Metro to expand hours beginning next month

Metro announced on Monday that rail and bus hours and service will expand beginning in mid-August.

Rail service will expand beginning Aug. 16, according to e coronavirus update scheduled to be presented to the Metro board Thursday. Weekday service will run from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., while trains will run from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

Peak service will resume as well – trains will run every five minutes during peak hours on the Red Line, and every eight minutes on the other lines. All other times, trains will run every 12 minutes on the Red Line, every 15 minutes on the other lines.

Metro said the changes will constitute the resumption of 90% of service. Metro will start charging for parking again as well.

If capital improvement projects are completed as planned by Labor Day, Metro said, stops west of the Ballston Metro, which have been closed for work, could also reopen.

The transit agency scaled back service as business closed or moved to telework options amid the coronavirus pandemic. The resumption of rail service comes just ahead of the Aug. 28 March on Washington.

This comes as Metrorail ridership continues to be down by around 90% percent during the week since the beginning of June according to Metro numbers.

The struggle, Metro said in its announcement, will be and has been offering riders enough room to social distance on trains. Social distancing reduces the capacity of railcars by about 80%, to between 20 and 25 people. Even with the help of staggered work schedules from employers, the numbers show significant increases in service will be needed to allow people more room on trains.

On the buses, Metro will run from 4 a.m. to midnight starting Aug. 23. Buses will continue to be free, and passengers will still board through the rear door. Bus drivers will still be allowed to skip stops when buses become too crowded.

Weekday service will be at 73% of normal, Metro said, while weekend service will be close to 90%.

Metro bus ridership during the week has dropped between 70% and 80% since June, when compared to last year’s numbers.

bus service graphic
More buses will run, beginning Aug. 23. (Courtesy WMATA)

The service increases are expected to stay in place through December.

Metro also plans to expand its after-hours ride-share program. It will be held between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday and on Sunday. The subsidy offered will double from $3 to $6 per ride.

Metro also aims to have around 80% of employees available to work, but said frontline workers continue to face challenging conditions. The agency says personal protective gear continues to go out to workers and social distancing measures are in place.

Metro said 1 in 4 bus riders plan to use the bus again when they must return to work. For Metrorail, it’s 1 in 3.

The agency found that public organizations are leading the pack when it comes to bringing employees back to the office — 34% of public agencies are bringing employees back to the workplace, compared to 8% of private businesses in the area.

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