Metro’s single-tracking tests riders

September 24, 2011

The resilience of Metro riders — both area residents and visitors — was put to the test on Saturday as the system ran Red Line trains on just one track through the heart of the District.

“It’s kind of ridiculous, actually,” said one rider on the platform at Metro Center. “We’ve been waiting a half-hour, maybe,” added Mindy Carter of Charlottesville.

With Red Line trains in both directions sharing one track along a key stretch, requiring intricate coordination and careful switching, unpredictability appeared inevitable. Or so it seemed to Carter, who wanted to travel toward Shady Grove.

As she stood on the crowded platform, she said destination signs on arriving trains kept saying Glenmont — the wrong direction.

Also waiting at the key transfer point was Rhonda Johnson of the District. Asked how bad it was, she said, “Bad enough.”

At Farragut North, a woman who identified herself as Tammy waited restlessly. “Come on, train,” she said.

Sharron Brown of San Antonio needed to get to the Solar Olympics. A marketing company employee, it was her job.“I was an hour and a half late for work,” Brown said as she rode toward Dupont Circle. (Elevator/escalator problems added to the delay.)

Single-tracking has been a fact of Metro life on weekends, to allow vital maintenance. Trains on all but one Metro line were single-tracked over some stretches Saturday. Metro has repeatedly warned riders of 20-30 minute delays.

But single-tracking the Red Line from Judiciary Square to Dupont Circle presented a special challenge Saturday. The Nationals played in town. D.C. United was going to play. Many other events were scheduled.

Conditions appeared to fluctuate from moment to moment Saturday evening.

One witness described the scene at Dupont Circle at one point as chaos, as riders struggled to board the first train they had apparently seen in some time. The witness told of hands thrust in desperation through closing train doors.

“Too many people,” observed another Red Line rider, Jinna Boonchern of Gaithersburg.

Yet many people showed an ability to endure. Matthew Johnson of Crystal City shrugged it off. “Could be better,” he said. A woman who identified herself as Frances said it had been a day of delay. She had just waited 20 minutes for a train. Did that bother her? “No,” she said.

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