For federal workers, Metro has historically been an important mode of transportation for getting to and from the office. So, during a typical non-pandemic year, Metro’s news Friday about some lengthy closures and service interruptions along the line would be quite troubling.
But with many people continuing to work from home, the impact on feds remains unknown, because it is unclear when orders will go out to return to the office.
“We really can’t tell yet the extent to which they will be doing so en masse,” said Tom Temin, host of Federal Drive on Federal News Network.
Metro announced on Friday plans that would lead to single tracking and even station closures for projects to improve ventilations systems along the line and replace canopies at the Rockville and Shady Grove Metro stations. The most lengthy and disruptive project is expected to be the absence of trains between the Twinbrook and Shady Grove metro stations from Sept. 11 through Dec. 4.
Offices of the Department of Health and Human Services, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the National Institutes of Health are all located along the line, among others. But when it comes to the number of employees going in, the numbers remain far from the levels seen before COVID-19 sent people to their home offices.
Temin said right now, many agencies are still putting together their return to the office plans, which are due to the White House in mid-July. After that, they’ll need to be approved and may also be subject to further negotiations with the unions that represent workers.
“It’s gonna be a while until you see masses of federal commuters on any part of the highways or the trains or buses,” Temin said.
Temin said for big projects like this, Metro may as well get them done now before the majority of workers who will be asked to return start doing so.
“I think if they can get it done this year, it’s gonna be better (than) if they wait until next year,” Temin said.
He said those working from home now who would need to use the system will probably be allowed to continue telecommuting instead of driving in, because many agencies are focused on making “green” friendly decisions.