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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 10:25 AM ET, 06/05/2012

Metro riders still trying to figure out impact of Rush Plus service changes

Metro is stepping up its publicity for the new Rush Plus service, but many people still are trying to figure out just what it means for their rides.


A Yellow Line Metro train is seen going from Virginia to D.C. on the Potomac River Metro bridge on Oct. 13, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Ricky Carioti - The Washington Post)
Rush Plus, which starts June 18, was a popular topic during my online chat Monday, and I got many more questions and comments than I could publish. Here are a few of them, with my responses.

Rush Plus Blue Line via Rosslyn: Dr. G, do you know if it the new Rush Plus (aka reduced Blue Line service via Arlington Cemetery line) will at least a predictable or trackable schedule? As a Blue Line customer commuting from King Street to Rosslyn, it makes absolutely no sense for me to travel on the new Yellow Line service though D.C. to get back to Virginia. I would like to possibly time my entrance into the Metro system so I’m not waiting 12, 22 or however long between Blue Line trains via Rosslyn.

DG: Metro has adjusted the Trip Planner on its Web site so that if you enter a time for your commute using a date June 18 or later, you’ll see the Rush Plus schedule. For example, when I enter 8 a.m., June 19, I see that Blue Line trains are scheduled to arrive at King Street at 8:09, 8:15 and 8:27.

That gives Blue Line riders a target — and shows the downside of reaching the platform at 8:16. But as many riders know, Trip Planner reflects the schedule rather than what’s happening in real time. Trains can get bunched up just like buses, especially after a rush hour run through downtown D.C.

Riders can also check the “Realtime Arrivals” listing under a Metro station name on its Web site. Many apps also provide this service. We have one called DC Rider available for mobile devices.

Rush Plus (well really, Minus): Do you know if Metro will be increasing the length of the normal six-car trains for those (16,000ish) of us who will be waiting longer for Blue line trains?

DG: Metro has no plans to increase the number of cars per train on Blue Line because of Rush Plus. Transit officials think that as many as a third of the people who now ride the Blue Line could shift over to Yellow Line trains, either because it will shorten their trip or because they don’t want to wait on the platform for the next Blue Line train.

Rush+: Are any projections available to describe the actual service improvements that will result from Rush+? The problems riders have with transfers are not related to having to switch trains, but rather because the infrequent service adds a lot of time to the commute and increases the odds of overcrowded trains.

Having three trains an hour that remove the need for a transfer seems like an idea that increases the odds for problems, as opposed to, say, running trains more frequently in the preexisting routes. What research did Metro undertake to justify such a complex change to a system that is unable to meet current expectations?

DG: Metro has been studying the realignment of the Blue and Yellow Line service since 2008. It has two main goals: 1) Create space in the Rosslyn tunnel for the eventual arrival of the Silver Line trains, 2) add service to the eastern side of downtown D.C., where more people are living and working than when the current schedule was established.

Transit officials said they anticipate that these changes will provide more service and faster trips for about 110,000 riders on the Green, Yellow, Blue and Orange lines. They estimated that 16,000 passengers will find their travel times increasing.

Rush Plus and Surveys: I’ve noticed Metro has put up a lot of Rush Plus advertising on the trains, but most of the materials don’t seem to include any details on what’s coming.

Are they planning to post more detailed information on the trains and in the stations?

Also, what’s up with the surveys? I commute via Metro five days a week and have not been offered a survey. This morning [Monday], I saw a worker who appeared to have surveys in her hand (or a stack of other paperwork?), but she was chatting with someone else and not handing them out. Has Metro been handing out the surveys?

DG: Some of the Rush Plus ads — such as those stickers on the fare gates with the June 18 date and the Rush Plus emblem — are simply intended to get your attention so you’ll seek out more information.

That information could come from a variety of sources, including little pamphlets that Metro staffers will be handing out, or the new maps in the stations and on trains, or the many stories you’ll see in the Post and other news media over the next few weeks.

You can take that Metro survey online: www.wmata.com/rushplussurvey.

Use the comments field here to give your opinion of Rush Plus or ask more questions. Or write to me at drgridlock@washpost.com. I plan to write a guide to the Rush Plus changes for this Sunday's Commuter page in the Post’s Metro section.

By  |  10:25 AM ET, 06/05/2012

Categories:  Metro, Commuting | Tags:  DC transportation, Metro, WMATA, Rush Plus

 
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