Metro ridership down in morning commute, no midday service level increase

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 1: A mostly empty 'blue line' metro car arrives at the Capitol South metro station. Thousands of commuters were forced to stay at home due to the Government Shutdown. (Photo by Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

A mostly empty Blue Line train car arrives at the Capitol South Metro station on Tuesday.
(Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

Riders on Metro buses and trains reported on social media that their trains and buses seemed lighter than normal during Tuesday morning’s rush hour.

Metrorail ridership in the morning rush hour was down slightly. At 10 a.m., ridership was down 6 percent to 238,500 people compared to 254,700 on Monday, according to Metro officials. Last Tuesday – Sept. 24 – ridership on Metrorail was 268,500 riders for the same time period, a 10 percent drop from Tuesday’s ridership numbers with the government shutdown in place.

Metro is not adding additional trains or increasing the frequency of trains at midday, when many federal workers are expected to leave their offices. Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman, said “midday service levels” on the rail system “should be adequate for ridership.”

Trains in the core of Metro’s rail system run every six minutes at midday and every three minutes at rush hours.

Stessel said Metro will monitor the situation at midday “and take appropriate action.” If more trains are needed, he said, “we have the ability” to add those.

Stessel said Metro was “going to hold off speculation” on the revenue and ridership impact the federal shutdown will have on the agency. Metrorail has about 750,000 rider trips on an average weekday. At rush hour, Metro rail has about 200,000 rider trips, of which 40 percent are federal workers, Metro said.

“There are some federal workers who are exempted who are still riding,” Stessel said. “We’ll have a better sense in the next 24 to 48 hours” of the impact on ridership.

Metro has said riders could see fewer eight-car trains, as they would not need as many since there would be fewer people riding at rush hour times as the shutdown continues.

Metro has two means to bill and receive payment from federal agencies who provide their workers with subsidized rides on the transit system. Some agencies pay in advance, while others are billed by Metro on a monthly basis, according to Stessel. He said the October invoices were sent to some federal agencies in late September, and those agencies have 30 days to pay Metro.

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