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Posted at 9:27 AM ET, 02/13/2011

Metro after Midnight: Closing time

By Annys Shin

This weekend, Washington Post reporters fanned out through Metro's trains and platforms after midnight to capture the sights and sounds of the region's transit system in the wee hours--the time when the whole train system might shut down if Metro budget-cutters have their way. Watch for their reports today, and a full account in Monday's Post and here on, and add your own thoughts and experiences on our comment boards below.

It's 3 a.m. On the dot.

There are still outbound trains to Greenbelt running. "But all inbound trains are done," says a Metro worker in an orange safety vest to a handful of stragglers, who, hearing the word, "done," hear their cue to leave and scurry up the escalators.

Upstairs, on the Red Line, the last Shady Grove-bound train pulls in.

"This is the final train of the morning," the train operator announces. Then, he instructs any passengers still needing to switch to another line to get out and walk to the other side to catch a train headed in the opposite direction to Metro Center.

After the train leaves, the only people left on the platform are me and a young woman engrossed in texting on her cell phone. We're not sure which exits are still open. Then from somewhere behind us comes a voice that grows louder and more strident the longer we fail to heed it.

"Let's go, ladies," it says. "There's no train. Let's go!"

We finally look up and connect the voice to a female Metro employee who is standing on a landing, one floor above, glaring down at us. She comes into clearer focus as we reach the top of the escalator. She's bundled in a WMATA-issued jacket, her own black knit hat and matching scarf. Her purse is slung over one shoulder. She has a bottle of water tucked under one arm. With one hand, she holds a white paper bag that contains what looks like the remnants of her dinner.

She doesn't need to say anything more. We get it. We're the only thing keeping her from going home.

She points us to the nearest exit, an elevator that opens onto 7th Street.

It's not personal, of course. When a handful of people emerge from one of the final Greenbelt-bound trains and step off one of the escalators next to her, she immediately gets on their case.

"You are exiting, sir," she says to a dazed-looking man. "The elevator's to your left."

Her stern tone seems to unnerve another man pulling two suitcases. A woman pushing a stroller follows close behind. As the couple hurries toward the elevator, one of them drops a paper bag. Chicken McNuggets and french fries spill all over the floor. They don't even look back.

The station is so empty now that you can hear individual footsteps over the din of the escalators. It appears one last person needs to be shown the door. But when he turns the corner, he is wearing a WMATA jacket and an orange safety vest.

Two levels down, the station display for the Green and Yellow Line reads, "No Passenger 20 min."

By Annys Shin  | February 13, 2011; 9:27 AM ET
Categories:  Metro after Midnight  
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Next: Metro after Midnight: Take me home

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