Dear Dr. Gridlock:
The Capitol South station opened at 7 a.m. and the first train to Rosslyn wasn’t until 7:14 a.m., which would get me to Rosslyn a little after 7:30 a.m.
I was assured there would be shuttles to Arlington at that station. There were, but the shuttle went only to the Pentagon station, and I would then have to catch another shuttle back to Arlington.
There was no explanation of this anywhere. I asked one of the Metro people at Rosslyn why not a direct shuttle to Arlington, and he replied, “That’s just the way they do it. You can’t get to Arlington from Rosslyn.
I have been a tour guide for 19 years, and I know that is not the case.
I ended up catching a taxi and I did make it on time.
Sometimes, Metro just doesn’t think about the riders.
— John Pontius, the District
I wanted to highlight the quirk in the shuttle bus service, because Metro is going to split the Blue Line in the same way this coming weekend. In most cases when Metro interrupts train service for the weekend maintenance projects, the free shuttle buses stop at all closed stations. Sometimes, Metro adds express shuttles to get riders from one end of the disruption to the other.
It’s rare when a driver can’t get to a station from one side of the disruption, but that was the case last weekend and will be again this weekend. If you want to reach the Arlington Cemetery station, you need to do it from the Pentagon side of the Blue Line. The shuttle won’t take you there from the Rosslyn side.
Metro did announce this in advance of last weekend’s work on the rail ties in the area: “Free shuttle buses will operate between Rosslyn and Pentagon stations. Shuttle buses to/from Arlington Cemetery will operate to/from Pentagon only.” But these are easy things for riders to miss.
If you find yourself in the same situation as my letter-writer, and you’re starting from the eastern side of the Blue Line, change at L’Enfant Plaza to a train bound for Pentagon station. Because of the disruption, the weekend service will be set up so that you can do that from L’Enfant Plaza either via a Yellow Line train toward Huntington or a Blue Line train toward Franconia-Springfield.
I asked Metro spokesman Dan Stessel why the shuttle bus service is organized this way for Arlington Cemetery. He said it has to do with traffic patterns and ridership.
The trip from Pentagon to Arlington Cemetery is a clear shot up Route 110, with favorable ramp connections, he said in an e-mail. But that would not be the case for buses heading south from Rosslyn.
The buses could use the George Washington Parkway to reach Arlington Cemetery, Stessel said, but the route has several merges that can be difficult for a bus. The route has some narrow roadways with tight clearances.
Then there’s also the issue of ridership for the trip. Stessel said it’s more efficient to operate a short shuttle route from one station when there are relatively few passengers who want to make that trip. Last Sunday, he said, the buses carried 414 passengers on the Arlington Cemetery route all day.
Red Line, too
I’ve focused on the Blue Line because of the quirk with the shuttle, but the Red Line also will be disrupted again this weekend.
Trains will share a track between Forest Glen and Takoma and between Van Ness and Farragut North to create work zones for a variety of maintenance projects. (No shuttle buses this time, only single-tracking.)