Metro bus service to ramp up without rail fare discounts

A woman waits to board a train as it arrives at Metro Center station, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Washington. As President Joe Biden urges more federal spending for public transportation, transit agencies decimated by COVID-19 are struggling with a new uncertainty: how to win passengers back. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)(AP/Patrick Semansky)

Metro will take more steps toward a return to normalcy next month with additional bus service.

At a board meeting on Thursday, members were told that in early June, service will be added to about 60 bus routes and that about three dozen routes will see service until about 2 a.m. daily.

Those changes, along with others in September, will have Metrobus running at about 85% of pre-pandemic service levels. Metro says nearly three in five pre-pandemic bus riders have returned to riding.

Metrorail, meanwhile, will continue to run at 80% of pre-Covid levels. General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said rail ridership is about 15% of what is was before the pandemic.

Metro also threw cold water on the idea of using fare discounts to lure rail riders back.

Metro said its survey found that an overwhelming majority of rail riders say price is not a primary barrier for their return.

Metro is focusing on safety to get riders back, stressing the effectiveness of airflow in its rail cars. Metro says that the air fully changes in a rail car about every three minutes.

Also on Thursday, Metro’s board approved a policy that will allow for extra rail service for special events.

The policy would waive a fee charged to event organizers or sports teams for trains to run beyond normal operating hours.

It applies to Mystics, Wizards, Nationals, Washington Football Team and Capitals games, along with the Marine Corps Marathon and Army Ten-Miler. Other events can be included with the board’s approval. The temporary fee waiver would run through the end of the year.

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John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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