WASHINGTON — Metro is making changes to its Metrorail service starting Monday following approved budget cuts in November 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Metro has reported seeing more commuters on their Metrobus system compared to Metrorail, although bus ridership is down 55% from pre-pandemic travel patterns.
So, starting Monday, Metrorail service will operate every 12 minutes on the Blue, Orange, Silver, Green, and Yellow lines. And weekday service on the Red Line will operate every 6 minutes in accordance with Metro's revised FY2021 budget approved by Metro’s Board of Directors.
The changes also mean service at stations with multiple train lines will run every 4-6 minutes. Service after 7 p.m. will stay the same.
Beginning March 14, Metro will expand bus service with additional buses, routes and weekend service for riders.
The changes to the Metrorail system is an effort to match commuter travel schedules during the pandemic, officials said in a release Monday.
"The changes bring rail service in line with ridership demand while managing costs amid pandemic-related budget constraints. Rail ridership remains down nearly 90 percent from pre-pandemic levels," Metro said in a statement.
Metro is expected to receive approximately $610 million in federal COVID relief funding. It is in the process of finalizing its budget, but according to officials, that federal aid would avoid planned budget-related layoffs and drastic service cuts through June 30. Those proposed cuts included drastically reducing weekday service, and cutting weekend services completely.
Officials say the Board will still have to potentially consider cuts, although they will be less drastic than what had been previously proposed.
"We are far from out of the woods, without sufficient revenue to cover all of the next fiscal year. While the choices may not be quite as severe, there is still enormous financial pressure on our funding jurisdictions, and ridership and revenue is likely to return very gradually, so we have tough choices still ahead," General Manager Paul Widefeld said.