Metro on Sunday will extend rail service to midnight for the first time since it reduced operating hours 16 months ago during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The change also was intended to protect rail operators and other front-line workers by reducing their risk of being exposed to the virus.
“Riders that work late, enjoy the region’s restaurants and nightlife or need to get to and from places at night will now have more flexibility with trains running longer every night,” Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a statement.
Metro’s board approved the additional hour in June while committing to extend operating hours on Friday and Saturday nights this fall to 1 a.m. The board also approved Metro’s first fare reductions in more than three years, lifting a transfer fee between bus and rail, making weekend fares a flat $2 and cutting $3 off the price of a seven-day regional bus pass. The fare decreases take effect on Labor Day.
Board members also approved service improvements set to start in the fall.
The changes include wait times of 12 minutes or less most of the day on all six Metrorail lines, lowering waits during primary commuting hours to 10 minutes or less, as well as 15 minutes in the evening. Metrobus waits will be reduced to 12 minutes or less on 20 of the system’s busiest lines, while 16 routes will see wait times cut to no more than 20 minutes.
Bus service will be restored or increased on an additional 46 routes for the first time since the transit agency pared back service because of the pandemic.
Ridership is continuing to rise on the bus and rail system.
For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Metrorail topped 200,000 passenger trips July 4, according to the transit agency.
While ridership took a jump after months of historic lows, it was about half the number of trips passengers took July 4, 2019 — the last Independence Day before the pandemic — when Metro recorded more than 400,000 trips on the system.
Metro is averaging about 150,000 daily trips on the rail system and 183,000 trips on buses, according to Metro records.