Friday Question of the Day – Will DC’s Nightlife Suffer From Late Night Metro Service Cuts?

Photo from PoPville Flickr user Jess J

Thanks to a reader for sending in a link to this story from WAMU radio:

“U Street, H Street, Adams Morgan,” he (Bill Duggan from Madams Organ) says. “All these areas are driven by the hospitality industry. That’s what gets the neighborhoods going and that’s the economic piston that’s driving this thing. And I think that they’ll grind the wheels to a halt.”

If that happens, the fallout wouldn’t be limited to Adams Morgan. The pain would be felt anywhere restaurants and bars are clustered near Metro stations, places like U Street, Chinatown, Dupont Circle–even some suburban areas like Clarendon and Bethesda. It’s a move that could be detrimental to many businesses, especially if it prompts the region’s night crawlers to spend their evenings at home.

What do you guys think – would bars and restaurants be severely affected by late night metro cuts? Do you think places would start to go out of business? And this might generate a biased result given the location of many readers but would you rather see late night cuts or the elimination of the Yellow Line north of Mt. Vernon Square?

71 Comment

  • “would you rather see late night cuts or the elimination of the Yellow Line north of Mt. Vernon Square”

    Neither. Both have far reaching impacts on economic development for businesses and private investment in some of the most exciting neighborhoods that are experiencing a revival in DC.

    Given the options on the table, I prefer rate hikes. However I think there should be considerations given to affordability credits for folks who truly couldn’t afford another rate hike.

    Honestly, DC, MD, VA and the federal government should come up with enough of the budget shortfall to avoid significant service cuts. It’s a bad economic climate for states, but the city is the economic driver of the region and over 50% of federal employees rely on metro to get to work.

    • Did anyone notice that their smart trip cards seem to “error” out often when you try to enter and the operator tells you you didnt swipe when exiting?

      It happened to me twice in 2 days and when I was at the booth several other people had the same problem.

      Being a conspiracy theorist, I assume the Metro is trying to rake in extra cash by charging people for an extra ride with this “malfunction”

  • the proposed cuts would be a huge step backwards. one of the great things about DC is that the metro is open till 3 am. Boston has still not figured this out

  • cuts to late night service are the exact opposite of what should happen. it’s beyond embarrassing that we cant get people home at late hours. double, triple late night rates. do 40, 60 minute headways, i don’t care. we’re not a legit city until we get people home even if you like to imbibe late

  • Given the choice between the late night cuts and the elimination of the Yellow above Mt. Vernon, I’ll take the elimination of the Yellow. At least you can still transfer to the Green vs having no options at all late at night. But I can’t imagine that’d cover all of the budgetary shortfall.
    Don’t worry – with global warming we’ll soon have cherry blossoms all the time and a year ’round cherry blossom festival to maintain high ridership and save our Metro system. We’ll just have to get over our annoyance of those standing on the left.

  • Both late-night service and yellow line beyond my. Vernon are inventions post… ’04 or ’05? I got by fine before either and had a very robust late-night life.

    But they’re very convenient.

    i agree with combo rare hike and tax subsidy?

  • Yellow line beyond Mt. V Sq. is redundant.
    This is a no brainer.

    • It’s actually really not. The yellow line provides no-transfer rides to points south like the airport and some of the NVa cities. Yes, people can change trains at some point… but please don’t make the mistake of thinking there is no reason for the yellow line to exist so far north.

      • Redundant. Yes there is a reason, just not a good one.

        • In other words, you don’t live in the area serviced by the green/yellow line that would be affected, and therefor you don’t give a crap.

          • I don’t really get why the Yellow line needs to go past Mt. Vernon Square. Everything past that point is serviced by the green line, So I am inclined to agree that it is redundant, and I am someone that lives in the service area.

          • but then they might have to *gasp* — transfer trains.. noooooooooo

          • I do. I live between Columbia Heights and Petworth stations.
            I am indeed impacted and I choose late night over yellow line extension.
            The thing is you CAN transfer to a green line train what you cannot do is travel on the Metro when it is closed.

