Councilmember Charles Allen made the following statement today in response to the release of WMATA's SafeTrack Draft Plan:
There’s no question there is urgent need to make repairs to our Metrorail system to ensure safety and improve reliability. Our Metro system is invaluable to our city and our region. I commend the General Manager for recommending some tough medicine and an aggressive approach – our riders deserve this high level of urgency.
In reviewing the initial draft plan presented by WMATA, I’m concerned about the timing of the proposed closures at Stadium-Armory and Potomac Avenue stations. The current draft proposes to close these stations August 20 – September 6, 2016. Those dates coincide with the first weeks of the new school year. Both of these stations are highly utilized by students and families travelling to school. Eastern High School, Eliot-Hine Middle School, Watkins Elementary School (which will be located at Eliot-Hine for school year 2016-2017), Center City Public Charter School, and Friendship-Chamberlain Public Charter School are each within a 5-minute walk of these stations and students and families are highly dependent on Metrorail access. Combined, these schools represent more than 2,250 students. Last year, we witnessed the impact of dramatically reducing service at the Stadium-Armory station when repairs were needed after an electrical fire. Even though bus service was provided, due to the significant rail service reductions that took place, the number of students late and tardy to school increased dramatically. Closing these stations at any time will present a serious challenge for all riders, but to do so as a new school year begins will have a very negative impact on the students and families during the first weeks of the academic year.
I recognize these repairs are needed and dramatic actions are being proposed, but I must ask WMATA to adjust its proposed schedule – perhaps moving these repairs sooner – to avoid a harmful conflict with the need for students and families to get to school.
A copy of the SafeTrack Plan is available here.