Metro yesterday announced that Metrobus will return to regular weekday service on Monday, February 7, as the agency recovers from reduced staffing levels due to COVID-19 infections among its workers.
The agency said that while is still experiencing above-average absenteeism, case rates are declining and employees are returning to work following their quarantine requirements.
“I want to thank our customers for their patience as we took swift action to protect the health and safety of riders and employees in the face of the unprecedented covid surge, which has impacted about 10 percent of our workforce since the holidays,” said Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld in a press release.
“We look forward to providing more service to help the region recover from a particularly challenging period of this pandemic,” said Ray Jackson, President of ATU Local 689, the union that represents most of Metro’s workforce. “Our members are eager to resume full bus service to our communities. We will continue to do all that we can to protect workers, our families, and our passengers through this pandemic, while keeping the region moving.”
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation is still running its Ride On bus service at reduced levels due to the number of employees either sick with, or exposed to, COVID–19. The agency is now hiring Bus Operators, and the current hiring round closes on February 28.
Meanwhile, Metro also announced that it has reached a 50 percent milestone in the installation of new faregates in the Metrorail system. The Silver Spring and Takoma stations are set to receive the new faregates shortly, though they were originally scheduled to be installed in October of last year. The Forest Glen and Wheaton stations already have the new faregates.
The system-wide upgrade of the Metrorail faregates launched with a limited pilot at six stations last June. Metro said the upgrades are performed overnight, and each station could take up to two weeks to complete.
Metro said that the faregates will have a new look, and customers can expect upgraded features such as:
- Larger displays
- Increased safety features, including improved motion sensors
- More handsfree service options through the kiosk-mounted payment validator and mobile payment through Apple and Google Pay
Metro also said that the new faregate technology “will also provide Metro’s station managers with instant access to faregate data, helping improve customer service when SmarTrip card issues arise.”
The upgraded technology will require the replacement of Metro’s first-generation SmarTrip cards that were issued in 2012 or earlier. The cards contain outdated chip technology and will not be compatible with the new faregates. To learn more and determine if your card needs to be replaced, visit wmata.com/cardreplacement.
Beginning March 1, the old farecards will no longer be accepted at fare vending machines in stations, fareboxes on buses, parking facilities and retail locations.
Additionally, DCist reported yesterday that Wiedefeld said there is still no updated timeframe for bringing Metro’s 7000-series trains back into service. Wiedefeld said earlier this month that the trains would not return until spring at the earliest, while Metro is still working with outside groups to focus on the root cause. “We’re at the start of that 90-day pause and we’ll work to find the root cause as quickly as we can and return to regular service as quickly as we can,” he said to DCist.