Metro weekend work is relentless, and still disruptive, riders say


This 2012 photo shows Farragut North station, which doesn’t look much better now, with the ceiling still under repair and the escalator to the right of the brown pylon shut for rehabilitation. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

The debate, such as it was, over Metro’s weekend track work program occurred in 2011. During the first half of the year, Metro managers outlined their plans for an increasingly aggressive approach to rehabilitating a deteriorating system.

They described plans to make station closings a more frequent part of the weekend rebuilding activities.They did not want to shut down entire lines, but did consider ending the night-owl service on Friday and Saturday nights to speed up the rebuilding.

That was rejected, but other basic elements of the plan remain in place, including the weekend combinations of station shutdowns on some lines and track-sharing around other work zones. Extended disruptions on long holiday weekends became a regular part of the program.

The black-out dates with no service disruptions were to be very limited: Cherry Blossom Festival, July 4, Thanksgiving weekend, demonstrations and “select events,” Christmas and New Year’s.

There wasn’t a great deal of public discussion about this plan. But there’s been plenty since, as Metro has pretty much stuck with the program, rarely altering its track work schedule because of events likely to draw big crowds. In the nation’s capital, Metro managers say, there’s always a big crowd for something — sometimes for several somethings at once.

This Sunday afternoon, for example, the University of Maryland is holding a graduation ceremony in College Park and D.C. United is playing at RFK Stadium. Ballston has the Taste of Arlington street festival. Metro’s weekend work on the Green, Orange and Red lines is bound to affect people attending those events.

We’ve got at least a few more years of this, and the impact on weekend travelers, communities and businesses continues to evolve. I’ve received complaints about last weekend’s disruption on the west side of the Orange Line, and plan to have a letter about that in my Sunday column. But here’s another that also will convey the bewilderment and frustration of people who get caught up in these disruptions.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Friday night [May 10], over 37,000 fans attended the Nats-Cubs game, and 20,000 attended the Caps playoff game. With nearly 60,000 sports fans attending these two events, and both ending between 9:30 and 10 p.m., why didn’t Metro consider delaying the start of their weekend track work until maybe midnight so these folks could get home?

My brother had been more or less forced to park at the West Falls Church Metro station because of the unmoving inbound traffic on I-66. When he took the Orange Line to get back to his car, the trip was terminated at Ballston because it was a few minutes after 10 p.m.

So here there is a trainload of mostly Nationals fans fighting to get on the three shuttle buses available; in a few minutes they were joined by a couple of trainloads of Caps fans, and the added enjoyment of a sudden cloudburst. Eventually he managed to share a taxi to West Falls Church.

A large percentage of the fans who ride Metro to sporting events are not regular Metro users, as evidenced by the huge lines for the fare card machines before and after the games.

It seems to me that if Metro is trying to lure more commuters out of their cars and into the transit system, treating them like this can only turn them completely off and kill any chance of their becoming regular Metro users.

These were publicly advertised events, and a little common sense would have made it immediately evident that shutting down large chunks of the system before these folks had a chance to complete their trips was a really bad if not incredibly stupid idea.
– Mike Kelley, Alexandria

 

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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