Metro (WMATA)

Commuting Challenges Likely If Federal Workers Phase Out Telework

OPM says it is beginning a phased transition to returning to normal operations, following local guidelines

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From living rooms to the White House, individuals and groups are eager to reopen the country and get back to work, even as local leaders caution that coronavirus continues to spread through the D.C. area community.

But federal workers will likely face commuting challenges when telework ends. Metro expects trains and buses will limit capacity, require masks and keep shorter hours into 2021.

Right now, the Office of Personnel and Management says it is beginning a phased transition to normal operations and agencies will make decisions based on local rules. Just under 200,000 federal employees work in D.C., the D.C. Policy Center reported.

Commuters know that trains and buses often got crowded as 9 a.m. approached each morning before coronavirus brought most of the region to a halt.

But as coronavirus remains a threat, Metro will likely only allow about 20% of normal capacity on trains and buses to continue with social distancing regulations.

Some transportation officials worry this pandemic will turn people away from the Metro and convince them to commute via car, possibly straining Metro's finances.

But they say the important thing is to keep everyone safe.

"We've really gotta work hard with our federal and local partners to get on the same page," said Charles Allen, Ward 6 councilmember and vice-chair of the region's transportation planning board. "These decisions need to be guided by data, guided by science."

OPM says it remains in continual communication with WMATA and will continue to monitor the situation in order to best position the federal workforce to carry out its mission both effectively and safely.

It's not just federal workers who need Metro. Transportation officials are also worried about students getting to school in the fall if schools reopen.

Metro will brief its board on its recovery plan Thursday. The agency is expected to gradually return service to normal in phases over a year. You can read more about it here.

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