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After being cut back severely during the pandemic, rail service on Metro will almost be back to normal starting this weekend, with a large amount of bus service added back the following weekend.
After being shut down since May, five Silver Line stations will reopen along with West Falls Church on the Orange Line.
In addition, the hours Metrorail stations are open will expand. To the chagrin of riders who work afternoon to evening shifts, stations have been closing at 9 p.m. every day. They will now close at 11 p.m. every day. That's close to the 11:30 p.m. time stations closed on weekdays pre-pandemic, but still a couple hours short of the 1 a.m. pre-pandemic closing time Fridays and Saturdays.
Metro promises trains will come much more often, and rush hour service will return on weekdays. Metro says trains will run every eight minutes during peak times, and every 12 minutes during off-peak. For months trains on most lines have only been coming every 20 minutes (every 15 on the Red Line).
One week after rail service expands, Metro says its bus service will get closer to its pre-pandemic level as well. Hours will expand to run from 4 a.m. until midnight, and Metro says service will increase to about 75 percent of what it was pre-pandemic on weekdays.
On the rail side, Metro closed nine stations this summer, six of which will reopen Sunday. Five Silver Line stations -- Wiehle-Reston East, Spring Hill, Greensboro, Tysons Corner, and McLean -- will all reopen.
Metro unexepectedly announced it would shut them down for the summer earlier this year. Reasons included safety concerns over complicated single tracking that would have been needed if they were left open, along with helping speed up work at Wiehle-Reston East integrating the Silver Line with its future extension to Ashburn. The stations are reopening several weeks earlier than Metro had initially indicated.
RELATED: Metro increasing hours starting Aug. 16, adding back bus, rail service cut during COVID
On the Orange Line East Falls Church, West Falls Church, Dunn Loring, and Vienna all closed for platfrom reconstruction in late May. Although work at West Falls Church is not done, it has progressed to the point where Metro says it can safely reopen Sunday. The other three stations are not scheduled to reopen until September 8, the day after Labor Day.
Although East Falls Church will not reopen this weekend, Metro says work there has progressed to the point where Silver and Orange Line trains which pass through it will not have to single-track.
Metro calls the expansion of service this weekend the "largest -- and likely most complex -- service change in the system's 44-year history." It says to make the changes possible thousands of Metro employees will move to new work schedules.
RELATED: Metro says its second 'summer shutdown' could be done by Labor Day Weekend
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a press release that the expansion of service this weekend is only possible because of the hundreds of millions of dollars Metro received in funding from the CARES Act passed by Congress earlier in the pandemic. The money was needed because Metro says it is losing around $2 million each weekday in revenue due to the pandemic.
However, with Congress still unable to come to an agreement on more funding to help transit systems in the U.S., Wiedefeld recently expressed great concern about "very difficult choices" that would come if Metro and other transit agencies do not receive more funds before the current money runs out.
Metrorail has recently been seeing its highest ridership numbers since March, with well over 60,000 trips taken most weekdays. While that's up from numbers in the thirty thousands Metro was seeing earlier in the pandemic, it is still a drop of around 90 percent compared to Metro's numbers last summer.
This article first appeared on wjla.com
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