          • Yellow line service above MVSq has more to do with increasing train frequency than helping people avoid transferring trains. If you get rid of it then you’re looking at 15 minute waits for a train at Petworth during off-peak hours.

  • It sure would be nice if the news stories and blog posts on this would focus a bit more the safety aspects of cutting late-night service instead of just the wallets of the bar owners–which are of course important, but I think the cutting down on drinking and driving is a wee bit more important.

    Late-night service began in 1999 with a move to 1am and then by 2003 it was pushed to 3am, so this hasn’t been a forever sort of thing.

    Catoe considered cutting it in 2007: “Late-night service was an immediate hit when it began, but ridership started to drop in 2004, when Metro began charging premium instead of off-peak fares between 2 and 3 a.m. In May 2006, the average after-midnight ridership on weekends was 22,376 trips, down 27 percent from 30,649 in May 2005. The number of late-night riders rose slightly this May, averaging 23,184 trips per weekend. Nearly half of those riders boarded trains between midnight and 1 a.m. On an average weekday, passengers account for about 700,000 trips.” From the Washington Post.

    Anyway…it sure would be nice if the Metro Boardmembers would spend more time working to get dedicated funding for Metro and then we wouldn’t have these problems. This shouldn’t be an either or situation (late night vs. yellow line).

  • People will adjust. If there’s overlapping service at night, it should be cut. I’m not sure boston had it wrong. They had night owl buses that followed the subway and they were much cheaper to run. Maybe run one train per hour on the hour, but metro staying open until 3am so you don’t have to get a cab is unsustainable and quite frankly, ridiculous.

    If people are going to drive drunk because their metro stop closes too early, well then they’re going to drive drunk anyway. People (douchebags) that make that kind of calculation probably aren’t riding metro all that often anyway.

  • The W Post has a story documenting the results of a poll by Metro. People overwhelmingly opposed service cuts and preferred rate hikes, for both Metrorail and Metrobus.

  • i think that cuts to late night metro service are a mistake. Although some people will adjust and take taxis not everyone can do that. People will have 2 options: walk (if it is possible) or stay home.

  • Yellow line, easily.

    On another note, who really takes the metro to Adams Morgan?

    • Emmaleigh504

      I guess you don’t or you would see all the people walking from the metro station to Adams Morgan or riding the Circulator from the metro station to Adams Morgan.

    • You might want to consider getting out more…just for casual observation if nothing else….tons of people stream down Calvert Street to the Woodley Park Metro station every night of the week, especially Friday and Saturday…all you have to do is follow the trail of discarded big slice plates/crusts.

  • If you cut the transportation to these places, you’re not actually cutting the demand for them. You’re just realigning really.

    Hopefully cutting the metro hours will lead to more localized places. Less big, corporate feeling hang outs and more downhome places with character.

    • This is quite frankly, naive. If you think cutting metro hours is suddenly going to make ANCs approve more liquor licenses, or that neighbors won’t scream to high hell at the prospect of a bar around the corner, then…wow.

      • There’s an adjustment period to everything. If there is money to be made these things will happen.

        It’s naive to think that money doesn’t have a way of changing everything.

        • You obviously don’t know about William Jordan, do you Badger?

          • Come on Sherry – don’t say his name or he’ll show up here [with his incoherent ramblings that somehow always conclude with the need for Jim Graham to be dethroned].

  • I would much rather see increased fares than service cuts….

    Get rid of peak- off peak and charge $2.00 for all short rides and raise the fares accordingly for longer rides.

  • Agree with Ragged Dog: People will adjust. If a smoking ban in bars doesn’t kill off business and cause late night spots to shutter their doors, then a transportation inconvenience won’t either.

    One word: Cabs.

    Also agree that I’d rather a fare increase than service cuts, but metro open til 3am is just stupid, wasteful and unsustainable. Drunk 22 year olds have gotten spoiled on that system. Time to grow up, kids.

