Metro general manager Theodore Lutz said yesterday that repairmen will be working all weekend on the subway's balky new fare-collecting equipment to get it ready for service again Tuesday.
The equipment will not be used on Monday, July 4, when the trains will be running on both the new Blue and old Red lines from noon to midnight. Furthermore, Lutz said, some six-car trains will be run Monday.
Four-car trains were overloaded with at least 100,000 enthusiastic transit users Friday when Metro inaugrated its Blue Line, a 12-mile, 17-station addition that connects National Airport with RFK Stadium.
Fares for all subway rides Monday will be 50 cents. The money, exact change, must be deposited in large barrels set at each station entrance. There will be no transfers between Metrobus and the subway or between the subway and the bus. Farecards cannot be used on Monday.
Lutz met with his top staff yesterday to review Metro's first day of operations as a truly regional subway network. "I think it went reasonably well," Lutz said in an interview later, "considering that we don't have the opportunity to shake everything down before we started operations."
The most critical need, Lutz said, was to get the automatic fare-collecting equipment operation reliably. The equipment vends farecards, magnetically encoded wallet-sized tickets that are needed by riders both to enter and leave the subway.
There were long lines at farecard vending machines throughout the system Friday, and the machines proved temperamental. Once the cards are purchased they have to be inserted in electronically operated gates that admit riders to the train, then let them leave the station at the end of their rides. The gates are balky in accepting farecards. "We're going to concentrate on getting these gates to work," Lutz said.
Lutz also made these points:
Many people purchased farecards for only one ride. If cards are purchased in larger denominations, that will reduce the number times at Metro user has to buy a card. Cards can be purchased for any amount between 40 cents and $20. Each time the rider takes the train, the cost of the ride - based on distance traveled - is deducted from the card. The balance is pointed on the card and the card is returned. "Buy high-value farecards," Lutz said.
Metro is looking at the shifting immediately of some buslines to serve handy train stations. Major line shifts for that purpose are scheduled July 17 and Sept. 4, but a number of commuters on Friday got off their buses and walked two or three blocks to take the train. The biggest problem was the No. 2 Route, which serves Lee Highway in Virginia. No. 3 commuters walked in droves to the Rosslyn Metro station, three blocks away.
Many commuters did not understand that they cannot transfer from the bus to the train, but must pay two separate fares.
Many more commuters did not understand that they must get a transfer for the bus at the station where they enter the Metro, not the one where they leave. Transfers from train to bus are permitted, but the transfers must be obtained from a distant station. Metro put in that rule to reduce abuse of the transfer system, because the transfers are dispensed by machines.
Graphics in some Metro stations, particularly action Metro Center, are not adequate. "We've got to make the blue dots showing the way to the Blue Line more readable, and we've got to improve the light levels on the signs," Lutz said.
Although sticking doors made some of the subway cars balky, Lutz said "I'm not pessimistic" about the ability of the cars, once properly adjusted, to carry full rush-hour standing loads without delays.
In addition to running the subway on July 4 from noon to midnight, Metro also will be running buses. The regular Metrobus schedule for a Sunday also will be used July 4. Additionally, weekday routes 18X and T9 will operate every 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., and Route A9 will operate during the same hours every 15 minutes.
Metrobus also will operate a special inbound shuttle service between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. from the parking lots at the Pentagon and RFK Stadium to the Mall area for those wishing to view the fireworks display.
The buses will leave RFK Stadium and the Pentagon every 10 or 15 minutes as needed and will discharge passengers at 14th and Constitution NW. Buses will be specially marked with windshield signs saying 14th and Constitution. The fare will be 70 cents each way for Pentagon passengers and 40 cents each way for stadium passengers.
At the conclusion of the fireworks, buses for the Pentagon, clearly marked Pentagon, will be assembled along Constitution Avenue west of 14th Street. Buses for the Stadium, clearly marked Stadium, will be assembled along Constitution Avenue east of 14th Street.
Metro officials have been working with D.C. police and Park Police to assure that bus lanes be kept clear of people so the buses can move. Buses will be stagned ner the Mall and brought up as they are needed. The last bus is scheduled to leave about 11 p.m.
Lutz has also encouraged those to use the subway to go to the fireworks to use any one of the several Metro stations within walking distance of the Mall, not just the Smithsonian Station in the middle of the Mall.
Lutz is acutely aware of the fiasco last July 4 when buses were promised but did not arrive and thousands were stranded in the Mall area until 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Lutz, who was not with Metro last year, has appointed himself Metrobus manager.