Metro: Roads and Rails

Steven Ginsberg and Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 6, 2006; 11:00 AM

Do you think Metro has grown unreliable and become downright unpleasant? Or are you happy with your commutes on rail and bus? Does the thought of the inter county connector (ICC) keep you up at night or does it seem like it's long overdue? And what of the moves by Maryland and Virginia to encourage the private sector to build road projects, such as widening the Capital Beltway?

Washington Post staff writers Steven Ginsberg and Lyndsey Layton were online Monday, Feb. 6, at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions, feel your pain and share the drama of getting from Point A to Point B.

A transcript follows.

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Steve Ginsberg: Welcome back commuters. Metro is running 8-car trains on the Orange Line, Virginia is debating all sorts of measures to raise money for transportation, Virginia is considering extending the exemption for hybrid drivers in HOV lanes and the Steelers won the Super Bowl. What could be more exciting than all of that?! So let's hear what ya got to say...

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Washington, D.C.: Hello,

I have already submitted what is below to the comments section of the WMATA web site and also to Dr. Gridlock. You might wonder why I kept waiting rather than hop on the train. Consider it empirical data needed for my complaint letter.

I am writing to complain about the absolutely off-schedule #70/71 bus. I chose to take the bus tonight rather than take the metro to my home near Waterfront metro because the green line is always at least a 12 min. wait. Seeing how it was just a touch after 9, I thought I would catch the 9.04pm 70 to 4th and M SW and save some time. Yeah, right, that bus never showed up, neither did the 9.17pm bus, 9.29 bus, and the 9.41 bus was 5 minutes late. But maybe that bus that came at 9.46 was really one of the earlier buses. Who knows?!In all that time I waited, 3, count 'em, 3 buses going to Silver Spring passed thru. What is up with that? You can get 3 buses going North but you can't get 3 buses to go South? I live in the city, without a car. I rely on public transport, as do several thousand other residents. You would think that scathing article the Post did on the bus system would force you to take corrective action to ensure that your bus schedules don't leave your riders steaming mad. Clearly it didn't.

Lyndsey Layton: Hi carless Washingtonian,

Your experience is frustrating and all too common, as we reported in the December story you referenced. As a fellow bus rider, I'm placing my hope for improvement on Dan Tangherlini, Metro's incoming general manager. He says addressing the shortcomings of the bus system is one of his priorities.

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Laurel, Md.: I sympathize with the gentleman from Stafford who has to hitchhike all the way from his house to work because of the lack of public transportation alternatives in exurbia.

I live in Laurel, and am totally at the mercy of MARC. If some nutcase (such as a former embezzler) decides to let a train run over him, I have little or no alternative. Trains were cancelled when that happened, and I was made to go to Greenbelt to catch a shuttle bus. They were never deployed since the investigation apparently ended in time for another train to leave.

And if I don't catch the last MARC, there are no buses to Laurel that run past 7:05 p.m.! What's wrong with this picture?!

Steve Ginsberg: Suburbia, especially outer suburbia, is generally designed to be reliant on the automobile; transit service often seems to be an afterthought. This area is certainly no different. We hear a lot of complaints about lack of bus service in the suburbs, but local governments can't/don't do much about it because the suburbs are so spread out. Ten people may want to take a bus down, say, Route 28 but does that merit the expense of a whole new line out there? Much of this problem is caused by land use planning that leaves few transportation options besides cars.

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Franconia, Va.: I always assumed the criticism of the Orange Line crowding was overblown. But I learned differently over the holidays. During the day, my nice Blue and Yellow Line Virginia trains fill up steadily stop by stop until there is standing room just for a few stops inside DC. Then I got on the Orange Line at the last stop after 9 am, and the train had tons of people standing in the aisles within 2 stops, with many more stops to go. It was like I had gotten onto a completely different subway system. Have the new 8-car trains helped this at all? Is there hope on the horizon? I pity the Metro West residents of the future.

Of course, with BRAC's disastrous expansion of Fort Belvoir on the way, maybe the Blue and Yellow lines won't be so nice either in a few years.

