Virginia Railway Express, which brings commuters from the outer suburbs into the inner D.C. core weekday mornings and reverses the process in the afternoons, plans to return to a full (32-train-per-weekday) schedule on June 1.
Whether passengers will follow in great numbers remains an open question. The transit system slashed its levels of regularly-scheduled service on March 17, 2020, in response to the pandemic and its impact on commuter travel.
VRE officials say that with the pandemic hopefully on the decline, the time has come to fully re-start service.
“As people return to the office, we recognize the reduced-service schedule may not be a good fit for their commutes. Convenience is important to our riders, and we are pleased to be able to accommodate them,” VRE CEO Rich Dalton said in a statement. “A return to full service will also allow us to maintain social-distancing on platforms and railcars, even as ridership begins to increase.”
VRE’s constituency, thus far, has yet to embrace a return to rail. For many months over the past year, passenger counts have been roughly one-10th of normal.
As VRE returns to full service, it plans to implement a seasonal schedule on the Fredericksburg Line. This schedule adjusts the arrival times on select trains at certain stations in the afternoon, mitigating the effects of heat-related speed restrictions that occur in summer.
VRE is the 13th largest commuter rail service in the U.S., providing 4.5 million rides in a typical, non-pandemic year.
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