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Metro has new plan to ease Orange and Blue line congestion at Rosslyn station

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2010; B05

Metro is planning a major change in service patterns next summer in an effort to alleviate congestion at Rosslyn that is causing delays on the Orange and Blue lines, agency officials told the Board of Directors Thursday.

The proposal, yet to be approved by the board, is also aimed at shifting service to meet evolving Metro ridership patterns and preparing for the future extension of service to Dulles International Airport.

The change would involve shifting three Blue Line trains originating from Franconia-Springfield during each peak travel hour and redirecting them over the Yellow Line bridge to Greenbelt, said Jim Hughes, Metro's director of intermodal planning.

In addition, three trains would be added each peak travel hour between West Falls Church and Largo Town Center to relieve crowding on the Orange Line, Hughes said.

Currently during the peak of rush hour, 16 Orange Line trains and 10 Blue Line trains are scheduled to pass through Rosslyn -- that's one train every two minutes and 15 seconds, or the maximum the system is designed to handle, Hughes said.

"Any type of minor delay results in trains backing up and a cascading effect that delays both Orange and Blue Line trains entering the portal," Hughes said in a presentation to the board.

The change would offer more frequent service to about 15,000 riders, increasing rail capacity for riders traveling from Virginia into the District, and make better use of the Yellow Line bridge, which currently has fewer trains per hour passing through Rosslyn.

However it also would slightly reduce direct Blue Line service to Rosslyn from 10 to seven trips an hour, meaning longer trips for thousands of riders coming from stations south of the Pentagon on the Blue Line.

Metro officials and board members said their biggest concern is how to clearly communicate the change to riders. "I heard from everybody that this is going to be confusing," Hughes said. "We have not yet developed that communication plan."

Metro on Thursday also released its second monthly performance scorecard for the system, showing a continued decline in escalator and elevator performance. Escalator availability dropped to 89.6 percent, compared with the Metro goal of 93 percent, while elevator availability fell to 96.4 percent, slightly below the goal of 97.5 percent.

One reason for the decline is that Metro has taken several escalators out of service as it prepares to take over maintenance of 55 of the system's escalators from the company Schindler, according to the report.

In other developments, Dave Kubicek, Metro's top operations officer, said that 12 of the 100 rail cars taken out of service on the eve of the July Fourth weekend because of a potentially hazardous door problem have been repaired and put back in operation. He said that Metro was still running fewer eight car trains than normal because of the ongoing repairs of door motors on all the 4000 series cars.

And starting in August, Metro plans to give Web site developers and the public access to data about train arrival status, service disruptions and schedule information as long as the third-party developers agree to Metro's conditions for the data use, the agency said in a statement.

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