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Franconia,

Early reports from Orange Line riders regarding the use of 8-car trains were not good. People complained that trains were just as crowded but that the wait between them was longer.

This makes sense when you consider the total number of cars on the Orange Line hasn't changed - they've just been rearranged to create some eight-car trains and, as a result, the frequency of trains is reduced.

But the problem that this rearrangement was supposed to solve - the frequent stops the trains make as they travel through the Rosslyn tunnel - has apparently not improved much.

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Petworth, D.C.: I'm wondering how DC residents and DDOT are going to maneuver the narrow gap between residential parking and the triple parking visitors to the city on Sunday mornings. We haven't resolved the issue whether DC street parking is for residents or visitors. In Adams Morgan, there's a lot of feeling that the suburban drivers are not entitled to drive in and park for late night and weekend activities, but are suburban churchgoers given some different status?

Steve Ginsberg: In short, yes, they are given different status. Partly because churches draw more support than night clubs and partially because Sunday morning traffic tends to be lighter. I'm not so sure about that one anymore. I find myself more and more getting stuck on Sunday mornings trying to get around church-caused backups.

As for the residents vs. visitors debate, which, as an Adams Morgan resident, I am intimately familiar with, I think I side with putting meters everywhere and allowing permitted residents to park free. That seems like the right balance to me.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I'm sure that you guys get asked this all the time, but is there any serious talk going on now about the purple line??? Every now and again I hear mutterings about it, but I was just wondering if there was any progression in actual planning.

Steve Ginsberg: The purple line is clearly in the background. I'm sure there is some sort of nominal study proceeding with it, but the bottom line is that there are no plans to do anything about it anytime soon. Ehrlich's two transportation priorities are the ICC and express toll lanes, both of which are going pretty well for him right now.

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Chesapeake Beach, Md.: They are talking a lot this week about light rail to Waldorf. Would heavy rail, such as a Metro extension down Route 5, be a better solution?

Steve Ginsberg: Depends what you're looking for. Heavy rail has the advantage of speed and uniformity with the rest of the Metro system. But light rail is less expensive and could likely be built sooner.

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Anonymous: The story today regarding the blind woman was absolutely devastating. I don't understand why it is so difficult to fix this program. It seems like a fairly basic service to run.

Have they considered hiring some taxi company managers to come in and take things over? I don't see much of a difference between Metro Access and a standard cab company (with the obvious exception of reduced fares).

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Anonymous,

To be fair, curb-to-curb transit service for the disabled is actually fairly complicated, and many cities around the country struggle with it. That said, it appears that MetroAccess service since Metro changed contractors on Jan. 15 has been disastrous for many of the people who rely on it.

Metro does in fact use some taxi cab service to supplement MetroAccess but taxis raise separate issues - they are a lot harder for Metro officials to regulate and track and pose the greatest risk in terms of fraud. Last year, some taxi cab drivers running MetroAccess trips falsified bills and got reimbursements from Metro (ultimately paid by taxpayers, btw) for trips that were never run, for trips that were more expensive than they should have been, etc.

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Marbury, Md.: Is there any guidelines about taking a bus out of service and really repairing it? I believe I've been on the same bus (9620) on the W19 route that has filled with smoke on 3 occassions in the past year and had an electrical problem last Friday which had us limping into the Southern Avenue station. I'm tempted to wait for the next bus when I see this bus pull up!

Steve Ginsberg: Yikes. That's one way to drive away customers. Dan Tangherlini, who will take over Metro later this month, has promised to do a better job of dealing with these types of situations. So I'll post your comment and we'll see if anything changes anytime soon.

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Annandale, Va: I did something stupid last weekend. I tried to take my kids to spend an early few hours at the auto show, before other engagements took over the day. The stupid part was trying to take the metro from Dunn Loring to do so.

Metro was doing some work on the track but in the FORTY FIVE minutes we waited for a train in, there was no announcement, nothing on the signs, NO information. I could've driven to Alexandria and taken a yellow line in, if I knew. I could've driven in, in the time we were waiting for a train.

Concerns over the timing of the ride back and delays getting in compressed out five-hour visit to three. The show was fine. A miserable time was had by all.

