BREAKING: Metro makes additional reductions this weekend due to workforce availability challenges; trains every 30 minutes, supplemental bus trips cancelled
Due to workforce availability challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak, Metro is making additional adjustments to this weekend’s service, Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22, 2020:
· Trains will now operate every 30 minutes on all lines
· Hours remain 8AM-11PM
· Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery stations remain closed until further notice to prevent Cherry Blossom travel
· Buses will operate on a Sunday schedule with no supplemental routes
· In the event of crowding, bus operators may bypass stops to maintain safe social distancing aboard the vehicle.
DO NOT TRAVEL UNLESS NECESSARY. METRO SERVICE IS LIMITED (EVERY 30 MIN/LINE). ALL SPACE MUST BE PRESERVED FOR ESSENTIAL TRIPS ONLY. Consider alternatives to using transit, such as walking, biking, scooters, or delivery services.
“Metrobus operators and all of our frontline colleagues have the same pressures as everyone else right now. They have families, kids out of school, loved ones with health concerns, and others may know someone already impacted by the Coronavirus. Despite these pressures, and despite understandable concerns, our workforce is showing up out of a sense of duty to the community and a responsibility to the nation,” Wiedefeld said. “Space on Metro is a resource that needs to be reserved for essential travel, including the first responders, doctors and nurses working to keep us all safe. They are responding to the call out of concern for you, please stay home out of concern for them.”
With rail ridership down by 85 percent Thursday compared to last year, Metro has strategically reduced service levels to protect frontline workers, while at the same time maintaining limited transit service to support the regional and national response. Metro’s Operations division now reports availability challenges due to operators opting to decline overtime opportunities to focus on family obligations, absences associated with high-risk groups, and scheduling restrictions necessary to support workforce redundancy strategies. As an example, out of concern that even a single, potential COVID-19 exposure among Metro’s control center personnel could force the rail system to shut down for weeks, Metro took unprecedented action to mitigate the risk by activating its backup Rail Operations Control Center and assigning essential control center staff into multiple teams. The teams are isolated from each other to prevent an exposure on one team from impacting Metro’s continuity of operations. The dual control centers, located about 10 miles apart, alternate control of the rail system at 8-hour intervals with cleaning and disinfecting taking place during the downtime.
Despite the dramatically lower ridership this week, Metro officials remain concerned about people using Metro for non-essential trips, including travel to the National Mall and Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms. Faced with the combination of peak bloom today and warm spring weather, Metro took preemptive action to deter non-essential use of the transit system by closing Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery stations until further notice.
Metro’s Pandemic Task Force continues to prioritize the safety of employees, customers and the general public above all else, working around the clock to monitor and respond to the evolving situation and coordinating with state and local officials. Metro has implemented some of the strongest protections for frontline workers during the pandemic, including granting bus operators the discretion to not accept additional passengers if the operator believes that social distancing cannot be maintained, closing all restrooms across the 91-station rail system, banning visitors and certain deliveries to Metro facilities, relieving station managers of selected duties outside the kiosk to limit their public exposure, enhanced cleaning of all high-touch surfaces, allowing employees to utilize liberal leave for certain COVID-19 concerns, establishing email and phone hotlines for COVID-19 concerns that go directly to Metro’s Chief Medical Officer and professional medical staff, and a massive authority-wide preparedness effort that began 51 days ago, on January 29.