Metro’s board gave final approval Thursday to service changes on the Blue and Yellow lines during rush hour that are intended to help alleviate overly crowded Orange Line trains and make way for service along the new Dulles Airport rail line.
Beginning in June, the transit authority will shift six trains per hour during weekday peak hours from the Blue Line, running them across the Potomac River on the Yellow Line bridge via L’Enfant Plaza. During rush hour, trains will continue on to Greenbelt along the Green Line path. The plan will opens up slots in the Rosslyn tunnel for six additional Orange and Silver line trains. Phase one of the Silver Line extension, which is under construction from Falls Church to Reston, is scheduled to open in late 2013.
The changes are expected to benefit 108,000 riders who will have increased service, but it will mean longer wait times for some Blue Line riders.
New Metro maps will depict the service changes with dashes. Metro is taking advantage of the redesign to also implement a new policy of keeping station names short and simple.
The issue prompted a lengthy discussion Thursday, but Metro plans to take more comments from the public during a meeting Nov. 3.
Metro also announced that on Friday it will implement a new system that will allow riders at Farragut North and Farragut West to freely transfer between the two stations within 30 minutes. If the “Farragut Crossing” program is successful, the idea could be rolled out to Gallery Place and Metro Center, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
At its safety and security committee meeting, Metro officials briefed board members on their handling of an Oct. 11 incident in which a 39-year-old McLean man was struck by a train at Clarendon. The man, who Metro said intentionally placed himself in the path of a train, died a week later.
The incident stranded and delayed thousands of passengers and caused stations to become dangerously crowded.
Some board members questioned whether Metro is adequately prepared to communicate with passengers and to evacuate them from stations and trains during emergencies.
Officials said they are considering using more directly worded e-mail alerts that tell riders the scope of a problem.
Metro planners and transit police said there are plans for dealing with such emergency situations at all 86 stations. The plans show details such as emergency exits, sprinkler systems and layouts of the stations, officials said.
Metro said it has trained 4,000 emergency personnel in the region on how to rescue riders and respond to crises. The authority is training all of its 11,000 employees on how to help in emergencies.
Last year, Metro Transit Police conducted regional training sessions on handling crises and evacuations. One scenario included responding to an active shooter; others dealt with explosions on a bus and in a tunnel. The sessions dealt with how to get people out of the situations safely and restore service.
Metro officials said they are designing evacuation plans for the Dupont Circle Station to prepare for when the south entrance is closed to make way for new escalators. A set of stairs is being built in a ventilation shaft that could be used in emergencies to evacuate.