Does Metro even CARE if riders are happy?

Steve Ginsberg: Wow. Metro has been putting out announcements at the end of each week alerting riders to potential delays of 5 to 10 minutes for weekend work. Seems like they've underestimated by a wee bit. And it's unforgivable not to make any sort of announcement. Information is the lifeblood of Metro riders and yet there's oh so much room for improvement in that regard.

Anyone else finding lengthy weekend delays?

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New Carrollton, Md.: Lyndsey, I'm not last session's chatter, but surely you of all people must know that Metro says ALL THE TIME that train operators cannot manually override pre-set door closing times! They say it every time people complain they are unable to get off crowded trains before the doors close, or to get onto half-empty cars from crowded platforms because it took so long for disembarking passengers to get off. Remember the fuss some years ago when Metro doors closed on a baby carriage, leaving the distraught mother standing on the platform? Unless things have changed, the answer is always that operators can't override pre-set computer closing times. Everybody knows this is not true, but Metro insists on saying it anyway.

Lyndsey Layton: Hi New Carrollton,

There are no pre-set door closing times, and no Metro official I've ever spoken with has suggested anything to that effect. The operator's job is to check the platform to make sure all is clear before he or she hits the door closing button.

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Edgewater, Md.: I read an article last week about extending the Green Line to service Ft. Meade and BWI. Is this a real possibility? Also, I have always felt the Orange Line should be extended along Rt. 50 to service Bowie, Crofton, and ultimately Annapolis. What have you heard about these ideas? Thanks.

Steve Ginsberg: There's no shortage of plans for extending the Green Line, Orange Line and all other Metro lines all over the region. Metro managers can show you all sorts of fun maps about where they'd like the system to go. The problem is a lack of money and political will. You could say the same problem exists with new and different roads.

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Washington, D.C.: Well we have gotten rid of the CEO/GM and contrary to what he believes the system is worse than we he started. How do we replace the Board of Directors and put term limits on them. Any one of them that negotiated Richard White's contract allowing him such a golden severance package.

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Washington,

You'd have to take that up with Congress, the ultimate authority over Metro.

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Orange Line: The Orange Line train that comes through Ballston at about 6.20am is now an 8 car, and is pretty empty.

Lyndsey Layton: Ok, thanks for the tip. If you want a seat, be at Ballston at 6:20 a.m.

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Rockville, Md.: Do you think that the voice change for Metro's "Doors Closing" etc. will really make a difference?

In this "me first" society, I believe the only thing they could say to make people not push their way into a train is "$5 for each person waiting for the next train" and to get people in the train to move away from the doors is "Free money in the center of the car".

Lyndsey Layton: Well, now, that's a novel approach that I don't think has been employed elsewhere.

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Kingstowne, Va.: The debate about DC church parking really makes me glad I don't live in the city, and it also astounds me. The idea of allowing SOME parking variances seems fine--parking on the median, for example, or slant parking instead of parallel parking on Sundays. I find it ASTOUNDING that churchgoers are permitted to block driveways, fire hydrants, etc. Do you folks know whether emergency vehicles' response capability has ever been hindered by the illegal parkers? If even one person has ever died because the ambulance couldn't get to a house due to church parkers blocking the street, then I think the churches lose all support for their position.

Steve Ginsberg: I don't know of any specific cases of this happening. The driver part of me gets irritated whenever I come up on a street blocked by churchgoers, but the other part of me doesn't really get too upset about it. I mean, these are people going to church on Sunday mornings. Yeah, they get special treatment. But, really, if not them, who should? Is it better to give some parking spots to restaurants for valet parking, or to Zip-Car for shared cars?

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Metro to BWI: Is Maryland serious about Metro to BWI?! I'm all for increased transit access, but BWI is a long way from Branch Avenue.

Lyndsey Layton: Hi,

Yes, I believe the Ehrlich administration is serious about extending Metro from Greenbelt to BWI. And you're right, it would be a butt-numbing ride from Branch Avenue to that airport. About the same butt-numbing quotient as a ride from Metro Center to Dulles on Metro.

