'Essential Travel Only': Metro Says Stay Away If You Can

To try to slow the spread of coronavirus, Metrorail and Metrobus cuts start Wednesday, Metro said

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Metro is telling the public to only ride Washington, D.C.-area Metrorail or Metrobuses if it is “absolutely necessary,” and says visitors to the District's famous cherry blossoms should not take Metro.

“Our region is speaking with one voice: Stay home. Essential travel only,” the transit agency said in a public notice Tuesday evening. 

Metro trains will run with reduced hours starting Wednesday to “allow even more cleaning and to reduce sharing of workspaces and vehicles" amid the spread of coronavirus.

Trains will run every 15 minutes from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. All trains will operate with eight cars, “the maximum possible length, to help maintain social distancing” between riders. 

Buses will operate on a Sunday schedule. If buses are crowded, drivers are authorized to skip stops “to maintain safe social distancing aboard the vehicle.” 

MetroAccess subscription trips are canceled. “Customers with a critical need to travel should make a separate reservation calling 301-562-5360 (TTY 301-588-7535) or via the online reservation system.” 

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said the cuts were necessary to keep riders and workers safe amid the spread of coronavirus. 

“As members of our community stay home from work, school and social gatherings – following the critical emergency guidance of Governors Hogan and Northam and Mayor Bowser – Metro will reduce service and implement measures to reduce risk for employees and the public,” he said in a statement. 

“To be clear, Metro intends to be there to provide service for essential trips in our community – as long as it is safe and appropriate to do so. If everyone does their part and stays home whenever possible, Metro will be there for hospital staff and other heroes who need us at this unprecedented moment in our lives,” Wiedefeld continued. 

Metro urged visitors to the cherry blossoms to steer clear of Metro and instead keep the system free for use by “doctors, nurses, essential governmental functions, etc.” 

The transit agency began to cut Metrorail and bus service last week. Ridership was down almost 70 percent on Monday, the agency said. 

Metro said Monday that a Transit Police officer tested positive for the virus. The officer was stationed at the District 2 headquarters, which is next to the Franconia-Springfield station. Metro was retracing the steps of the Prince George’s County, Maryland, resident. 

Metro urged anyone who feels sick to stay away from Metrorail and buses and instead call their doctor. 

Additionally, all restrooms in Metrorail stations were closed. 

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story. 

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