While Metro managers are as relentless as ever with the weekend track work program, they have adjusted their strategy. The track sharing system works a bit differently now, and so does the communications system Metro uses to advise riders about the disruptions.
As you will see below in this weekend’s service plan, trains will share tracks on portions of all five lines. That’s the relentless part that since 2011 has become all too familiar to weekend riders.
But in the past, the scheduling of trains left riders will little idea what to expect from a trip through a work zone. After boarding, they might find themselves stuck in a queue of trains waiting to take their turn through the single-tracking zone. Metro would provide estimates of the delay time through the work zone, which might or might not match a rider’s actual experience.
That’s a lot of uncertainty, especially considering that these scheduled disruptions occur two days out of every seven and will continue for years. Metro’s online Trip Planner, which can be very helpful when there are no disruptions, couldn’t adjust to the weekend plans.
Metro now has set the time between weekend trains so that riders shouldn’t be delayed after boarding. From the rider’s point of view, the location of each single-tracking work zone should be a matter of academic interest only. The location should not affect travel time.
And by Friday afternoon, Trip Planner should be adjusted to reflect the real schedule for the upcoming weekend. If you’re going to rider Metrorail on weekends, these are big improvements.
They may not make you more likely to ride Metro on weekends if you have other options. For one thing, the more certain time frames depend on the trains sticking to the adjusted schedules, and the same unexpected problems that plague riders on weekdays can also occur on weekends.
But the most daunting factor will be obvious as you read the schedule for this weekend: On some lines, there are 24 minutes between trains, and on others 20.
Now, if you routinely wait that long, you carry a special curse. It means that you regularly arrive at the platform just in time to see the red tail lights of a departing train. Still, the gaps between trains are wide enough to require an iron-willed adherence to the schedule you got from Trip Planner.
Most of us regular humans aren’t like that. We won’t skip the key lime pie, the bottom of the ninth, or the final five minutes of Man of Steel to catch a train.
So is this better than before? Yes. Are we there yet? No.
Here are the details about this weekend’s service plan. The schedule begins at 10 p.m. Friday and continues through Metrorail’s midnight closing Sunday.
Red Line. Trains will operate every 20 minutes between Shady Grove and Glenmont throughout the weekend. Between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., more trains will be in service between Shady Grove and Farragut North and also between Glenmont and Judiciary Square. In those zones, a train should reach the platform every 10 minutes.
If you’re heading home from Nationals Park or have any other reason for taking the Green Line to the east side of the Red Line, Metro suggests you consider transferring at Fort Totten rather than Gallery Place to avoid the downtown work zone.
If you’re riding through downtown and want to transfer between the west side of the Red Line and the Blue or Orange lines, Metro suggests avoiding a transfer station and instead using the Farragut Crossing: With a SmarTrip card, you can transfer for free by walking between Farragut North and Farragut West.
Orange Line. Trains will operate every 24 minutes throughout the weekend. The work zones are between East Falls Church and Ballston and between Stadium-Armory and Cheverly.
Blue Line. Trains will operate every 24 minutes throughout the weekend. The work zone is between Pentagon City and Arlington Cemetery.
Yellow Line. Trains will operate every 24 minutes throughout the weekend. All Yellow Line trains will terminate a Mount Vernon Square rather than continuing north to Fort Totten. Riders who want to travel farther north should transfer to the Green Line.
At L’Enfant Plaza, Yellow Line riders should watch for signs directing them to the correct platform. All the Yellow Line trains, whether heading for Huntington or Mount Vernon Square, will arrive on the same platform at L’Enfant Plaza this weekend.
Green Line. Between College Park and Branch Avenue, trains will operate every 12 minutes during the day and every 15 to 20 minutes at other times. Between College Park and Greenbelt, trains will share a track. Every other Green Line train will not operate in that zone. If you would normally drive to Greenbelt station and park there, consider driving to the College Park station instead, to skip past the work zone.