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Steve Ginsberg: Much of Gov. Kaine's transportation plan was killed in a House of Delegates committee this morning. What do y'all think of that? Is Kaine right to raise some taxes to pay for fixes, or are House members who are opposed to new taxes right to say no? And if you side with the House position, what are your thoughts on how to improve commutes?

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Washington, D.C.: Greetings. On the 8-car train service on the Orange Line, we are still working out some wrinkles with the train schedules. Operators are still getting used to operating 8-car trains. We believe the service will be beneficial in the long run. Since the service started last Monday. there have been a total of 48 complaints. Ridership on the line averages 117,000 a weekday. Metro media relations

Lyndsey Layton: A message from the helpful folks at Metro's media relations office. Thanks.

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Orange Line: How is Metro still running 4-car trains during rush hour on the Orange Line? With them crowing about 8-car trains, how about just making sure that EVERY train has at least 6 cars?

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Orange Line,

I believe the plan calls for a mix of 6-car and 8-car trains on the Orange during the morning peak. If there's a 4-car in the mix, it likely means there was a shortage of working rail cars and transit managers didn't have enough to run a 6-car train that morning.

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Arlington, Va.: Is there a universal clock by which all Bus Drivers set there watch?

Lyndsey Layton: HA!

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8-car mornings...: How can Metro have enough cars to run 8-car trains in the morning but not in the afternoon? Where do the cars go?

Lyndsey Layton: The cars go to the rail yard, where they power down, watch a little reality TV and call it a night.

Metro could run 8-car trains in the evening but it would increase operating costs.

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8 Car Trains Good!: Every day since they've been running eights, I have had the luxury of a seat in an end train. Yet I see people jammed up, standing in the middle six cars. These must be the people complaining. My commute is from Metro Center to Ballston, if that matters.

Lyndsey Layton: Everybody to the last or first rail car!

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Washington, D.C.: RE: moving to the center of the train - I live on the red line, and in the mornings, the train is packed, obviously. But since I'm only 5'4", and I am physically incapable of reaching the ceiling rail, it's impossible for me to move to the center of the aisle. (Well, technically I can reach the rail, but I can't grasp it.) So, please keep in mind, when you're frustrated that people won't step to the center - it might be due to this design flaw rather than the person's "me first" mentality. I read somewhere that you have to be 5'8" to comfortably use the ceiling rail.

Lyndsey Layton: Hang on 5'4", the next generation of Metro cars will have poles from the ceiling to the seatbacks, distributed throughout the car.

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Alexandria, Va.: Good morning. I know that Metro officials monitor your chat so I was hoping you could post a comment I have regarding the Huntington Station at the end of the Yellow Line.

I have noticed that at most every other station, there are signs that indicate when the next train will be arriving. Not so, with Huntington - the sign just functions as a clock. Is it so hard for Metro to include this service at Huntington? Thanks!

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Alexandria,

I'm taking a flyer here but I think it has something to do with the fact that Huntington is a terminal station. But I'd be happy to post a reply from Metro folks.

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A Better Metro: (at least for me)- I have a couple of small changes that would make my commute better.

At Silver Spring, have gates on both sides of the station. Right now, the exit is only on the side facing the bus lot. So travelers coming from the opposite direction have to enter/exit after crossing under the tracks. There's room for a couple of gates- that would help workers at NOAA and morning MARC commuters.

If the Red line is the most packed line, why do 2 of 3 escalators go up in the morning against the Red line travelers switching to Blue/Orange line? It gets so congested as people try to go down only 1 escalator (incoming from Glenmont) And it's reversed in the PM, so you have the same problem-- 1 escalator up...

Thanks.

Lyndsey Layton: From your keyboard to Metro's monitor.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi,

Church or bars, there should be ZERO excuse for double parking, blocking fire hydrants, parking residents in, etc. No excuse. And to give the excuse that because people are going to church rather than spending money in a restaurant or bar, just doesn't wash. What happens when someone needs to rush their child to the hospital (GOD knows you don't want to have to rely on DC paramedics), or some other such emergency? Churches should definitely not be given preferential treatment, and it's ludicrous to think they should be. Absolutely ridiculous.

