“Seventy-thirty,” said another woman waiting nearby.
Told that was more optimistic than the first woman, she said, “I was thinking fifty-fifty. But I decided to be nice because Metro is up against a lot.”
Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said last week that the massive platform replacement project that closed six Yellow and Blue Line stations south of Reagan National Airport beginning May 25 is on track to be finished in time for the stations to reopen Sept. 9 as scheduled.
That day can’t come fast enough for riders on the 11Y route between Potomac Park and either Mount Vernon or Hunting Point, who have seen crowds swell with riders displaced from the closed stations. Metro has struggled to run as many additional 11Y buses as planned during the shutdown.
“The bus has just been jam-packed, just completely full,” said Lauren Lobrano, who has posted several complaints on Twitter. Lobrano takes the 11Y from one of the last stops in Alexandria to and from her job at a nonprofit near Farragut North.
“I’ve seen people begging them to be let on the bus,” only to be left behind, she said.
The number of riders on the route increased by more than 80% in June and July over typical numbers, Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta said.
Anticipating more riders during the shutdown, Metro nearly quadrupled the number of scheduled trips on the route each weekday, from a total in both directions of 14 to 52. But some of those trips haven’t run as scheduled, he acknowledged.
In the early weeks of the shutdown, Metro’s shuttle buses between the closed stations were overwhelmed. To help, Metro pulled longer articulated buses from their regular 11Y route, Metro’s bus planning and scheduling director, Jim Hamre, told WMATA’s Riders Advisory Committee, according to a recording of the July 10 meeting shared with DC Rider by Stephen Repetski of Greater Greater Washington.
Metro had anticipated that 18,000 riders would take the shuttles daily, but the numbers surged to about 30,000 after Metro’s board decided shortly before the shutdown to offer free parking at the ends of the line at the Huntington and Franconia-Springfield stations.
“We were pulling buses left and right off of regular service and out of the garages and mobilizing drivers. We just kept putting buses in, and the line [of people] kept coming,” Hamre told the committee.
Within a few weeks, shuttle ridership calmed down. Charter bus companies began offering additional Metro shuttles on July 1.
Around then, the longer buses that had been reassigned as shuttles were returned to the 11Y route, but Hamre said not enough drivers signed up to drive them. Under Metro’s contract with its largest union, ATU Local 689, Metro notifies bus drivers of additional trips they can drive but can’t force anyone to sign up, Jannetta said.
Lobrano said she and many of her fellow riders hadn’t heard any of this.
One woman who commutes from Alexandria to work at the Environmental Protection Agency at 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW has struggled to keep up with the shifting conditions on buses.
She’d tried the shuttles at the Braddock Road station, but they were overcrowded, so one day she switched to the 11Y. Others apparently had the same idea, and with Metro running only the regular number of regular-length buses, the 11Y filled up.
She couldn’t get on and had to pay $20 for a Lyft. So she went back to the shuttles, which by that time had improved with the addition of charter buses.
Still, it takes her more than an hour to get to and from work — about twice as long as on the Yellow line. “I can’t wait for the Metro to reopen,” she said.
To make matters worse, at the start of the shutdown, she’d been able to work from home four days a week. But during contentious negotiations over a new contract, the EPA implemented new work rules limiting employees to two remote days a week.
The bus situation in general has gotten better in recent weeks, said Jannetta, who said only one scheduled 11Y bus last Monday and Tuesday didn’t run. And the two women laying odds at the bus stop did get on the next bus.
Metro plans to go back to the regular number of buses on the route when the shutdown ends.
The woman who’d laid even odds of getting on is hoping conditions will have improved. But problems have lingered, she said. One morning last week she watched the bus to work go by full. The next bus didn’t come for a half-hour, and she showed up for work 15 minutes late, said the woman, who didn’t want her name printed because of what happened next.
“No,” she said, when asked if her boss had been understanding.
She had 15 minutes docked from her vacation time.