Robert Thomson
Robert Thomson
Columnist

Metro’s Rush Plus creates a new communications test

Video: The Washington Post’s Robert Thomson explains Metro’s new Rush Plus system, which will change the rush hour schedule for Metro trains.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Now that I have read about the Rush Plus changes (What does that mean, really? “Rush Plus, now with extra aggravation”?), I have been paying extra attention to the level of crowding on the Blue Line trains. Getting on at Pentagon about 7:45, Blue Line trains are already quite full.

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I can’t imagine how much more so it will be with reduced trains. On the way home tonight [Tuesday] from McPherson Square to Pentagon around 5, we were not even allowed on the platform because of crowding caused by delays after some problem at Metro Center . When I finally got on my train, it was sardine city. These things happen all the time. How much worse is Rush Plus going to make them?

With this new plan, Metro is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic . There is no money for any real improvements, so they just keep robbing Peter to pay Paul.

— Alice Cave, Alexandria

Metro is in a tight spot. The transit authority needs to make room in the Rosslyn tunnel for the eventual arrival of the Silver Line and ease crowding in the system, all without building or buying anything.

On paper, at least, Rush Plus could do both. On Monday, we’ll begin to learn whether the years of planning that went into these rush-hour service changes will really pay off for the riders. I say “begin,” because I think this change in transit service will share some characteristics with highway projects. Even if the changes are good, the payoff isn’t immediately clear, because it takes travelers a while to adjust.

Adding complexity

This traveler is thinking about those adjustments:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Arriving at the Franconia-Springfield Metro station as I begin my regular commute to work, I occasionally encounter a person uncertain whether to board a train at the platform.

“This is the only train going in the only direction,” I say, “so get on board.” It’s the end of the Blue Line, and the trains leaving the station are going into the city.

But I won’t be able to give that simple and direct information much longer. Soon, some trains will follow the heritage Blue Line route, but others will switch to the Yellow Line route, crossing the Potomac over the bridge and continuing on the extended Yellow Line.

To make it easier to identify the new routes, I suggest that Metro designate my service as: “Blellow Line,” a blended trip starting/finishing on Blue and traversing Yellow.

— Allen Hausman, Alexandria

I’ve always loved giving directions on a Metro platform. There was so little chance of being wrong. Sometimes, I’ve encountered foreign visitors with limited English. All I had to do was point to one side.

For our Rush Plus guides, I’ve had to think through how to explain the possible destinations of various Yellow Line trains, or what a rider on a downtown platform needs to watch for if the rider’s destination is Largo Town Center.

Just because it’s the first time riders have had to consider these variations doesn’t mean they’re beyond our abilities. In fact, many riders affected by Rush Plus won’t have anything extra to worry about. For example, a commuter who boards at Court House and rides to L’Enfant Plaza won’t have anything extra to worry about.

In fact, if this works right, there might be a little less to worry about. The rider might not have to calculate the odds of squeezing aboard the arriving train vs. waiting and hoping that the next one has more room.

Riders who take Blue Line trains are especially worried about the service changes. But many will see what happens this week and perhaps adjust their arrival times at stations or take a Yellow Line train instead and transfer to complete the trip.

But they’ll need information to work with. Riders can help each other, but the real burden will be on Metro’s communication skills.

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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