Steve Ginsberg: Well, one thing to note is that in the case of the churches there is usually someone out there with the cars. In the cases I see, they don't just park 'em and go inside for two hours. I understand your point about emergencies and I'm sure someone has thought of that. (I'll try to get an answer on it for our next chat.) But I just feel like cities are big, diverse, weird and complicated places and there needs to be some diversion from the rules every now and then or else they just become big and sterile.

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Washington, D.C.: "But, really, if not them, who"? I won't answer the who, but I can certainly say "not them." What in the world makes you think the sanctimonious are entitled to parking privileges?

Steve Ginsberg: What makes you think they're sanctimonious?

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Herndon, Va.: Steve: Are you saying that because those folks are religious, they are above the law? Wish that worked for me on the cop who gave me a speeding ticket on the way to church yesterday morning.

Steve Ginsberg: Geez, folks. I'm not saying churchgoers are above the law or that they have some special relation with God that allows them to park wherever they please. What I'm saying is that we shouldn't be so darn stringent about the RULES all the time. Is it so terrible to let churchgoers double park for a couple hours every Sunday? Maybe. If you're asking for my opinion it's this: While annoying to drivers, including myself, I just can't get that upset about making an exception so people can go to church.

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Arlington, Va.: Someone just posted that there's an empty 8-car train at 6:20 am, which makes me wonder about the rush hour times. I can't imagine trains are that crowded at 6 am, yet they're jammed at 8 and 9. Why not shift service back a little? Was it only because Dick White rode an early train?

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Arlington,

Such a simple, common-sense question. Such a convoluted answer. It all has to do with where the rail cars are stored and where they are positioned at the start of service, and the trip time to make it down the line and back. That train that reached Ballston at 6:20 a.m. probably started from Vienna at 6. Figure that train gets to New Carrollton by about 7 a.m. The operator turns it around and it goes back into service at, say, 7:10 a.m. and it reaches Metro Center by about 7:30 a.m.

The single hour on a weekday that is most crowded on the Metro is 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. So you want an 8-car train at Metro Center at 7:30 a.m. That's just about perfect. Better yet, it gets back to Vienna by about 8 and then is heading back downtown again still at the height of the rush.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: It isn't just churchgoers. I can't get out of my driveway or garage or even the alley during the High Holidays - Jews who are observing our most solemn holiday at Adas Israel regularly block me in so I can't get to MY synagogue.

Nobody does a thing about it.

Steve Ginsberg: Yes, I should have mentioned that by church, I meant synagogue, mosque, etc. I also should add that they shouldn't block driveways and garages.

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Sterling, Va. I take the Orange line from WFC each morning (after driving to Wiehle and taking FFX Connector to Metro) and feel the new 8-car/6-car experiment is making things worse, not better. The platform is more crowded and even the 8-car trains are SRO in all cars by the time they get to WFC. More and more people are waiting through 2 or 3 additional trains in order not to be squished in from the beginning of the commute, which wasn't the case with more frequent 6-car trains. And the average time it takes me to get from WFC to my office at Federal Center SW has not changed either. Just because people aren't complaining directly to Metro doesn't mean they're not annoyed.

Lyndsey Layton: Ok Sterling. Let's try this. Give it two more weeks and report back at the next chat.

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Huntington Metro station: The sign is broken. They can do the times at terminal stations - they do it at Silver Spring and Glenmont. They can do it at Huntington.

Lyndsey Layton: Thanks Huntington.

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Arlington, Va. I'm disappointed, but not too surprised, to hear about the House committee actions. I think taxes should be raised a bit to fund transportation. But I also thought it was a mistake to roll back the car tax so much. Not that I enjoy paying it, but it seems to hit people fairly equitably - you have a more expensive car, you pay more tax.

Are the plans to expand to Tyson's and Dulles still active? Is it still possible that the airport will be paying for it by taking control of the toll road? That is my understanding at least.

Steve Ginsberg: It's still possible that the airports authority will take control of the toll road and pay for the rail line. In fact, several business groups have come out and said that's their preferred plan. The state hasn't come to any sort of decision yet, but mainly seems to be deciding whether getting the rail line built and giving up control of one of the region's main commuter roads. There are concerns that tolls could skyrocket on the Dulles Toll Road if the airports authority owns it and is accountable to no one.

