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Metro Decides to Clue Riders In

Signs Will Again Show Lengths of Upcoming Trains

By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 22, 2005; Page B01

Regular Metro riders know their drill.

They come into the station, march to the platform and stand facing the tracks in the exact spot -- measured to precision over years of practice -- where they are absolutely, positively sure a car door will appear when the train stops.

Only sometimes the train comes and -- d'oh! -- it has only four cars and stops waaay down the platform.


Besides improving signs on station platforms, some Metro board members want to change the signs outside fare gates to show train arrival information rather than just elevator and escalator outages. (Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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So the riders run, briefcases and purses swinging at their sides, to try to squeeze into an end car. Some get on. Some harrumph in frustration, left to try their luck with the next train.

If only they had known how many cars were on the train.

For a while, they did. The platform signs used to show information on the next two trains, including when they would arrive, how many cars they had and where they were going.

But Metro managers changed the signs in February to list the next three trains and their lines, destinations and arrival times. Passengers love this, but they miss knowing how many cars trains have.

So subway officials announced yesterday that they'll post that information again by the end of May. The new signs will include a two-letter abbreviation for the subway line -- YL or GN, for instance, for Yellow or Green -- number of cars, destination and arrival time. They will continue to show the next three trains.

All of which is pretty critical for Girard Carr, who was a touch beyond distressed yesterday morning while trying to get on a train at Metro Center.

Carr, who lives in the District, knows his Metro well. It's easier for him to find space for his wheelchair on an end car, so he was positioned at the back of the platform right where a door for a train would stop. Provided it had six cars.

Wouldn't you know it? A four-car Blue Line train rolled through.

Carr made a quick pivot, along with several other people, and headed about 40 feet down the platform. But by the time he got there, there wasn't any room left.

Ugh.

So he wheeled back to his previous spot, knowing that the soon-to-be-arriving Orange Line train would have six cars at rush hour.


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