Clock and Roll

November 4, 2011

My morning commute isn’t just planned out — it’s choreographed. I have to lock my door exactly eight minutes before my train is scheduled to depart. From there, it’s a brisk five-minute walk to Baltimore’s Penn Station, where I’m usually headed to my gate when I hear “last call.” At Union Station, instead of following the masses directly to the Metro, I veer left to go to the opposite — and less crowded — entrance. I grab a seat on the first car, which pulls up directly to my exit at Farragut North, so I can zip up the escalator and hoof it to the office in the shortest amount of time possible.

It’s a routine that probably won’t impress many readers, because I’d bet you have similarly structured schedules. To be a regular transit rider means being obsessed with the clock. Everyone knows that not catching that one walk signal, or getting stuck behind an escalefter, can make you miss your Metro train. That, in turn, can make you miss a connection to another line. And that can make you miss a bus. A 10-second delay can easily mean arriving at your destination a full hour later.

So anything that has the potential to shave minutes off a commute is something I’m obsessed with, even if it’s not on my regular route. That’s the deal with Farragut Crossing, which officially opened last week. It’s a virtual tunnel between Farragut North and West — exit the Metro at one stop, cross at street level and enter the other within a 30-minute period and your SmarTrip account will be charged for one ride rather than two.

Hopefully, this will relieve pressure from mobbed Metro Center, and riders who take advantage of the option get to skip two stops. To find out what this new advantage translates into in minutes, I timed it this week during Thursday’s morning rush.

Despite a broken escalator at Farragut North and bad luck with the streetlights, I made it from my train, across the square and into Farragut West in 4:23.7. On the flip side, I started the clock when I hopped on a Blue Line train to Metro Center, then switched to the Red Line, and arrived in 13:31.8. Multiply that difference by five days a week, 50 weeks a year, and riders who use the shortcut could get an extra day and a half of their lives back.

Just think about how much Metro trip planning you could do with that.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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