Metro prepares to ramp up service to pre-COVID-19 levels

Metro is preparing to ramp up service starting this weekend, after nearly five months of sharp reductions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The transit system said it will reopen closed stations, run trains more frequently and expand hours of operation starting Aug. 16. Metro also plans to expand service on several bus routes later this month.

In a news release Thursday, Metro said the changes will restore service on most rail lines and bus routes to levels before the pandemic restrictions.

In a statement, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said restoring service was possible because of funding from the federal CARES Act.


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At a news conference last month, Wiedefeld warned of the need for more federal funding, saying the transit system was losing $2 million each weekday since service was pared back and riders fled the system.

As service is added, Metro reminded customers that face masks are required throughout the Metro system, including stations, platforms, trains and buses.

As ridership increases, Metro acknowledged that social distancing may not be possible on every train and bus, and said customers may want to travel during off-peak hours.

Here are the details on the planned service changes.

Metrorail

On the rails, Metro will stay open for an additional 15 hours each week, opening earlier and staying open later.

Once the changes go into effect, the Metrorail system will go back to opening at 5 a.m. on weekdays, 7 a.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. on Sundays. The system will close at 11 p.m. each night.

Currently, the system is open from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Metro said customers can expect wait times on the platform to be “reduced dramatically,” with trains running every eight minutes on every line during the morning and evening rush hours, and every 12 minutes during off-peak times. That’s identical to the pre-coronavirus schedule, the agency said.

Overall, the number of scheduled weekday trips will more than double from 511 to more than 1,200, according to Metro.

In addition, service on the Silver Line will be restored, and six Fairfax County stations that had been closed for work will reopen.

Metro said rail maintenance staff had been working since mid-July to make sure idled cars and equipment are ready to return to service.

Metrobus

Expanded Metrobus service is set to roll out Aug. 23.

Buses will then run starting at 4 a.m. and end at midnight every day. Currently, buses run from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.

Overall, service will be expanded on slightly more than half of Metro’s bus routes — 174 bus routes out of 325. The number of buses on the road each day will nearly double, from about 700 to 1,400, according to Metro.

The expanded service means Metrobus service to about 75% of pre-pandemic levels on weekdays, 85% on Saturdays and 90% on Sundays, Metro said. Currently, Metrobus has been running at about 40% of normal service.

Metro planners monitored ridership patterns over the past few months to calculate “how much service is needed and where,” the transit agency said, while also, “weighing expected demand with the ongoing and evolving workforce constraints caused by the pandemic.”

The bus changes will require thousands of Metro employees to transition to new work schedules and learn new bus routes, the transit agency said.

Metro also said every bus will be disinfected every day before being put into service.

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