The general manager of the District’s subway system wants to permanently shorten its hours. Restaurant and hotel associations argue that reduced DC Metro service will hit employees particularly hard and deter customers.
Hospitality associations worry a proposal to permanently curtail late-night service of DC’s Metrorail system will inconvenience employees and hurt business.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) already cut back late-night service earlier this year as part of a massive repair program called SafeTrack, which is designed to give workers more time for maintenance.
If the latest plan is approved by WMATA’s board, it would leave trains running until midnight Monday through Saturday and have the system closing at 10 p.m. on Sunday.
But officials with the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., and Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) worry curtailed hours of operation will place an undue burden on industry employees and affect their members’ bottom lines.
“A lot of folks don’t keep in mind that hotels are 24/7 operations, and we have staff there around the clock,” said Solomon Keene, president and CEO of HAWDC. “This is going to have a significant impact on our members’ ability to operate.”
HAWDC represents about 100 hotels in Washington, and Keene said members are still working on ways to adjust to the current changes. Employees do have other options to get to their jobs—think ridesharing or taxicabs—but those alternatives come with additional costs.
“It just creates a significant hardship for our employees who are trying to get back and forth from work,” Keene said.
Officials with RAMW likewise have expressed unease with the proposal, citing many of the same reasons. “The restaurant community is concerned that permanently limiting hours of operation will negatively impact guests, as well as hardworking staff, who tend to commute to and from work at non-typical hours,” said President and CEO Kathy Hollinger in a statement.
Maintenance-related service disruptions have caused problems in other cities as well. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, which operates Boston’s subway system—known locally as the T—is facing a lawsuit from three area nonprofits after ending late-night weekend service.
“Some of the T’s most vulnerable customers were affected by the termination of late-night service,” Rafael Mares, vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, one of the groups behind the lawsuit, said in an interview with The Boston Globe.
Like DC, Boston’s rail system is suffering from a massive backlog in repairs, as much as $7 billion worth of work.
Though RAMW and HAWDC have issued statements in support of the safety work in DC, Keene said his group will share its concerns about the proposed changes with the transit agency and city government. While the hotel industry brings about $620 million in tax revenue to the region annually, Keene stopped short of forecasting how that discussion will end.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to never predict how these conversations are going to go,” he said.