The District of Columbia reversed itself this week, agreeing to pay to keep Metro trains running if Washington Nationals baseball games end late.
But the move immediately prompted an accusation that the city was showing favoritism for the losing baseball team, while other teams pay their own way for extra service.
“We’ve got to have a policy in the District of Columbia where everybody is treated the same,” said D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, D-Ward 1.
The kerfuffle began when the head of the District Department of Transportation wrote a letter to Metro, dated April 8, alerting the transit agency that it planned to stop paying $27,000 per hour to keep the transit system running late. The city had paid for the extra service last season, when several games at the new stadium ran past Metro’s regular closing time.
“We are in no position to make such financial commitments going forward,” new DDOT Director Gabe Klein wrote in the letter, first reported in The Washington Post.
But the mayor’s office decided to reverse the new policy Wednesday, said Deputy Mayor Neil Albert, after confusion Monday night when a Nationals game faced rain delays.
Metro continued to run the trains after the game’s end, keeping the system running until 1:30 a.m. Metro General Manager John Catoe said the transit agency would not knowingly transport riders somewhere without providing a way back. But the agency, which faces a budget gap and potential cuts to bus service, says it can’t pay for the extra hours.
On Thursday, Albert said the District would pay back Metro for Monday’s extra service and would pay for any service extensions following home Nationals games for the rest of the season.
“We’re keeping our commitment to the team,” Albert said.
However, Graham, who is also chairman of the Metro board, said he was concerned about what he called “special treatment” given to the Nationals. “We’ve got to be careful because there are five professional sports franchises in the District of Columbia, and there are other sponsoring activities that could require the extension of service,” he said.
The area’s other sports teams — or their venues — pay to keep Metro open late if they expect the event to run past the transit system’s closing time, according to Metro. That usually isn’t an issue Fridays and Saturdays when the system runs until 3 a.m., but the trains stop at midnight on weekdays and Sundays.