Despite warnings about limited capacity and significant delays, more northern Virginia commuters rode Metro on the first morning of Surge No. 5 than on an average day during Surge No. 1.
Those larger-than-ideal crowds on the western end of the Orange and Silver lines may have exacerbated problems that cropped up when an unexpected power shutdown at Ballston station required Metro to operate shuttle service between the East Falls Church and Virginia Square stations. Passengers reported lines that stretched more than a block to wait for a spot on the shuttles.
For the Orange and Silver line stations west of Ballston, ridership was 8.2 percent higher on Wednesday between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. than what it was during the fifth day of Surge No. 1, when commuters had grown accustomed to the modified train schedule — an increase that amounts to 1,376 additional riders.
Compared with the first day of Surge No. 1, the difference is even more stark: The beginning of that first surge saw 1,885 fewer commuters boarding Metro west of Ballston station than those who opted for the subway on Wednesday morning.
The ascending ridership numbers are a sign of a worrisome trend: Despite pleas from Metro officials to use alternate methods of transportation during SafeTrack surges, people are beginning to ignore that message and choosing instead to steel themselves for their normal (if more headache-inducing) subway commute.
And with a 70 percent decrease in capacity on the western end of the Orange and Silver lines during Surge No. 5, the last thing Metro needs is crowds.
Ridership at Ballston station was down by 53.3 percent Wednesday morning, compared with Surge No. 1 — though that likely had to do with the fact that the station was closed for a short period during the morning commute as crews had to perform an unexpected power reconfiguration. Riders who arrived at Ballston station were loaded onto shuttle buses that continued on to Virginia Square, where they were then able to get on a train.