Orange/Blue Line trains to operate 24 minutes apart this weekend

August 12, 2013

A Blue Line train pulls into the King Street station in Alexandria. (John McDonnell /The Washington Post)

Metro has late-night work scheduled through Thursday, but the biggest impact of the rebuilding project will come this weekend on the Blue and Orange lines.

Weeknight work

Crews will be working on all the lines overnights through Thursday. The transit authority said that will cause delays of about 10 minutes after 10 o’clock each night through Thursday in these sections where trains share tracks around work zones.

  • Red Line. Between Van Ness and Friendship Heights, and between Silver Spring and Forest Glen.
  • Blue Line. Between Federal Center SW and Eastern Market, and between Braddock Road and Van Dorn Street.
  • Yellow Line. Between Braddock Road and Huntington.
  • Orange Line. Between Federal Center SW and Eastern Market.
  • Green Line. Between Naylor Road and Branch Avenue.

Metrorail this weekend

On both the Orange and Blue lines, trains will operate every 24 minutes throughout the weekend, rather than on normal weekend schedules of every 12 to 20 minutes, depending on the time of day. Crews will work on track circuits between Foggy Bottom and Smithsonian stations.

The biggest effect of this schedule will be on riders at the ends of the lines, in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Between Rosslyn and Stadium-Armory, the tunnel where the two lines share tracks, train service will be more frequent. But in the parts of the suburbs where the tracks separate, riders will encounter that 24-minute gap.

By Friday afternoon, Blue and Orange Line riders will be able to check Metro’s online Trip Planner to see an exact schedule reflecting the weekend disruption. Checking it earlier won’t help, because a rider would just see the normal rail schedule for the weekend.

Some riders who board at the outer stations in the suburbs might be better off traveling to Yellow or Green Line stations and boarding there. Service on those two lines is scheduled to be normal this weekend.

The gaps between the trains on lines undergoing work reflects a recent shift in Metro strategy. The intent is to make service more predictable. Under the old system, the transit authority would tell us that there would be delays of about so-and-so many minutes in the zones where trains shared tracks. Trains would stack up outside the zone waiting to take their turns using the single open track. Trip times were often unpredictable.

The new system spaces out the trains more. If this is working right, there should be no delay for a train at the start of the single-tracking zone. So once that schedule has been loaded into the Trip Planner, a rider should have a good idea about the travel time on a weekend.

As you can see from this weekend’s schedule, the problem is that you really don’t want to miss that train or you will face a very long wait for the next one.

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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