2021 wasn’t exactly a banner year for Metro and it’s no certainty that 2022 will be any better.
Early in the year, in February, while a federal aid package prevented layoffs and cutting essential services, Metro warned drastic service cuts would still need to happen if the transit agency didn’t get more aid from the federal government. It eventually did receive more than $700 million in another federal aid package in the spring, but officials are still cautioning that more money is needed to combat continued lower ridership and decrease revenue.
March brought a safety commission’s findings that Metro employees were ignoring proper safety protocols when restoring power. This created “immediate safety risks” for both riders and employees. Additionally that month, Metro was sued for $10 million by the family of the woman who was fatally struck by a train in 2019.
The spring and summer saw continued delays for the $2.8 billion Silver Line Phase II, which will add six new stations and extend the Metro from Reston out to Loudoun County. Despite initially portraying confidence that a Labor Day deadline for substantial completion would be met, it was announced in July that wasn’t going to happen. In the meantime, there were frustrated businesses, disagreements on timelines, and annoyed local officials. Substantial completion finally was announced in November, but the actual opening and running of Silver Line Phase 2 won’t happen until at least May 2022–at the earliest.
In the fall, a train derailment near the Arlington Cemetery station led to more safety worries for Metro. Thankfully, no one was hurt (and passengers got a $21 SmartTrip credit for their troubles), but the derailment of the 7000-series train resulted in 60 percent of Metro’s fleet being pulled out of service for investigation. There was more than two months of reduced service, even with Metro adding back in old trains, before 7000-series trains were put back into service.
But then, two days before the new year, the trains were once again pulled. It’s not immediately clear when the 7000-series trains will be back in service and Metro will again be operating at full capacity.
Metro did have a few good moments, though. After more than a decade of planning, the agency equipped all 100 miles of its tunnels with cell service for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile customers. The agency also lowered fares and got rid of transfer fees in an attempt to lure customers back. Then, there was the Metro-themed wedding in Alexandria that got some social media love.
But Metro continues to face challenges even with the calendar flipping to 2022. Beyond the 7000-series trains remaining out of service, rising COVID cases have left the agency understaffed, forcing bus service to be reduced. This week’s snow storm left some riders stranded as service was suspended. It’s not known when–or even if–ridership will return to pre-pandemic numbers.
While 2021 was a tough year for Metro, so far 2022 isn’t looking any better.
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