Metrorail line changes can confuse riders
By Robert Thomson,
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
What was Metro doing with the Orange Line last weekend? I entered the Foggy Bottom station around 4:30 p.m. [Feb. 11] with the goal of getting to New Carrollton. The list of upcoming trains showed two Yellow Line trains to Stadium-Armory bracketing a Blue Line train to Largo. Those were all the trains for the next 15 minutes. No sign of an Orange Line train at all.
I dithered over whether or not to board the Yellow Line train when it arrived but finally decided to do so, figuring if nothing else it would break up the train ride. It was a good thing I did, because as soon as the Yellow Line train went out of service and left Stadium-Armory, an Orange Line train showed up. Where the heck did it come from, because it sure wasn’t on the schedule for Foggy Bottom?
— Kevin W. Parker, Greenbelt
Parker’s questions about a recent weekend ride illustrate something important about much bigger changes coming up.
Here’s the background: One of several big maintenance projects affected a segment of tunnel normally shared by Green and Yellow Line trains. The weekend of Feb. 11, crews worked on upgrading the cellphone service in the tunnel between L’Enfant Plaza and Mount Vernon Square.
Metro cut back on service in that tunnel, allowing only Green Line trains to operate. Yellow Line trains were diverted onto part of the Blue Line route. So they spent the weekend traveling between Huntington and Stadium-Armory.
But not every traveler studies and memorizes what we say, and it’s easy for travelers to miss such announcements. Many transit riders get their information about the train schedule by walking onto the station platform and looking up at the electronic display that shows the arrival time, line color and destination for the next few trains.
Since the Yellow Line trains were following the Blue Line route through the Rosslyn tunnel, they may have temporarily crowded out information about the next Orange Line train to New Carrollton, leaving riders puzzled about the Orange Line status.
Here’s what’s ahead: That weekend rerouting of one line was nothing compared with what’s coming this summer, when rush-hour riders will see new colors and destination signs on several lines. That stems from the need to realign service on the Blue Line, but the effects will be widespread.
Metro is going to call this service “Rush Plus.” When it starts, somebody’s going to get lost.
Whenever Metro thinks it’s done enough publicity about the upcoming changes, it should do some more. And the transit authority should recognize that transit riders don’t necessarily see posters about service changes, or hear announcements over the loudspeakers.
What about seniors?
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In all the reporting I have seen on Metro’s proposed fare increases, including a huge flat fee for printed fare cards as opposed to SmartTrip cards, there has been no mention of what will happen with senior fare cards. These are printed and permit seniors to ride at half fare. Can you enlighten us on this?
— Barbara van Voorst, Arlington
We haven’t said much about the fares for seniors and people with disabilities because the fare formula wouldn’t change, even if the fares go up as proposed this summer. But let’s review that.
The fares for seniors and people with disabilities are half the regular fare rounded off to the nearest nickel, and that would continue. (The regular fare is the rush-hour fare, not the off-peak fare.)
While the formula would stay the same, the price of a ride might not. If the fare goes up for everybody, then the fare will go up for seniors and people with disabilities. They now pay between 95 cents and $2.50 for a Metrorail ride using a SmarTrip card. Under the fare plan proposed by General Manager Richard Sarles, they could wind up paying $1.05 to $2.85, depending on how far they ride.
That’s half the rush-hour fare that other riders would pay.
Sarles is proposing one major change in the fare system: People who buy paper fare cards would would pay a flat fee of $4 off-peak and $6 peak. Here again, the formula would apply. Seniors and disabled people would pay half the peak fare, or $3, no matter what time they travel.
The Metro Board also wants to consider a plan in which the flat fare would vary depending on geographic zones. There would be an inner zone, where the paper fare card trip would cost $4, and an outer zone, where the charge would be $6. If that system is adopted, seniors and disabled people would pay $2 for inner-zone travel with a paper card and $3 for outer-zone travel.
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