A stalled automobile, a rainstorm and confusion combined yesterday to snarl traffic around the new Minnesota Avenue station as Metro inaugurated new schedules for 45 bus routes along the New Carrollton subway.
At the New Carrollton station, however, the change went smoothly, though some commuters were disturbed to learn that their trip downtown by public transit was going to cost them more than it used to because of Metro's unusual fare structure.
In other words, it was a fairly normal inaugural for bus schedule changes, an experience already endured by thousands of commuters from Virginia, Montgomery County and far Southeast Washington. Yesterday those living in far Northeast Washington and Prince George's County got their turn as Metro eliminated much parallel bus and subway service ND REROUTED MOST BUSES TO SUBWAY STATIONS ALONG THE TWO-WEEK-OLD Orange Line.
The biggest problems occurred around the new Minnesota Avenue station, which has become a major bus terminal. During the rush hour, more than one bus a minute is scheduled to pass through the terminal. To do that, buses must enter and leave on busy Minnesota Avenue.
Busy Minnesota Avenue was busier than usual yesterday morning. A major underpass that carries Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE under the Kenilworth Freeway was flooded north of the station. To the south the Benning Road viaduct over the ConRail tracks, an automobile was stalled. The only place for cars to go was Minnesota Avenue.
Add one bus a minute and you have late commuters.
The evening rush-hour went more smoothly. There were no major traffic tieups on Minnesota Avenue and bus drivers had a better idea of where they were supposed to go.
Many patrons asked questions of Metro officials but few seemed angry and most were pleasant. The trains ran on schedule throughout the day.
Metro and District of Columbia officials had hoped to entice many bus patrons to transfer to the subway at Minnesota Avenue. Many did.
But more people -- a rough approximation would be about two-thirds of the total -- either transferred to other buses going downtown or remained on through buses.
"I don't like the subway and I don't like the extra fare," one young woman said as she changed buses. Under Metro's fare schedule, riders must pay a full bus fare, then a full subway fare to complete a trip that once cost only one bus fare. Riders can transfer free within Washington from subway to bus, however, so the round-trip cost is usually about half again as much as that of a former all-bus trip.
Larry Simmons, a Lanham resident transferring at Minnesota Avenue, said his solution was the same Metro officials expect many others to take. "I'll ride the bus all the way in the morning," he said, "then I'll transfer from subway to bus in the evening. It's cheaper."
David Dupras of Bowie complained about the same thing to Prince George's County officials at the New Carrollton station. Dupras works near the Farragut West station. His bus used to come to the Rhode Island Avenue station on the Red Line where he would transfer. Yesterday his bus stopped at New Carrollton and went no further. The result was a round-trip increase of 50 cents a day, because the subway fare is based on mileage traveled -- and New Carrollton is a longer subway ride from Farragut West than Rhode Island Avenue.
"This only saves me about 10 minutes a day," Dupras said.
There were the usual first-day problems with the automatic fare-collecting equipment, especially at Minnesota Avenue, where there were many first-time users. At New Carrollton, most commuters already had Farecards and lines at vending machines were short.
D.C. Department of Transportation officials said yesterday they are working with Metro to improve traffic conditions around Minnesota Avenue. Metro officials are working to improve obviously inadequate signs directing patrons to the proper bus bays.
James A. Parks, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from Ward 7, complained to Metro employes at the Minnesota Avenue station about the traffic yesterday, about bus schedules and about his other problems with Metro. Then he sprinted for an escalator to the subway.
Why are you riding that? he was asked.
"I got to catch the train downtown," he said. "The bus would take longer. Look at the traffic."