DC Metro WMATA Train Station Pixabay

Less than half of commuters who used Metrorail service pre-pandemic are expected back by the end of the year, leaving up in the air how long it will take transit levels will return to their pre-COVID levels.

If ever.

In a report to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, leaders of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) project that commuter totals will be just 42 percent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021.

Some of those reluctant to return will have lingering health concerns, while others will retain the option of working from home (or outside the region entirely), agency officials said.

To address health issues, WMATA officials are at work on upgrading air-filtration systems in stations and rail cars. The new systems have the ability to change the air completely every three minutes, similar to systems in place on aircraft.

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