Coronavirus: Metro asks Congress for emergency funding after ridership drops 85%

As Metro implores rail and bus riders to stay off the mass transit system for all but essential travel, the system head has told Congress the agency needs emergency funding to keep running during the coronavirus crisis.

“Metro has lost 85% of its ridership,” said general manager Paul Wiedefeld in a letter to the Congressional delegation for the National Capital Region. “We need immediate operating funding to address this unprecedented loss of $52 million a month.”

On Tuesday, Metro reduced its hours of operation, with the rail system closing at 11 p.m. until further notice, and trains running every 15 minutes.

“Stay home,” Metro said in a statement. “Travel only if it’s essential and limit your exposure to others.”

Metro specifically asked riders to avoid visiting the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, saying it could close rail stations if riders use the system for tourist attractions.

In his letter to Congress, Wiedefeld said Metro needs to provide “lifeline service to ensure we can protect our front-line employees, while maintaining regional mobility for essential trips taken by hospital staff, local and United States government officials, and emergency responders.”

“Over the last couple of months, Metro purchased critical items and personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line employees (i.e. hospital-grade disinfectant, wipes, face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer) and expanded use of disinfectants for increased cleaning of Metro vehicles and equipment, totaling $17 million,” Wiedefeld wrote.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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