It’s here. Metro’s year-long extensive rebuilding program, SafeTrack, has begun. The plan involves 15 projects, or “surges,” involving nearly every line in the 117-mile system.
The goal is to complete three years of work in one and help restore the neglected 40-year-old system to “a state of good repair.” It also will address critical concerns raised by the Federal Transit Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.
The work will involve extended partial shutdowns of some lines and continuous long-term single-tracking on portions of lines.
We’re here to help. We’ll be giving you a heads-up before each surge starts, outlining what it entails, and providing you with some tips for dealing with it. Check the Commuter Page for regular features and the Dr. Gridlock blog (washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock) for news and information.
Although each of the 15 surges is different, there are some changes that will be consistent throughout the 10-month project.
Weeknights: Scheduled system maintenance will begin at 8 p.m. instead of the 10 p.m. riders have become accustomed to. That will impact the end of the evening rush.
Middays: Maintenance will be conducted between the morning and afternoon rush, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Weekends/Special events: The system will close at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays instead of 3 a.m. There won’t be any extended closings or early openings for special events.
So what is Surge #1?
It’s June 4-16 and involves continuous single-tracking from East Falls Church to Ballston, impacting the Orange and Silver lines in Northern Virginia. Metro riders who can should consider alternate travel options and avoid traveling during rush hour, if possible.
What does single-tracking mean? Trains will be sharing a track and that means reduced service. So, trains and platforms will be crowded — especially during rush hour. You should expect significantly longer wait times at the following stations: Vienna (Orange), Dunn Loring (Orange), West Falls Church (Orange), Ballston (Orange, Silver), Wiehle-Reston East (Silver), Spring Hill (Silver), Greensboro (Silver), Tysons Corner (Silver) and McLean (Silver).
Weekday service during this first surge will be as follows:
●Orange Line trains between Vienna and New Carrollton will operate every 18 minutes.
●Additional Orange Line trains will operate between Ballston and New Carrollton only every six minutes during the morning and evening rush and every 10 minutes during midday and evenings.
●Silver Line trains will operate every 18 minutes.
●Starting at 10 p.m., all trains will operate every 20 minutes.
Keep in mind that these are the planned schedules. Regular riders know that just because trains are supposed to operate at certain intervals doesn’t guarantee it will happen.
Metro notes that trains operating from Vienna through Ballston weekday mornings will be extremely crowded and suggests that riders arriving at Ballston consider using the additional service that originates there, and will board on the opposite platform from through-train service. This might lengthen your departure time, but it’s the best opportunity for space and possibly a seat, Metro says.
Here are some station-specific impacts and options recommended by Metro:
● Wiehle-Reston, Spring Hill and Greensboro: Weekday Silver Line trains will operate every 18 minutes. Consider other Fairfax Connector service as alternatives or travel to the Herndon Monroe Park & Ride for additional route options.
● Tysons Corner and McLean: Weekday Silver Line trains will operate every 18 minutes. Consider other Metrobus or Fairfax Connector service as alternatives; or travel to Herndon Monroe Park & Ride for additional route options.
● Vienna, Dunn Loring and West Falls Church: Weekday Orange Line trains will operate every 18 minutes. Consider other Metrobus or Fairfax Connector service as alternatives; shuttle bus service will be available to Ballston.
● East Falls Church: Weekday Orange & Silver Line trains will operate every 18 minutes. Consider other Metrobus service as alternatives; shuttle bus service will be available to Ballston.
Benning Road, Capitol Heights, Addison Road, Morgan Blvd and Largo Town Center: Weekday Silver Line trains will operate every 18 minutes; Blue Line trains will operate on their regular weekday schedule. Take the first available train when heading into downtown D.C., transfer before Rosslyn for Orange and Silver Line service to Northern Virginia.
Metro has updated its online Trip Planner to reflect the new train schedules. You can plug in your starting point, destination, time and date and figure out the best way to get there and how long it should take you. It’s also available on your mobile device.
Again, a note of caution: The time estimates are only based on trains sticking to their schedules, so be prepared for the unexpected. We don’t have any good estimates as to how much extra time you should allow for trips through disrupted areas of the system. Metro has not built any extra time into Trip Planner to account for delays related to SafeTrack.
Buses: Metro and many jurisdictions are encouraging riders to use buses as an alternative during the surges. Many are making adjustments to routes and ramping service, including express shuttles and even changing parking regulations to accommodate more buses on the roads during SafeTrack.
Carpooling: Commuter Connections (commuterconnections.com) is a great resource for all things related to commuting in the region, but it’s particularly valuable if you’re interested in starting a carpool or looking to join an existing car- or vanpool.
Biking: Capital Bikeshare plans to address the surges one by one. For the first project, for example, a new Bikeshare station was scheduled to be installed at the East Falls Church station over the weekend, according to Arlington County officials. Capacity will be added to existing Bikeshare stations in the area, with the bulk of the efforts centered on Ballston. The county also will introduce the concept of “bike trains” that will stop at each Metro station from East Falls Church to Rosslyn, so that experienced cyclists can lead groups of riders who want to try cycling for their commute. And the District is adding a $2-per-trip option for users of Capital Bikeshare; the normal cost is $8 per day.
Finally, if you need to get into and around the District, goDCgo.com is a great interactive website with a variety of tools for helping you figure out how to get to where you need to be.
Good luck on your commute.
Sources: Metro and Post staff