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Washington, D.C.: Being short is not excuse for not moving into the middle of the car. I'm 5'2" and while I can't get my whole hand around the ceiling pole, I can balance with my fingertips touching it, and if I'm wearing heels all 5 fingers can touch. Sometimes this looks ridiculous, and many times I've been offered a seat by someone who notices I'm in a carefully balanced position. Besides there are little handles on the back of every single seat, and it's rare that you can't reach one of those. Nothing angers me more than the door-blockers, so I'm willing to look a little ridiculous to not be part of that crowd.

Nonetheless I will be glad when they add more handles to the cars!

Lyndsey Layton: Some people don't feel stable with those handgrips on the seatbacks. I recently learned about some commercial device that's a portable strap that you kind of lasso over the bar coming down from the ceiling, but I forget its name. Anyone know what I'm talking about?

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Kaine's Proposal Shot Down: well for all the bashing we take for living in DC, at least it only takes me 5 minutes to walk to work, seems like in Virginia, no taxes = no new roads = longer commutes.

Sorry for my friends who live in Virginia.

Steve Ginsberg: Don't forget all those years of poor planning too...

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Washington, D.C.: Clearly this is a stupid question, but why are all trains some even number of cars? If 8 car trains don't really fit, why not have 7 car trains? And if 4 car trains are too short, why not make all the trains 5 cars? It would reduce the variability. Is there some logic that I haven't thought of? It really bugs me.

W

Lyndsey Layton: Metro rail cars are designed to operate in married pairs- one car carries certain equipment and the other car has the other stuff that's needed to make them both work.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: As long as you are OK with double-parking on Saturdays for those going to synagogue and on Fridays for those going to the mosque, and any other times for other religious needs, then I am fine with the church-goers double-parking too.

Otherwise, same rules for everyone at all times.

Steve Ginsberg: I'm cool with that. I should add, for all those wondering, that I don't attend any religious services of any kind, so this is not a perk I take advantage of.

Now, if we could just get special permission to double park in front of a good shoe store...

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Washington, D.C.: I don't necessarily need exact figures or anything, but what exactly is the extra cost of running 8 car trains versus the 6 car trains? Is it the cost of maintaining the cars?

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Washington,

I'm glad you don't need exact figures, because I have no idea what they'd be. There's the additional electricity you need to actually run the train on the track (which I think is nominal) but there's also the additional maintenance you have to do to the rail car because it's racking up X number of additional miles instead of sitting quietly in the rail yard.

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Arlington, Va. PLEASE, PLEASE tell me they are not going to do the orange line 8-car thing for six whole months-- it is a nightmare. I've been taking the orange line from Ballston to Farragut West for the last 10 years and am now seriously considering driving. I get on btwn 7:30 and 8. Since they started reducing the frequency of trains & adding TWO whole cars to some of the trains-- my commute has gone from one where I had about a short wait for a train & about 50/50 chance of a seat to one where I wait around 15 mins. (the first train by is always so crowded I can't bring myself to cram on) and a train that is so crowded I can't even read b/c there's not enough elbow room to hold my book. Seems to me all its done is make much more crowded platforms & trains -- AND I don't buy the people don't spread out thing-- I've seen my share of trains go by (I get on the first car so I stand at the front) packed to the rafters to on all cars.

Lyndsey Layton: A plea from Arlington. Thank you.

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Arlington, Va.: 48 complaints about the Orange line's 8 car trains doesn't sound like a small number for a week of service only in the AM. Especially when most of us don't bother to file a complaint since it never seems to make any difference and nothing ever changes as a result.

Lyndsey Layton: Well if you're unhappy, you ought to let Metro know because the agency will point to the relatively low number of complaints as evidence that everything's peachy on the Orange Line.

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Given different status: And that's ending, as the neighborhoods change. Now that fewer and fewer people who live in the hoods go to those churches, we're starting to complain about being blocked in by the suburbanites in for that.

