Destination: Mass Confusion

There have been floor ads and station announcements and fliers. There are those new maps I wrote about last week. And on Wednesday, there was a woman in a bright yellow shirt positioned at the top of the Gallery Place escalators handing out pamphlets and announcing, “Changes coming Monday!”

But when I stopped passengers heading in and out of the station to find out what they thought about Rush Plus, the overwhelming response was a blank stare. (And only a few of them were tourists who didn’t speak English.)

“She gave me one, but I didn’t look at it,” said 43-year-old Clyde Brewer, gesturing at the woman in yellow. “It’s going to be all right as long as I can get where I need to go.” Brewer lives near Minnesota Avenue, so here’s hoping he doesn’t wind up on one of the new Orange Line trains to Largo. It won’t bring him to his destination.

Several folks promised to read the pamphlet later, while others asked me to fill them in on what exactly was happening. “This is all news to me. I’m usually on my phone,” another guy told me — while texting on his phone.

If people aren’t aware of Rush Plus, which seems to have gotten more promotion than a summer blockbuster starring Will Smith, then they probably have no clue about all of the other stuff Metro has planned for the next couple of months.

For instance, the day before Rush-meggedon — I’m just guessing that’s what Monday’s disaster will be called — is the launch of Metro’s “better bus” service. The first phase of the rollout includes more limited-stop buses, some routes operating on headways (as in every 10 minutes) rather than on timetables, and a ton of other changes.

Then, there’s the fare hike coming July 1, which will slam paper fare card users with an extra $1 fee per ride. Metro’s helping to ease the transition by letting riders transfer up to $20 from a paper farecard to a SmarTrip card (previously the limit was $7) and putting SmarTrip dispensers in all rail stations. The 10 stations that sell the most paper fare cards will have the SmarTrip dispensers by July 1, and the rest are slated to be installed by September.

And coming this fall is the change I’m most psyched for: auto reload for SmarTrip. Link it to your credit or debit card and whenever you dip below zero, you’ll get a top-up — kind of like with E-ZPass.

It’s a lot to keep track of, even for someone paying attention, and most people simply aren’t.

Exact Change

The first round of Metro’s $5 million “better bus” program, designed to improve on-time performance and reduce crowding, goes into effect on Sunday. Here are some of the changes:

-There will be an hour of additional limited-stop service during both the morning and evening commutes along Pennsylvania Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue.

-Georgia Avenue routes 70 and 79 will switch from a timetable schedule to one based on headways to cut down wait times.

-To provide more capacity on 16th Street, expect more limited-stop S9 buses and 60-foot-long S1 buses.

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