As 2016 comes to a close, the DMV region has yet to see lasting snowfall. While this has been wonderful so far, we know that snow is coming, bringing questions of how we get around. Below we cover WMATA and the City’s plan for keeping us moving during, and after, a snowstorm.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA, has the enormous task of transporting approximately 710,000 rail and 424,000 bus passengers safely every weekday. WMATA, having learned the dangers of cold conditions, has outlined what you can expect during winter storms, summarized below.
Metrorail trains can operate safely with four to six accumulated inches of snow, however, if overly snowy conditions, ice, or extreme cold are present service may be delayed or suspended. Furthermore, during light to moderate snow accumulations (0-6 inches) riders can expect more crowded conditions as more Washingtonians opt to use metro and longer wait times due to the snow and ice clearing operations occurring between regularly scheduled trains. Accumulations that approach 8 inches often lead to above ground rail station shutdowns. WMATA does this to ensure the safety of passengers, protect the third rail, preserve trains, and assure a swift recovery after the storm.
The Metrobus system is a bit more complicated and outlines light, moderate, and severe snowfall expectations for passengers. If there is light accumulation, all Metrobus lines should be operating normally. However, some routes may be detoured on a case by case basis (e.g. areas with large hills or specific areas of ice).
During moderate accumulation and general light ice conditions metro will issue detours for routes that service mostly residential neighborhoods. If the District’s public schools are open during moderate accumulations, bus routes that include schools will operate at set intervals.
Heavy accumulation and icy conditions close the majority of Metrobus routes. However, routes that follow snow evacuation routes and key transportation thruways will remain open, but will experience delays and have shorter operating hours.
All reported detours and service suspensions can be found on WMATA’s website.
The process of snow removal is a shared endeavor between the city’s snow removal team and the city’s residents. DC has a crew of around 750 people and 250 vehicles responsible for keeping our roads snow and ice free, while the estimated 680,000 DC residents are responsible for keeping our residential sidewalks clear.
Before storms are expected, deicing trucks will circulate through the district salting roads. Residents are also advised to salt their sidewalks during this time. Regardless of the severity of a winter storm, the city asks residents to remove snow from their sidewalks within the first 8 daylight hours following snow.
During light to moderate snowfall (0 to 6 inches) plows will move through the streets, targeting emergency evacuation routes first then moving to residential streets.
When more than 6 inches of snow is expected, the mayor can call a state of emergency. While in effect, parking is prohibited on snow evacuations routes, indicated by red signs, and all parked cars may be ticketed and towed. This also means it will take longer for plows to reach more residential streets. A map of snow emergency routes is available. For more information about snow removal, or to see if your street has been plowed, click here.