    • you are naive to think that it is just “kids” who are spoiled by the system that are upset by these cuts. Ever think about service industry employees who are serving patrons all night who may need to get home at these hours? or what about people of all ages who may be out at a concert or other event that goes beyond midnight? they may not be drunk. The fact that metro closes at midnight is laughable by many larger city standards.

      • Yes, I forgot about the older drunks. And younger sober people. And mid-range-aged people who’ve only had a drink or two, may be a bit buzzed, but not drunk, per se. My bad. How naive of me.

        I also forgot the insomniac Polish grandmothers with a limp. They may need late-night Metro service on their 2am wanderings.

        Let’s not forget the urban vampires who rely on public transport. I forgot those guys, too.

        Oh! and let’s not leave out those numbnuts who want to latch on to one tiny comment and take it way too literally. I didn’t say drunk 22 year olds were the *only* people spoiled on 3am metro service. But the previous posts (and the original question, by the way) are all about the impact on night life and BARS. OK? Check your Venn diagram on that. It includes a whole lot of 22 drunk kids, among others.

  • Keep the service, raise the rates. This is such a no-brainer that it’s embarrassing that a world-class city like DC is even having the discussion.

    Worried about a “death spiral” of declining ridership? Just implement a London-style congestion pricing scheme for drivers: five bucks to drive into downtown DC, all automatically charged via license-plate scanners. Simply whisper this idea into a Fed’s ear and mention that it will “improve security”, then sit back and watch as it becomes an unstoppable Homeland Security juggernaut.

    • Nice idea, politically impossible in America. London can do a lot of things.

      You should re-read “1984” in the context of what you’re proposing. Then ask yourself if a conservative in MD/VA will support this proposal. Nothing happens in DC without their support.

      And before you get started on statehood, blah blah blah…waste of time discussion at this point.

  • The results of WMATA’s poll in the Washington Post

    “Metro finds opposition to service cuts, support for higher fares”

    Supports my position exactly – am very opposed to cutting Yellow line service, late night service, bus service, etc. These items are key to having a first-rate metro system and all would directly affect my use of the metro.

  • If the public sector is going to provide effective mass transit, it should look at costs and ridership at each hour of the day and adjust fares, personnel (trickiest thanks to the transit workers’ union, ATU), bus routes, and train cars accordingly. If it is the case that minimum operating costs can’t be met by reasonable fare increases during off-peak hours, stop running buses and trains. But I don’t think this is the case for WMATA, at least in D.C. proper. The case certainly hasn’t been made.

    I like congestion pricing, but don’t think it should be used to fund Metrorail or the mechanism be used perversely to charge regardless of congestion (e.g, at night).

  • “especially if it prompts the region’s night crawlers to spend their evenings at home.”

    This is exactly what SHOULD happen. I have no problem with Metro or anyone else providing incentives for it.

  • I honestly don’t think cutting the late night service would have a huge effect. People who have enough money to blow getting drunk at bars have enough to take cabs home – generally. Maybe there will be times when people will decide to stay closer to home because of this, but I doubt it has any impact on bar revenues. I take the metro when I go out – but only on the way there. On the way home, it is always a cab. Not a huge deal. And, no, I do not make tons of money so that I can afford to throw it down on cabs. I just feel like if I am planning an evening out where I am going to be buying drinks at a bar in DC (never an inexpensive situation) I can afford to spend $10 to get myself safely home after.

  • I think it would be a good thing for Adams Morgan to be a little less popular and accessible to the drunk at 2am crowd. The place is an embarrassment. Even 10% fewer people going elsewhere would make it nicer.

    • And if you want to turn Adam’s Morgan/U St into an area that regular shop keepers and business owners invest (not bar owners), then making this area less “Vegas in DC” will go a long way to reducing the amount of rent that property owners can charge.