Sorry, but you don't get to be excused for being a nuisance just because you're church-y.

Steve Ginsberg: alright, alright. I give up. Tow them all! Shut down the churches (and synagogues and mosques)!! Double parking only for Whole Foods customers!!!

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Door closing times: I've never heard this business about having preset door closing times. Could it be that people are confusing that with the issue of doors that don't behave like elevator doors? As in, when the operator pushes the button, the doors close, whether you want them to or not?

Lyndsey Layton: Bless you, I think you've clarified this whole thing. Thank you.

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New York Subway Vs. Washington: I lived in NYC and rode the subway there, then moved to Washington. Everyone said the DC metro was superior because it "had padded seat and carpeting" and it was clean.

I now NO LONGER take Metro because I found it to be unreliable. I was frequently late to work because I had to change trains at Metro Center and waited and waited and WAITED to get on crowded trains.

But here is my question: Do New Yorkers have the kind of hatred we all have for Metro? Does the NY City transit system have the problems Metro does? From my own personal experience I can tell you -- it sure was reliable!

Lyndsey Layton: What an interesting question. I don't think NY'ers feel the same way toward the subway for a few reasons. Expectations are lower and the NY subway is so expansive that a problem on one line is nothing to worry about (if there's a meltdown on the D line, you can still take the A,B, or the C to get where you need to go.) In DC, we expect a lot from Metro (America's Subway! Cathedral stations!) and the system is so fragile that a meltdown on the Red Line means a horrible morning for thousands of riders.

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Portable straps: You can buy the metro straps that help you hold onto ceiling bars at Logan Hardware by the Whole Foods on P St.

Lyndsey Layton: There you go. Ok, let's see those straps in action.

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Arlington, Va.: Re: Buses coming all together. 30 years ago as a GU student I took the 30's buses from Georgetown to Capital Hill Mon-Fri. They were supposed to run 10 minutes apart but usually they came 2 or 3 together about every 30 minutes. Metro used to blame heavy traffic on Wisconsin Ave back then too. Some things never change. (Well, the fare was 40 cents in 1976).

Lyndsey Layton: Thanks, Arlington.

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Columbia, Md.: The last couple of times I've ridden the red line the same panhandler has been working the platforms and the trains. Is this legal? It's not something I had ever seen before.

Lyndsey Layton: No, this is not legal. Tell the station manager.

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Arlington, Va.: How long before some one files a lawsuit against Metro regarding this whole MetroAccess mess? Everyone involved with that program should be ashamed of the way they are treating these people.

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Arlington,

A group of disabled riders filed suit against Metro last year in federal court and it's working its way through the system.

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Fairfax, Va.: The Post probably won't allow this comment, but I find myself wondering whether the "church parking" debate would come out the same if it were white churchgoers illegally parking in a black neighborhood.

Steve Ginsberg: I don't know about the "Post" but I can assure you my answer would be the same.

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Raising Taxes for VA Transportation: Well, we can't have our cake and eat it, too. Funding is needed, so a raise in taxes is called for. Now, I would like some assurance that this new money will go for actual transportation solutions of all sorts, but that's all I care about. Remember the "No Car Tax" slogan? Apparently VA STILL hasn't learned the lesson that when money is taken away (or we have short, happy memories), it has to be added back somewhere or cut services. The same applies to getting new services- money has to be added. The other wrinkle is the overly partisan politics that compose today's political landscape, leading to a breakdown of government on all levels. That's is an entirely different can of worms and I'm just glad that I'm not registered with any party.

Steve Ginsberg: Posting without comment...

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Washington, First of all, sorry you had to wait so long for a bus. Could you please provide the night you waited? The schedule you cited is correct for the weekday. Their may have been an accident or other buses were diverted from that line for service on another more crowded line. To find out exactly why they didn't show on time, we need the date you waited. The good news is we are adding 185 buses and replacing another 708 over the next five years. We also have proposed more spending for bus service as part of the fiscal 2007 budget. Metro Media Relations

Lyndsey Layton: Here's an apology from our friends at Metro.

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washingtonpost.com: Steve and Lyndsey have signed off for the day, but please join them again in two weeks.

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