and tear on the system, and riders often encounter door malfunctions, ventilation problems and run-down platforms. The 5 hours of downtime each weeknight are simply not enough for maintenance crews to make the necessary repairs that keep this system running.

So where do the early weekend closures fit in? Shutting down at midnight rather than 3 a.m. gives crews 3 more hours of time to make repairs. Those extra 6 hours each weekend will lessen the need for single tracking during the day. Not only that, but it will make paralyzing closures like the one our Metro station endured last October much less common.

If the promise of an easier, faster commute isn’t enough for you, consider the cost savings. Keeping Metro open late costs $5 million each year. The roughly 13,400 rides people take between midnight and 3 a.m. on weekends do not even come close to paying for it. Metro needs to mind its bottom line.

Metro must adapt to changing community needs. Ultimately, younger residents can and should expect more from their public transit. But how can we expect Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to expand the system if we only give repair crews enough time to make Band-Aid fixes? Doing without late-night service will not be fun, but with 1 million daily rides estimated by 2030, it sure seems like we would be better off sacrificing now rather than later.

Now you’re thinking, “But who’s going to take me home from (insert trendy neighborhood) this weekend?”

A variety of transportation options are preferable, but we must remember that going off campus to party is a choice. Making that choice puts the responsibility to get home safely on you, not on Metro.

Besides, it is not as if we lack transportation options. Cabs will gladly pick us up all night long, and splitting the fare with friends makes the cost comparable to a Metro ride. And don’t forget about the Circulator buses that serve areas like Georgetown, Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan late into the night. Don’t be afraid to hoof it either, as our city ranks among the most walkable areas in the U.S.

Like us, Metro needs a break on the weekends. A smoother commute is well worth the sacrifice. After all, the future is riding on it.

Matt Ingoglia, a senior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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