      • Are you serious? I think the real issue here is which will disrupt current life in DC/development in DC the least: cutting late night metro service or yellow line service entirely; NOT which one will move DC towards the vision I personally have for it. I live in Adams Morgan and I love Adams Morgan as it is and for what it is. I would not call it an embarassment at all. To each his own- it is obviously not for everyone. Since you don’t like it, it is probably safe to assume you are not someone who hangs out there much, but keep in mind, there are many people who do hang out there. It is satisfying a need/deisre that a number of people in the city have – it may not be a desire that you share with them, but that doesn’t mean that it should be shut down.

        The reason the city is possibly cutting metro late night service or the yellow line is not to have this kind of secondary effect on the nightlife in certain neighborhoods. In fact, I think that most people would agree that the best solution to the budget shortfall would be one that would have the least effect on the least number of people. What you are suggesting is that we should cut the late night service in order to change the basic character of many of the city’s most beloved neighborhoods. All I can say is that I am glad you will not be one of the people ultimately making this decision (I hope).

  • Cut back the yello line. If there isn’t enough ridership to make it worth keeping it open, then it should go. Metro riders can still make it home transferring between Green and Yellow at Mt. Vernon.
    Fare hikes are decimating Metro ridership, and will continue to create a need for more line/service cuts. To keep the system viable, it makes the most sense to reduce the redundant lines.

    • Fare hikes are not decimating metro ridership. Safety concerns (real and perceived) and unpredictable train/bus schedules are decimating metro.

  • My biggest concern with this is that it will just end up with more VA and MD folks driving down here, then drinking and driving home. I don’t think the businesses will feel any pain, but dead and injured from DUI collisions might.

    • There’s no parking in Adam’s Morgan and U St at night right now anyway. Where is this magical influx of “going to be” drunk drivers from the suburbs and other neighborhoods going to park, to be able to start drinking?

      This argument that suddenly everyone coming to the area to drink is going to start driving is totally bogus. They won’t even get to the bars if they try to drive to AM.

  • what about the population of workers who work at these bars and restaurants (and other establishments) and who rely on metrobus and metro to get home at late hours? i’d bet your cooks, dishwashers, cleaning crews don’t have much expendable resources to take already overpriced taxis to their homes (if the taxis would even pick them up). i think we need to consider people other than the “late night drinkers” in this discussion…

    • They shouldn’t be drunk at work and they should be arriving well before the party starts so there should be a better parking situation. And if it’s economically unsustainable for someone from Wheaton to work in Adam’s Morgan, then both the bar owners who are making a killing and the worker who is probably not, need to decide whether they want to keep the relationship. It’s not like busing a bar/cooking comes with a pension. Your skills are immediately transferable to any number of alternative restaurants/bars closer to your home. So maybe the bar owners have to hire locally (win for the neighborhood) and pay more (win for the neighborhood).

      • I was actually referring to the underpaid staff of most of these establishments. Not your well paid bartenders, owners, or waiters even. And most of these people probably live in areas where there aren’t so many vibrant bars and restaurants, thus forcing them to find work in more established areas.

        And, though skills are transferable, jobs are not always available.

        • You’re argument is retarded. If they commute to Adam’s Morgan for work, they can commute to another town/neighborhood/mall. There are plenty of restaurants at the national harbor. There are also plenty of people in DC that need these jobs (unemployment 10%). It’s not DC’s job to lower unemployment for the suburbs. Maryland can invest in it’s own vibrant drinking community and deal with the ramifications and fallout if it’s so important.

      • oh because dishwashers and cleaning staff all have cars? i’m sure being “drunk at work” isn’t the main reason they can’t drive home.

  • Just pointing out that while the Yellow Line north of Mt. Vernon Square seems redundant, it’s mostly to fill in headways through the newly busy U St-Columbia Heights-Petworth corridor. These trains are always generally crowded as is, and if the Yellow Line was axed from it, headways would double (from 8 minutes off-peak to 16 minutes off-peak). I wouldn’t look forward to those headways and crowded trains; hell, I probably wouldn’t even ride the Metro off-peak ever again.

    And, anybody who’s stood outside for an hour in a busy area trying to get a cab at 2 am only to give up and take the Metro knows full well the need for it. In all reality, if the Metro closed earlier, folks will learn to either stay closer to home or start walking. Walking isn’t that bad a thing, but late-night crime would definitely skyrocket.

