More trains, more stations, more buses, more hours. Metro is finalizing plans to restore most rail and bus service to pre-Covid levels across the region in the largest – and likely most complex – service change in the system's 44-year history. To support the effort, thousands of frontline Metro employees will transition to new work schedules as the region continues its gradual recovery and more customers are expected.
"Thanks to our congressional delegation, CARES federal funding makes it possible for us to restore service in support of economic recovery for the national capital region," said General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld. "As they return, we want our customers to know that facial coverings are required everywhere on the system, and the more frequent trains and buses we are adding will help you ride socially distant."
Metrorail service changes take effect Sunday, August 16, including the restoration of Silver Line service for the first time since Memorial Day. Six Fairfax County stations will reopen following planned summer work, resulting in 87 of 91 Metrorail stations open for customers. Wait times will be reduced dramatically, with trains running every 8 minutes on each line during rush hours, and every 12 minutes during off-peak times – identical to pre-Covid schedules.
A week later, on Sunday, August 23, new Metrobus schedules will take effect across the region, including the restoration of bus service on routes that have not had service in months, and significantly more frequent service on almost every line.
"Thousands of Metro employees are getting ready to support the region as we restore most Metro service," said Metro Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader. "The pandemic has posed challenges never before faced by Metro, and I want to extend my thanks to our customers – especially essential workers – for their understanding as we took unprecedented action to protect our essential frontline workforce and the public health. We're grateful for the sacrifice of workers across the region, including the Metro employees on the front line every day."
Planning for the Covid-19 service restoration began in mid-May. Because Metrorail and Metrobus operators have the right to pick work assignments based on seniority, adjusting service levels on a systemwide scale impacts the personal work schedules of more than 3,000 employees, many of whom are receiving training for their new work assignments or locations, and many of whom have child care and virtual schooling challenges for their families just like Metro customers.
Here are some key facts about the effort underway:
Metrorail will return to regular opening times (5 a.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. Saturdays, 8 a.m. Sundays) and close two hours later (11 p.m.) each night, resulting in 15 additional hours of service per week.
Scheduled weekday rail trips will more than double from 511 to more than 1,200. That equates to an increase of more than 160,000 miles traveled per weekday by railcars on the system, up from the current 101,000 miles to nearly 262,000 miles. The number of train operators needed on a daily basis will also nearly double, from about 180 to more than 350.
At the beginning of the summer, 182 legacy railcars were placed in storage at the West Falls Church rail yard while newer 7000-series trains provided almost all rail service. Rail maintenance staff has been working since mid-July to make sure idled cars and equipment are ready to safely and reliably serve customers, and the legacy fleet must be redistributed throughout the system to accommodate the service increase.
Beginning August 23, Metrobus service will operate beginning at 4 a.m. and end at midnight daily. (Schedule varies by route. View timetables for details.)
Metrobus has been operating about 40 percent of weekly pre-pandemic service. Metrobus planners have spent months monitoring ridership patterns and calculating how much service is needed and where, while also weighing expected demand with the ongoing and evolving workforce constraints caused by the pandemic. The result will be restoring Metrobus service to about 75 percent of pre-pandemic levels on weekdays, 85 percent on Saturdays, and 90 percent on Sundays. Service will improve on a total of 174 routes. Total weekly Metrobus trips will increase from 37,000 to more than 69,000.
To deliver this level of service, many Metrobus operators will need to adjust their schedules, routes, and daily lives – in many cases reporting to a new bus division and training for new routes. Nearly 1,800 bus operators will be on the front line delivering essential trips to the region each weekday, up from approximately 1,100 today.
The number of buses on the road each day will nearly double from approximately 700 to 1,400. Maintenance teams began ramping up their efforts in mid-July to make sure all vehicles and facilities are ready for the service increase. A new cleaning schedule was devised to ensure Metro has the supplies and manpower necessary to continue to disinfect every bus, every day before it's put into service.
Since Metro's Pandemic Task Force was convened in January, Metro has monitored the daily use of and forecasted demand for over 200 items identified as essential for the pandemic response. To date, Metro has procured nearly 30,000 gallons of disinfectant, 75,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, nearly 2 million pairs of gloves, and nearly 3 million face masks to keep employees and customers safe, not accounting for supplies used by contractors. If gallon jugs of the disinfectant and hand sanitizer were stacked vertically, they'd stretch nearly 17 miles high, more than double the typical cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner.
Metro worked to identify local business capable of providing materials and services for the pandemic response to support the local economy.
Reminders for customers
Customers are reminded that masks or face coverings are required when traveling on Metro, including all stations, trains, buses and MetroAccess vehicles.
As ridership increases, social distancing may not be possible on every trains and bus. Customers may wish to consider traveling during off-peak hours.