Metro Trains To Be Shorter On Weekends This Winter

At peak times, Metro will run eight-car trains on the Red, Orange and Green lines, allowing 4,000 more passengers.
At peak times, Metro will run eight-car trains on the Red, Orange and Green lines, allowing 4,000 more passengers. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Metro is reducing train service on winter weekends to save money and decrease wear and tear on rail cars during its slowest season, officials said yesterday.

Metro will run a mix of four- and six-car trains through the end of February, rather than the predominantly six-car trains it has run, said Dave Kubicek, who was recently promoted to rail chief and who made the decision last week to run shorter trains. A four-car train can hold about 800 people, and a six-car train can squeeze in about 1,200.

Kubicek said there would be no change in the frequency of trains. Metro will also continue to add train service for special events on weekends, such as basketball games and concerts at Verizon Center. Officials also pledged to monitor ridership and adjust service if needed. Service will return to normal levels in spring with the onset of tourist season.

The change, put into effect last weekend, comes as Metro board members are proposing the largest increases ever in subway fares and parking fees.

Rail service has been the focus of rider complaints in recent weeks because of the increasing number of service disruptions this fall and fare proposals that would hit subway riders the hardest. The subway increases would affect only rush-hour riders; no increases have been proposed for weekend or off-peak weekday service. The Metro board is scheduled to vote on the fare increases Dec. 13.

Kubicek also said yesterday that he plans to ease overcrowding during the morning and evening rush by operating more eight-car trains on the Red, Orange and Green lines by mid-December. Metro typically runs six-car trains during the peak on all five lines, with some eight-car trains on the heavily used Red and Orange lines.

To address overcrowding during peak periods, Kubicek said he wants to make as many as 10 six-car trains into eight-car trains on the Red, Orange and Green lines, the equivalent of carrying an additional 4,000 people. Metro is using new rail cars to make the longer trains.

About 120 of 184 new cars are in service, Kubicek said, and the remainder are expected to be on the tracks by March.

Kubicek said the decision to run shorter trains on weekends was dictated by the current budget and by ridership, which is lower on weekends. Also, weekend ridership is lower in winter than during the rest of the year.

In January, average Saturday ridership was about 335,000 and Sunday ridership was about 171,000. On a typical weekday, riders make about 700,000 trips.

Last Sunday, ridership was about 165,000. "That doesn't warrant going above and beyond" what's in the budget, Kubicek said.

Metro officials say they will save about $1.3 million by using shorter trains during winter.

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