    At the end of the day, the few open bars in neighborhoods would become unbearably packed. I’m looking at you, Looking Glass Lounge (already practically impossible to get into the Derby on weekend nights).

    • Exactly, I could see ridership going down on the green line if the yellow line were cut. Part of the reason that Petworth was attractive to me was that the wait for trains was not too long. If it is just down to the green line then the wait times will suck.

      As someone who metros, walks or takes the bus pretty much everywhere the service cuts directly affect my quality of life. I would MUCH rather pay more than hassle with not being to efficiently get around the city on Metro.

      • I am sorry, but why does Petworth really need two metro lines. I am tired of all these arguments for keeping the yellow line past Mt. Vernon square. It just does not make sense to me. I am a native washingtonian and I got along my whole life with out the yellow line going that far. And it just stops at Ft Totten, so if you are going really far north, you still need to ride the green line. It just makes no sense to keep it if they are in bad financial shape.

        • There’s no metro headway at 9pm. You’re confusing the rush hour issue with the late night issue. Also, you’re getting trolley car service.

          Petworth needs it’s own bars anyway, and I’m sure that the owners of bars on Georgia Ave would love to have you. Just ask them.

  • People keep justifying a yellow line cut by implying that it isn’t used. that’s just not true. u street and CH metros are two of the most used metro stations on the system. and u st -> petworth ridership probably increases by the day, with higher density development continually going in.

    Why are all the proposed cuts targeting people on the yellow/green line? are there any proposals to stop half the off peak red line trains at dupont circle so it takes longer for people that live in woodley park and cleveland park to get home? that is the same thing.

    both of these options suck. just raise the fares closer to the actual cost of traveling at that time. bargain hunters know that they can find a better deal riding the bus.

    • Im all for stopping half of the off peak red line trains at dupont, even though I feel like the read line may have a bit more ridership, mainly because dupont, gallery place, and metro center probably have a huge amount of riders. I think you are right that its not fair that the red line has more off peak trains than the green line / yellow line. But I am a little currious as to what the ridership numbers are on these lines? it might actually be justified.

    • And this is the point. We don’t need trains late at night for the bar crowd. You can take a cab or GOD FORBID, take a bus or even not get drunk.

      And for all the people that worry about the restaurant staff, there are still buses, cars, etc. On no planet can we afford to run a $40k per night train system for 35 kitchen staff to make it back to wheaton or whatever suburb they chose.

      • Is to say that from your comfy office chair and in front of your computer… GOD FORBID that someone try to get by working to serve the landed gentry of DC. I guess you would rather they get on welfare and food stamps. I’m sure taxes would be higher if it wasn’t for the poorer people that have to work at night.

      • Most of the undocumented service workers avoid metro because ICE does periodic Metro raids and undercover work. For the most part, they use buses. Not sure why ICE only targets trains and not buses.

        Other service workers would be inconvenienced, but it’s a small amount of folks impacted compared to how many folks would be affected by yellow line cuts or fare hikes.

  • this might solve the problem of the u street/14th street restaurant restriction. no one’s going to get here at night, so no more bars/restaurants will want to open up anyway.
    this combo means a huge change for u street.

  • The argument for stopping the Yellow Line early could be made for every other line too. Could save a few bucks by having every other train on every line stop 4 stops early (or at the nearest turnaround). The people in the end stations can just get out and wait for the next train. No reason to only screw the people between Mt. Vernon and Ft. Totten. The problem with this plan is that it sucks.

    Extending the Yellow Line to Ft. Totten was a cheap and easy way to double service to this growing corridor.

    Raise rates at night first. If people stop coming, then cut service.

  • This town’s economy is not based on drinking, drinking establishments, or drunk people. So no, I don’t think the changes will have any significant impact on business.

  • I think cutting late-night service would be good for my social agenda. Think about it, “Hey baby, I’ve got a house in DC you can stay at tonight…”

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