The Wash
Metro station in Washington D.C.
An empty subway station in Washington, D.C.

Transit authority says “seeing flowery trees is not essential”

Riders asked to stay home, avoid viewing cherry blossoms this year.

Metro station in Washington D.C.
An empty subway station in Washington, D.C. (Brennan Hafner / The Wash)

Amerie Mi Jones, a junior at American University in Washington, D.C., was excited to volunteer at this nation’s largest celebration of cherry blossoms. With over 600 positions available on the day of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival parade, she planned on working as a streetmosphere assistant.

Assisting street performers, musicians, dancers, and marching bands was just one of many entertainment jobs at the festival. Every year the parade takes place in Downtown D.C. along historic Constitution Avenue.

People from all over typically line the streets for blocks to watch the two-hour parade, but this year an unexpected virus canceled the festival entirely.

Jones soon learned that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) would cut services to the two stations, Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery, to prevent Cherry Blossom travel and keep visitors from crowding the stations and trains.

“I understood that I wouldn’t be able to volunteer, but not being able to see the cherry blossoms in person is a bit too much,” said Jones.

DC Metro is the first transit system in the US to make service cuts in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19).

In a recent press release, Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said, “Our priority continues to be the health and safety of our staff, guests and all Festival supporters and as such we are following the recommendations of national and global health experts.”

DC Metro quickly moved into its Phase 3 plan, which is the highest level of response for this public health emergency.

On Tuesday, they urged the public not to take public transit unless it’s essential or necessary.


WMATA continues to push to public riders that Metro is for essential trips only, and they should see cherry blossoms another time.

“Seeing flowery trees is not essential,” WMATA stated.

Transit officials are working closely to slow the spread of Covid-19 to protect their employees and customers. They recognize that many of their employees are faced with a tough choice as they try to balance work and family priorities.

subway train in washington, d.c
Train passes through Northeast neighborhood in Washington, D.C. (Brennan Hafner / The Wash)

On March 16, Metro reduced its ridership hours until it could return to normal operations after the health situation is under control.

The Wash reached out to WMATA for comment. At this time, they are only responding to news media requests regarding emergencies and breaking news stories.

A WMATA rep stated over the phone, “at this time students’ requests is a case-by-case basis depending on what’s going on with the [Covid-19] situation.”





Christin Pittman

Currently an American University graduate journalist in the journalism + digital storytelling program documenting what stops me in my tracks.

Writer. Content Curator. Storyteller.

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