Metro News Release

For immediate release: December 1, 2011

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Metro outlines plans for winter weather
Customers encouraged to sign up for Metro Alerts

In preparation for the upcoming season of winter weather, Metro’s Board of Directors was briefed today on the Authority’s snow plan, which is intended to provide a more predictable guide of service levels during severe weather and to allow the system to recover more quickly following a major snowstorm.

“Metro provides the region with essential service during winter weather, but it is important for customers and stakeholders to understand our limitations and the effects that weather can have on service,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles. “This effort has been about improving internal planning and coordination, along with giving customers predictable service levels based on weather conditions.”

The updated snow plan ensures that, in the hours preceding a major storm, Metro takes all appropriate steps to prepare, including staging snow removal equipment, ensuring proper staffing, monitoring weather forecasts and conditions, and participating in regional calls to coordinate with regional partners.

Along with internal planning to ensure a better, more coordinated response, Metro has taken a number of steps to act on lessons learned from last winter, including purchasing additional snow-removal equipment and supplies and working with jurisdictional partners to prioritize snow removal along key Metrobus routes.

Metro will continue to make every effort to continue operating trains and buses through winter weather. However, during severe snow/ice conditions, service aboveground portions of the rail system may be altered or suspended if trains’ ability to draw power from the electrified third rail is affected by the weather. In addition, Metrobus and MetroAccess service may be impacted by local road conditions.

If road conditions deteriorate and snow builds up on the tracks, service may be scaled back in the interest of the safety of Metro customers and employees, and to maintain the ability to re-establish service more quickly after the storm. The new severe winter weather plan calls for modified Metro service levels as snowfall totals increase as follows:

  • Snowfall up to 1 inch: Normal service is expected on Metrobus and Metrorail.
  • 1 to 2 inches of snow: Metrobus will maintain a normal schedule as long as road and traffic conditions permit. A number of routes may be rerouted. Metrorail will provide normal service with minimal delays.
  • 2 to 4 inches of snow: Buses on heavily traveled routes will run approximately every 15 minutes. Detours will be in place on many routes in known problem areas, such as hilly areas and narrow neighborhood streets. Metrobus will begin to curtail service on routes to outlying suburbs and hilly areas as buses become challenged. Metrorail will increase the wait times between trains, therefore customers can expect minor delays.
  • 4 to 8 inches of snow: Metrobus will continue to scale back service. Buses will operate approximately every 30 minutes on heavily traveled routes as conditions permit. Metrorail will continue to operate, however customers may expect 15 minute delays. Trains with snow plows and ice scrapers attached will operate between trains carrying passengers.
  • More than 8 inches of snow: Metrobus will provide limited service. Buses will operate only on the busiest routes on main roads, and only as conditions permit. Metrorail will provide underground rail service and limited above ground service. As conditions worsen, Metorail will operate underground only.

Metro’s updated snow plan includes four event phases, with specific actions associated with each phase.

  • Alert: 12 to 24 hours
  • Readiness: 8 hours prior
  • Operations: start of storm
  • Recovery: after snow, restore normal service

Metro offers customers a variety of ways to stay informed during a major storm, including visiting Metro’s website,, or by calling the customer information telephone line at 202-637-7000. Customers also are encouraged to sign-up for MetroAlerts to be notified of delays or service adjustments via email or text messages, or follow Metro on Twitter @wmata. In addition, Metro will update local news media about any planned Metro service changes.


News release issued at 1:57 pm, December 1, 2011.

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