Rush Plus Plus: “I got drowsy at Pentagon City, fell asleep at Crystal City, and woke up in Emerald City. How do I get home?”
I’ve seen many complaints and concerns from riders about Rush Plus, but one I haven’t seen is a complaint about getting on the wrong train and winding up in the wrong place.
Metro officials were concerned about that before the new service started on June 18. They pointed out the importance of the destination signs. Trains with familiar line colors might be going to unfamiliar destinations: Yellow Line to Franconia-Springfield, Orange Line to Largo Town Center.
I thought the northbound Yellow Line destination signs also would be confusing, since there are three possibilities, depending on the time of day: Mount Vernon Square, Fort Totten and Greenbelt.
At least you can’t go far wrong by picking the wrong northbound train. Just wait on the same platform for another.
Most complaints come from Blue Line riders, who have fewer trains during Rush Plus hours. But here’s a different sort of complaint that I didn’t get a chance to publish during the chat.
Rush Plus Green/Yellow: “My experience last week with Rush Plus was that there were too many trains. I usually travel home after rush hours, but a couple of times last week I travelled during rush hour and was excited at the short wait and availability of Yellow Line trains for my Prince George’s Plaza-Columbia Heights commute.
“But the trains were within 2-3 minutes of one another, so there were many delays. On one trip from Prince George's Plaza to Waterfront, the train was stopped for 1-3 minutes at or between 5 stops, so the whole trip took about 12 extra minutes. It is better to have less, but reliable, service.”
DG: Too many trains? It’s a rare, but not isolated complaint.
Orange Crush is still with us: “One week into Rush Plus I would give the ride on the Orange Line between Court House and Foggy Bottom a gentleman’s C. Trains seem less crowded, but every day they are being held at stations due to congestion or schedule adjustment. Metro implied that Rush Plus was going to reduce the bottleneck between Court House and Rosslyn, but there seems to be zero improvement.”
DG: I’ve said it’s impossible to judge Rush Plus service based on a handful of experiences because there are too many variables. (None of the old problems with the trains and the tracks went away with these service changes.) But it is possible to mess up the schedule and cause crowding problems by having too many trains on a line.
Metro officials told us so when they changed the Red Line rush hour service to make the schedule more realistic and ease crowding.
The problem was that when one train had even a short-lived problem on a crowded line, the trains behind it bunch up, but there was a big gap ahead of the lead train. So the lead train would be jammed, the next one less so, and the one close behind that would be positively roomy.
What transit officials did was cut back on the number of rush hour trains, slightly widening the scheduled gap between trains and using left-over rail cars to make more eight-car trains.
The Red Line has been plagued with service problems recently, so if riders cast their minds back over the past few weeks, there’s no way they’d consider themselves better off now. And even in normal times, trains can still bunch up. But over many months, I think, riders have been more likely to find room on trains than they were before the Red Line changes.
Meanwhile, Rush Plus added trains to the Orange and Yellow Lines. It’s at least a possibility that this will reproduce those old problems on the Red Line, and it’s worth watching over the next few weeks.
If extra trains on the Orange and Yellow lines are messing up the schedules and crowding some trains, a rider waiting on a platform would at least know that there are one or two more trains close behind the crowded one that is about to depart the station.
The commuter might be more inclined to await a roomier ride, rather than to cram aboard the most crowded train.