According to Virginia Ali, co-founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl, early metro closures will have an impact on her customers and employees.
The District of Columbia’s night life will likely suffer a loss of business as the Metrorail system reverts to shutting down at midnight each day for almost a year starting on June 3. On May 17, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced the final version of his SafeTrack program. It is designed to repair the ailing equipment and parts on the system’s Metrorail in nearly a year.
Wiedefeld said fixing the area’s train portion of its transit system is a priority. “Safety comes first, and I want to remind the region that SafeTrack is not just about the 15 maintenance surges,” he said. “SafeTrack also includes weeknight work that will require single track operations in sections starting at 8 p.m.; it means closing the system at midnight on weekends as opposed to 3 a.m. and committing to a moratorium on extra hours of early morning or late night service when it conflicts with track work.”
SafeTrack deals exclusively with Metrorail and not with WMATA’s bus system.
The SafeTrack program starts on June 3 and is supposed to end with the last surge that takes place from March 6-19, 2017 on the Orange and Silver lines. There will be no track work during the presidential inauguration week of Jan. 15-21, 2017.
While SafeTrack has 15 “safety surges,” where groups of Metro stations that will be repaired and cause inconvenience for riders in time frames ranging from days to weeks, it is the midnight shutdown that has caused some anxiety.
There have been instances where organizations have offered to pay the system to open early or stay late. However, Morgan Dye, a spokeswoman for Metro, told the AFRO there will be no exceptions for the SafeTrack period. “The midnight deadline will be strictly enforced,” Dye said. “Metro will no longer have late night service even for special events.”
The midnight deadline may present a challenge to riders attending concerts at The Verizon Center or to Washington Redskins fans attending night games. Games of the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, and the Washington Nationals are scheduled earlier in the day and rarely go past 10 p.m.
Night spots, whether they are eateries or clubs, depend on night customers for their financial sustainability and the midnight shutdown of Metrorail may affect their businesses.
Virginia Ali, co-founder of the Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant chain, told the AFRO the midnight shutdown of Metrorail will have an impact on her business. “It will definitely affect my employees,” Ali said. “We close our U Street location at 4 a.m. on weekends and from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. on the weekends is when we are the busiest. However, it is important that we have a safe system and if it must be repaired then so be it.”
Ali hopes that Metro adds to its bus service on the weekends to accommodate people who are out enjoying the city’s night life as well as the workers who serve them. Whether this will happen or not remains unclear.
Marc Barnes is the owner of the popular The Park at Fourteenth nightclub. Well-known
entertainers and athletes such as Beyoncé, Chris Brown, and Floyd Mayweather have visited The Park and political figures such as former President Bill Clinton, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and, with the exception of the late Walter Washington, all of the mayors of the District and most D.C. Council members have attended and held events there.
Barnes told the AFRO that he, unlike Ali, isn’t concerned about the midnight shutdown of Metrorail. “The people who come to our nightclub don’t ride the subway,” Barnes said. “They drive their cars and park. When you do have people who don’t have cars, they will use Uber or take a taxi.”
Wiedefeld has repeatedly advised Metrorail customers to have alternative modes of transportation to get to work or to go out for a night on the town.