The maiden voyage of Metro’s Rush Plus service was over in two and a half hours this morning, or about as long as it took Titanic to sink. Our local mini-drama already has generated scores of stories from travelers who consider themselves either victims or survivors.
Unlike the ocean liner, Rush Plus will return again and again. So before first impressions become muddled with second impressions and harden into legend, here are some experiences written down by contributors to Monday’s online discussion.
Let me say first that my comparison to the ill-fated voyage holds only for the time element and the fact that many participants have dramatically different views of what actually happened during those hours.
My own view of the morning is that we may have sprung some leaks, but the watertight doors held. So I begin with the most moderate of reader comments.
“There were some hiccups the first morning of a big change and you want to tear it all down? That makes as much sense as saying, ‘There was congestion on I-95 today. Tear it down! It doesn’t work!’”
DG: Plenty of my readers would be happy to jackhammer I-95 into oblivion. But I hear what you’re saying about the first morning. People one train up or down the line — or even aboard the same train — could have had different experiences with crowding. That’s certainly what I saw while watching inbound Orange Line trains pass through Court House station.
“I’m a late commuter — board at Virginia Square [on the Orange Line] a bit before 9 each morning — and my train was still crammed. But I noted that the trains at this point were six minutes apart rather than the usual, dismal 12 minutes apart. Is that a result of the Rush Plus effort?”
DG: Rush Plus puts more trains on the Orange Line between 6:30 and 9 each weekday. So, yes, riders on the crowded west side of the line should see more trains than they’re used to.
“My normal commute from Vienna to Foggy Bottom this morning was actually SLOWER than usual! I enter the station each morning between 7 and 7:05 a.m. and, unless there is a sick passenger, mechanical failure or some other interruption, I disembark at Foggy Bottom 30 minutes later.
This morning as I entered the platform, a nearly empty train was pulling out of the station, and the next one didn’t leave for another six minutes. Okay, not great, but I figured that wasn’t too bad, even though we left Vienna SRO. Then the train stopped for an additional 90 seconds at two stations for the always curious “schedule adjustments” while people continued to pile on.
By the time we got to Foggy Bottom about 35 minutes later, the train was as packed as I’ve ever seen it at that time of the morning. How is this better? How is this Metro Plus?
DG: Putting more trains on the line doesn’t mean the train equipment is any better, or that riders are any less likely to get sick and require attention. So the things that slowed down your trips before still can be factors.
Metro reported these problems this morning:
A southbound Yellow Line train had a door problem and the passengers had to get off at Pentagon, resulting in a delay estimated at nine minutes; an eastbound Orange Line train was delayed four minutes at Federal Triangle because of a medical emergency aboard the train.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the latter situation required some Blue and Orange Line trains to hold at stations to the west.
“My commute is Rosslyn to Smithsonian (which should be relatively easy) but I waited eight minutes for a really crowded Blue Line train, and I’m sure the several Orange Line trains directly behind it were even worse.
“In theory, there should not be a difference at Rosslyn because the missing Blue Line trains will be on the Orange Line, and it should even out. But Metro can’t keep on a schedule, that causes the back-up at Rosslyn and that won’t change with Rush Plus.”
DG: With three fewer Blue Line trains per hour, there should be less switching between Blue and Orange at Rosslyn, but the other, familiar problems can continue.
Ballston to King Street
“I am one of those who loses on Rush Plus. I start at Ballston, transfer at Rosslyn, and exit at King Street. My commute took exactly the same amount of time as usual, though I got lucky by having only a four-minute wait at Rosslyn to head south.
Even if I time it right, if there’s a back-up on Orange Line getting into Rosslyn I could hit the 12-minute wait to King Street. I don’t see how going to L’Enfant Plaza could possibly be any quicker than waiting at Rosslyn.”
DG: No. Wait at Rosslyn. The possible benefit to you in Rush Plus is that you’d board more quickly at Ballston and have a less crowded ride to Rosslyn.
By the way, I was complaining earlier today about a next-train information sign on the inbound platform at King Street that lacks information. Stessel said there’s a chronic problem that sign that Metro is trying to solve.
“I’m definitely in the Rush Minus camp. Live in Crystal City and take Metro to McPherson Square. Took 45 minutes (15 minutes longer) today to get to work.
“Got on the first Yellow Line train that came my way (six-minute wait) and attempted to transfer to the Red Line at Gallery Place to get to Metro Center where I could walk. Had to wait for the second Red Line train because the platform and trains were so jammed.
“Definitely not working for me. Pay extra to live close to the city and my commute just got worse. Any hope that they’ll improve service or at least cut the fees for those of us who typically take the Blue Line into the city?”
DG: Metro is no more likely to cut fees for Blue Line riders under Rush Plus than it is to increase them for Orange and Yellow Line riders.
This rider is attempting something different rather than just waiting for the next Blue Line train, so that’s good. I think I’d also try transferring from the Yellow Line at L’Enfant Plaza and taking either the Blue or Orange Line to McPherson Square.
Speaking of trials, Mark Berman and I plan to test ride from King Street to Farragut West, with one waiting the 12 minutes for the next Blue Line train and the other taking the Yellow Line and transferring.