By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Metro is considering rerouting some Blue Line trains between Virginia and the District during weekday rush periods by having them cross the Potomac River on the Yellow Line bridge near the Pentagon, rather than follow the current longer path through a tunnel near Rosslyn, the system's biggest chokepoint, officials said yesterday.
The plan, which would send the trains to Greenbelt, the last stop on the Green Line, outlines the first major realignment of daily service in recent years and is likely to be controversial. It is intended to ease congestion at the Rosslyn portal and provide more service to parts of downtown Washington where economic development has spurred high ridership growth, said Jim Hughes, Metro's senior planner. But it also would mean less-frequent service for riders going from southern parts of the Metrorail system, such as Franconia and Van Dorn, to Rosslyn and points west and to several western downtown stations.
The proposal is to be presented Thursday to a Metro board committee. Before Metro staff members decide whether to proceed with a formal recommendation, they want to interview riders and seek public input over the next four to five months, officials said. If the plan goes forward and is adopted by the board, the earliest it could be put into effect is the end of the year, officials said.
"We're looking at providing more direct service to the eastern part of D.C., where growth has been twice as high as at the traditional downtown stations," Hughes said. Economic development in eastern downtown has triggered a 13 percent increase in ridership between Pentagon and L'Enfant Plaza over the past five years. Ridership between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom has fallen 4 percent during that period, according to agency data.
Under the proposal, rerouted Blue Line riders traveling to L'Enfant Plaza could shave eight minutes off their one-way trip, Hughes said.
On-time performance also has been a growing issue. At the Rosslyn portal, Blue and Orange line trains heading downtown must take turns going into the tunnel. Any minor delay causes huge backups up and down both lines and can also affect the Yellow and Green lines.
Currently, 10 Blue Line trains operate each hour -- every six minutes -- during weekday peak periods between Franconia-Springfield, the Virginia end of the line, and Largo Town Center, in Prince George's County, all traveling through Rosslyn.
The proposal would shift four trains an hour from Franconia to Greenbelt by taking a shortcut at the Pentagon Station, going onto the Yellow Line bridge, then continuing on the Green Line to Greenbelt.
The remaining six Blue Line trains would keep their current route to Largo via Rosslyn, and Metro would keep the same level of rush-hour service between Largo and downtown stations.
The proposal also adds more trains on the crowded Orange Line between West Falls Church and downtown Washington.
But direct service from the southern end of the Blue Line to Rosslyn and points west on the Orange Line, and to downtown stops including Foggy Bottom-GWU and Farragut West, will be less frequent during peak periods, with trains coming every 12 minutes instead of six, officials said.
In some cases, riders might be able to reach some of the downtown stops more quickly by riding the rerouted Blue Line over the Yellow Line bridge to L'Enfant Plaza, one of the biggest stations in the system, and transferring back to westbound Blue or Orange lines.
The proposed realignment would still funnel the same number of trains through the Rosslyn portal because there would be more Orange Line trains. But congestion would be eased, Hughes said, because the signal and track-switching systems would not have to be reset as frequently, a result of fewer Blue Line trains.
Metro plans to seek feedback from riders whose trips originate along the southwestern-most segment of the Blue Line.
In coming weeks, staff members hope to interview about 200 riders who get on at the King Street, Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield stations. Riders' reactions are likely to depend on whether they work on the eastern or western side of downtown Washington.