Blue Line riders need more attention in Metro Rush Plus plan

Robert Thomson
Columnist September 8, 2012

The anger remains high among Blue Line riders over their experiences with Rush Plus .

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

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. View Archive

I board each morning at Braddock Road, where I live, and exit at Farragut West, where I work. It makes little sense to board a Yellow Line train and backtrack west through downtown D.C., so I often find myself standing at the Braddock Road platform (or the Farragut West platform) waiting and waiting for the next Blue Line train to take me to my destination. Gone are the days when I could simply walk from my home or office to the station and count on a Blue Line train arriving within five or six minutes.

This would not be such a big deal but for two circumstances. First, while Metro purports to follow a schedule, Metro trains are rarely on time. Second, the Next Train tool [the real-time arrivals displayed on Metro’s Web site] does not give all the information that a rider in my position needs to get to a station on time to catch a train.

During the a.m. rush at Braddock Road, the board is often displaying three Yellow Line trains but no Blue Line trains. And during the p.m. rush, the board is often displaying three Orange Line trains in a row in the direction of Vienna but no Blue Line trains. And once a Blue Line train does show up on the board, it can be as little as six minutes away from the station. That often is simply not enough time to bolt out the door and catch it.

The Next Train feature is only useful if (1) the board is displaying a train of the color you need and (2) it is displaying it well enough in advance for you to catch the train.

My suggestion: The boards, or at least the Next Train feature, should show the next train of each color to come into each station in each direction. This would be useful not only in deciding when to leave to try to catch that train, but also in deciding whether to take an alternate route.

I don’t have enough information to make a good decision.

— Brendan Morrissey, Alexandria

Since Rush Plus began in June, Metro has shown it can handle the equipment. It can put more Orange Line trains through the Rosslyn tunnel and send more Yellow Line trains over the Potomac River rail bridge.

What it hasn’t shown is that it can handle the riders. The real-time communication requirements necessarily got more complicated, because the rides got more complicated. Morrissey speaks to the experience of many Blue Line riders and offers good suggestions. But Metro’s antiquated train communications system has a long way to go to catch up with customer needs.

Stuck with Rosslyn

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I’ve been a Metro rider for over 13 years. I ride the Blue Line from Franconia-Springfield to Rosslyn every day.

Since the start of Rush Plus, I have to wait for three, four and sometimes five Orange Line trains to Vienna to pass through Rosslyn before I get a Blue Line train to Franconia-Springfield.

This is ludicrous. The second and third Orange Line trains to Vienna are practically empty because they come in succession, while the one Blue Line train that arrives is jampacked.

It is unfair that I have to wait an enormous amount of time for a packed Blue Line train, and often I have to let it go by because there is no room, and then the wait is even longer.

I get to my connecting bus in Springfield later and often miss it, so I get home far later than I did before Rush Plus by up to an hour.

Additionally, there are many people who have to take the Blue Line train to the airport with luggage. There is no room for them, much less their luggage because the trains are full, and some people may also end up missing their flights.

— P. King, Fairfax County

Many Blue Line riders are in the same spot as King. Because they use the Rosslyn station, as a destination or a transfer point, they don’t have a good transit alternative to just standing on the platform and waiting for the next Blue Line train.

The longer wait on the platform is just one issue for these riders. Conditions aboard the Blue Line trains can be unbearable. The misery doesn't end there: For many, there’s a new problem with catching afternoon buses at the end of the train ride.

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or
e-mail drgridlock@washpost.com .

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