The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, Metro) is experiencing a funding crisis and is scrambling to find ways to save money. One option that has been presented to the Metro Board of Directors is closing certain stations during off-peak hours. According to CityLab's Kriston Capps, this would "all but eliminate off-peak Metrorail service to Ward 7. It would cut off-peak Metrorail service to Ward 8 by half." (See D.C. Metro's Latest Fix: Disinvest in the City's Poor, Black Neighborhoods)
That's not all. The cuts "would be enormous," wrote Capps.
The effects on passengers in these parts of the city (and in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside the District’s borders) would be enormous. Detailed Metrorail ridership data from 2010 to 2015 show that, for every station east of the river except Minnesota Avenue, mid-day ridership exceeds the p.m. rush hour.
The cuts would disproportionately impact those living east of the Anacostia River, as is shown in WMATA's own illustration (right). Off-peak hour closures would happen in five locations: Benning Road (Ward 7), Capitol Heights (Maryland, on the DC line of Ward 7), Congress Heights (Ward 8), Deanwood (Ward 7), and Minnesota Avenue (Ward 7). While not east of the river, the Stadium-Armory station, located in Ward 7, would also be closed during off-peak hours.
Why disproportionately? According to the District Department of Transportation's 2011 report Far Northeast Livability Study 2011 Livability Action Agenda for Far Northeast (PDF):
- "Four Metrorail stations serving the area are also locations with some of the highest levels of pedestrian and bus transfer activity in the City."
- "Finally, many residents already use the transportation system with little environmental impact, what has come to be known as 'sustainable', with about a 40% share of households not having access to a private automobile." (emphasis added)
In addition, the cuts to Metrorail service are contrary to the east of the river revitalization. Consider the commercial development taking place on Minnesota Avenue NE around the Benning Road and East Capitol Street NE intersections, the mixed-use development in the Parkside/Paradise/Mayfair neighborhoods, and the mixed-use redevelopment in Congress Heights. Metrorail and bus services are essential to the success of these efforts, now and in the future. The same is true for other parts of Wards 7 and 8 primed for upgrades.
It is unclear from the proposal whether stations would be closed in the off-peak hours of the evening. Peak hours are opening to 9:30 am, and 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Evening and night hours from 7:00 pm to closing are off-peak.
WMATA could add Metrobus service to compensate for rail closures. However, as WMATA itself says, "The exact Metrobus service plan will be determined once the final changes to Metrorail operating hours have been approved by the Board of Directors."
What you can do
The Metro board is confronting tough decisions in the face of safety, service, and budget challenges. But the answer cannot be cutting the transportation lifeline for many of the city's poorest and already marginalized residents. Reliable and convenient Metrorail and bus service are essential to residents of all ages living in Wards 7 and 8 so that they may access services and supports and generally get on with their day-to-day lives.
If you are concerned about the possibility of WMATA cutting rail service east of the Anacostia, you need to take action now. WMATA must receive input by 5:00 pm Tuesday, October 25. The WMATA board will decide what to do at its December 2016 meeting.
Feedback options are:
- Take an online survey (English and Español)
- Email written comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Provide feedback to staff in person at various Metrorail stations
- Attend the open house Thursday, October 20 from Noon to 9:00 pm at Metro Headquarters, 600 5th St NW
- Attend the public hearing Thursday, October 20 from 12:30 to 10:00 pm at Metro Headquarters, 600 5th St NW