Exit Strategies

A terrible John Cusack movie predicted the end of the world in 2012. I’m predicting something even more certain for the new year: the closure of the south entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro station. The latest plan calls for an 8½-month shutdown (starting around Feb. 1) while WMATA rips out all three troublesome escalators and replaces them with new models.

To some downtown denizens, that practically is the end of the world. “It’s going to suck,” complains 30-year-old Warren Chang, whose office is just two buildings down from the south exit. Although he recognizes the need for repairs — “The escalators are broken every other day,” he says — he wishes the job didn’t have to take so long.

Same goes for Yvette Kirkland, who works across the street at Kababji Grill. The 41-year-old worries about the economic impact of the shutdown. “It’s going to kill this whole section,” she says as we watch throngs of commuters emerge from the station and head directly into Cosi and Krispy Kreme.

If I had to go to Dupont regularly, I’d be dreading the inevitable crowding.

It’s one of the busiest stops in the system, and now everyone will be channeled through one entrance rather than two. Hopefully, some folks will take note of the WMATA signs reminding riders they’ll also have the option of using Farragut North. (It could be a good call, depending on where you’re headed. I timed it: It took just over 4 minutes to get from one side of Dupont to the other, and 7 minutes to get from Farragut to Dupont.)

Speaking of those WMATA signs, they’re everywhere. There’s an electronic one at the foot of the escalators blaring the news and directing people to Wmata.com/Dupont for the full scoop. There are colorful ones posted aboveground, too, explaining various elements of the project and apologizing repeatedly for the inconvenience.

Still, Emily Murray, 34, suspects many of her fellow commuters remain oblivious to the message. “It’s noticeable, but people are busy and rushing around,” she says. And no matter the number of warnings, some people are bound to be surprised when they find out they’ll have to hoof it.

Take, for instance, Circulator riders. The District Department of Transportation has decided not to alter the route between Georgetown and Dupont. That means passengers will continue to be dropped off at the south entrance, which won’t be an entrance at all. Moving the stop to the north side of the circle would mess too much with bus reliability, explains DDOT’s Monica Hernandez.

Achieving escalator reliability just requires some irritability right now. But it could be worse. At least riders won’t be forced to sit through “2012.”

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