Metro rider worries about early arrival of Rush Plus maps on trains

Robert Thomson
Columnist June 2, 2012

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I really don’t understand why Metro has posted the new Metro maps when the changes reflected on those maps are not going to take effect until June 18. So, for [several weeks] the posted maps are going to provide misinformation?

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

This is particularly a concern for the Yellow Line. At least three days per week, I have to explain to people waiting at Fort Totten with their suitcases that the Yellow Line to Reagan National Airport does not service Fort Totten during rush hours. This occurred even when the map stated that the Yellow Line ends at Mount Vernon Square during rush hour. (It said this in a little thought bubble that no one read and that was confusingly worded.)

Now, the new maps show the Yellow Line as serving Fort Totten at all times and as serving Greenbelt only during rush hour, none of which will be true until June 18. Having a little sticker at the bottom of the map that says “coming June 18” is not sufficient. This does not tell the rider what the train schedule is now.

I know that we are constantly getting on Metro’s case about not providing enough information, but this is a situation where providing the information too early is extremely confusing and misleading.

— Melissa Kassier,

Silver Spring

This is a rider who knows her way around Metrorail but is concerned about other riders getting lost. When Metro changes the train schedules under its Rush Plus program, we’ll see a lot more of that. Despite a fair amount of publicity about the changes, there probably will be plenty of confusion on June 18.

Dave Kubicek, Metro’s deputy general manager for operations, and Barbara Richardson, just named chief of staff, said there was little choice but to start deploying the maps and making other changes to signs throughout the system. Thousands of signs need to be replaced to account for the schedule changes affecting all lines but the Red.

This can be confusing, however. The sticker in the lower right corner mentioned by Kassier can easily be overlooked on a moving train, and some train maps are missing the stickers.

Riders also see many other signs in the stations with varying amounts of information about the upcoming changes. Some are just stickers on the fare gates that bear the June 18 date. Richardson said one goal of Metro’s information campaign is simply to generate buzz about the changes, so riders will seek details.

That’s a good thing. These are the biggest service changes since the original lines were completed.

Blue Line riders worry about the impact of Rush Plus, because the line loses three trains per hour during peak periods. But like Kassier, I also worry about confusion among Yellow Line riders, even though they’re on the receiving end of the trains shifting away from the Blue Line.

Here’s something about the Rush Plus Yellow Line you won’t know from looking at the new map: Some Yellow Line trains coming from Virginia will terminate at Mount Vernon Square. Some will continue to Greenbelt. None are scheduled to stop during peak periods at Fort Totten.

Now, the worst that could happen is that you have to get off a train before you expected and wait for another. But I’ve seen plenty of riders annoyed and confused under other circumstances when the train operator says everybody has to get off at Mount Vernon Square. Kubicek and Richardson say the key is remembering to look at the destination sign on the train.

We’ll talk a lot more about this, but here’s a tip: The Trip Planner on Metro’s home page (www.wmata.com) has been adjusted to account for Rush Plus service. So, if you enter a peak period trip for June 18 and beyond, you’ll see the impact on your own 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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