Nikolas Schiller has a dream. But even he calls it “a dream deferred.”
He’d like to see the Metro system operate 24 hours a day. And 689 others agree with him.
The D.C. consultant and artist created a Facebook campaign in February 2009 called “Washington Metropolitan Area Residents for a 24 Hour Metro.” It quickly got a following, even though he acknowledges that many of the fans were already his friends.
“The United States government operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so should Metro,” became the motto.
He traveled around to other systems and realized few agencies but New York City run 24 hours a day. But his thinking was that if riders miss the last train of the night in D.C., they have to shell out big bucks for a taxi to get home.
So why not charge riders more for late-night service, perhaps running just one train per hour? That would allow the trains to move on a single track, freeing up the other side for the track work and maintenance that gets done at night, he said.
He started the campaign to gauge interest. He even bought ads on Facebook to tout the idea.
At one point he tried to organize a meet up of the like-minded, hoping to re-create subway parties that occurred on London’s system.
But alas, Metro has talked of cutting service in recent years, not expanding it. Even the extended weekend service of 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights teetered on the chopping block during the last budget cycle, saved at the last minute by District officials.
Now, the current focus on safety makes Schiller's idea even less likely. And then there's the cost.
Metro has charged $27,000 to groups to open the rail system an hour early, say for a marathon or other event. At that rate, it would cost about $135,000 a day to keep trains running. That's $49 million for an entire year.
To cover the extra costs, the system would need for riders to make about 26,000 more trips each day at $5.24 a pop (twice the current average rail fare) on top of the already 700,000 or so trips that occur on a typical weekday. That's before taking into account the extra wear and tear on the trains and tracks or other costs that would come from running continuous service.
But Schiller says he would still like to see it happen. And the Facebook campaign lives on, gathering a few hopeful followers at a time. Three more joined this week alone.