The National Cherry Blossom Festival begins Friday, and while the millions of tourists converge on the Tidal Basin to take in the sight of Washington’s crop of Yoshino cherry trees, the best part of the festivities for locals will, as always, take place underground. Metro has almost no track work scheduled over the next four weekends as cherry-blossom season runs its course.
Metro usually scraps all its track work this time of year to accommodate the hordes who descend on the Mall and its surrounding neighborhoods to look at trees, struggle with the buttons on Capital Bikeshare stations, and ask you where 14th Street is. (Spoiler: It’s the one with the signs that read “14.”) An estimated 1.5 million visitors are expected to come through DC over the next month, and they’ll need public transit to get around.
The difference this year is that for the first two weekends of the festival, there will crews replacing rails between Reagan National Airport and Braddock Road, causing Blue, Orange, and Silver line trains to run every 18 minutes, instead of the normal weekend clip of every 12 to 15 minutes. Yellow Line trains will also only go every 18 minutes, though the Red and Green lines will run on their typical weekend schedules. All six lines will operate on their normal weekend timetables on April 4-5 and April 11-12.
Peak bloom doesn’t hit until April 11, the final weekend of the festival, but that won’t stop the hordes from getting here ahead of the petals. Metro’s ridership, which has been declining, usually gets a 15 percent bump during the season, with most of those extra bodies getting on and off at the Smithsonian station.