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Breaking the Blue Line Jams

Metro wants to ease congestion at the Rosslyn Station and provide more service to the downtown Washington areas where ridership has grown.
Metro wants to ease congestion at the Rosslyn Station and provide more service to the downtown Washington areas where ridership has grown. (By Dominic Bracco Ii -- The Washington Post)
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Sunday, October 26, 2008; Page C02

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 choke point.

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The plan, which would send the trains to Greenbelt, the last stop on the Green Line, 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, according to Metro officials. But it also would mean less-frequent service for riders going from southern parts of the Metro system, such as Franconia and Van Dorn, to Rosslyn and points west on the Orange Line and to western downtown stations, including Foggy Bottom.

A recent Metro survey of 446 riders found that most did not know about the Blue Line proposal. But of those who did, 61 percent felt positively about it, although these tended to be riders who would most benefit. Those commuting from Franconia to L'Enfant Plaza, for example, would have more direct train service. Riders at Greenbelt would also have direct service to Reagan National Airport.

Not surprisingly, the people whose travel times would increase because they would have to wait longer for Blue Line trains to get to Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom and out to Vienna were most negative about the proposal.

Metro officials say there would be no additional operating costs for rerouting some Blue Line trains. But riders whose travel times would increase because of fewer Blue Line trains have asked the transit agency to look into adding bus service along the Rosslyn corridor to make up for fewer trains. Metro officials are looking into that possibility, which would add to costs.

There would also be costs for additional signage associated with any rerouting of trains. More signs would have to be added to platform pylons on affected lines, to electronic information display boards on platforms, and to the front and sides of trains, officials said. The signs would have to show that the rerouting would only occur during rush hour.

Riders also suggested that Metro consider giving any rerouting a different color to avoid confusion.

Officials hope to research the costs and conduct an analysis before presenting a recommendation to the Metro board in December or January. Even if the board signs off on the plan, it would probably be an additional six months before any rerouting could take place so there is time for customer outreach and sign changes, officials say.

Metro's planning maps depict the new route as a brown line, but no color has been chosen.

What do you think about the proposal? What color do you think the new route should be? Send your thoughts about the new color and proposed route changes to commuter@washpost.com.

-- Lena H. Sun


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