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Metro Fumbles Postgame Schedule

Lack of Trains Strands, Angers Redskins Fans

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2004; Page B01

It was bad enough to watch the Redskins lose at FedEx Field earlier this week. But Isabel Bobrow's disappointment was dwarfed by the real ordeal of the night: her ride home to Silver Spring on the Metro.

A subway trip that should take about 60 minutes lasted more than two hours, including an interlude when Bobrow, her daughter and thousands of other football fans sat on trains in L'Enfant Plaza Station that Metro managers decided to idle for as long as an hour.

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The delays weren't caused by train breakdowns or mechanical failures. Transit officials just opted to reduce service to one train an hour as Sunday's game ended and at least 5,000 football fans entered the subway.

The service decision came even as Metro and other officials have urged Redskins fans to take the trains and avoid traffic. Additionally, the team pays Metro a large fee to keep trains running after games at the 91,000-plus-seat stadium in Landover.

Metro's assistant general manager for operations, who learned of the incident yesterday, said he was "outraged" at the train controllers running the subway that night.

"I can't explain it," James Gallagher said. "It's very, very upsetting they would mismanage such a simple problem. . . . The people who are responsible for running the service after hours were focused on the efficient use of trains rather than effective service to customers who were sitting on the trains. That's the reason, and it's completely and utterly unacceptable."

Bobrow, a 78-year-old Redskins fan, was accompanied on her late-night Metro odyssey by her 38-year-old daughter, Rachel Wagner. On their trek back to Silver Spring -- less than 17 miles by car -- the women transferred lines twice, each time with a long wait for trains both arriving and departing.

But the nadir came at L'Enfant Plaza, where they boarded a four-car Green Line train shortly after 1 a.m., sat down and waited. And waited. And waited.

"After 10 minutes, we were wondering why we were just sitting," Wagner said. "After 20 minutes, people started getting really angry. We were being held hostage. They did make some announcement -- not in the car, but in the station, which you couldn't really understand."

Other passengers tried their cell phones in vain to call families or get information; it seems Verizon is the only carrier whose signal operates on Metro lines, and no one in the rail car appeared to have Verizon service, Wagner said.

Weary and awake at an hour when most of Washington was in bed, the women slumped in their Metro seats.

"People were very upset, talking about how they had to get home because they had to get up for work the next day," Bobrow said. Passengers started grousing to anyone in a Metro uniform, including workers on the platform, she said. "But our complaints didn't seem to do any good."

As the women sat, some Baltimore Ravens fans who had driven to FedEx Field had already returned home, 30 miles away.

Finally, the doors closed, and the train moved out of the station. It was 2 a.m.

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