As Red Line riders slog through their first week of the 45-day shutdown between Fort Totten and NoMa stations, the going has been anything but easy.
First, there was the seemingly ceaseless rain — a transportation nuisance at the best of times. During this precarious first week of disruption for passengers on the Glenmont side of the Red Line, the rain was enough to make a bad situation much worse.
Riders stood in the downpour as they waited for bus shuttles, some of which were caught up in rainy-day congestion. Standing water caused a stairway at Fort Totten to be blocked off, “resulting in some short-duration backups moving through the station,” according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. In turn, that crowding occasionally triggered safety features on the escalators, causing them to temporarily stop running during critical time windows of the commute.
And passengers were even grumpier than usual.
Additionally, a signal problem Monday at Waterfront station necessitated single-tracking and clogged up the Yellow and Green lines. On Tuesday, train malfunctions at Twinbrook and Farragut North that further slowed down the western end of the Red Line, which was already operating at reduced capacity due to the complications of reversing the direction of train traffic at NoMa station.
And on Wednesday morning, a person suspected of involvement in a shooting the night before was spotted by Metro Transit Police at Gallery Place. The suspect jumped onto the tracks in an attempt to escape from police. Metro had to cut the power to the third rail and temporarily freeze all surrounding train traffic, which in turn stopped train traffic all along the Green and Yellow lines — the lines that are supposed to serve as a release valve for displaced Red Line riders during the shutdown.
So, yeah. Things could have gone better.
Metro says it is trying to stack the Green and Yellow lines with all eight-car trains, in an attempt to maximize capacity for Red Line riders coming from Glenmont that are now forced to switch lines at Fort Totten. On Wednesday, the popular Twitter account Metro Reasons noticed that eight-car trains are serving the other side of the Red Line, too.
Officials with the District Department of Transportation say they are taking steps to increase awareness of the bus-only lane that they’ve created to help the shuttles pass more easily along Rhode Island Avenue. They’re adding more (and more weather-resistant) signs to the street, alerting car owners to the enhanced parking restrictions along the thoroughfare. They also have D.C. police and Department of Public Works staff out on traffic enforcement duty, ensuring cars don’t try to edge in on the bus line.
“We’ve been working to make sure that everyone is aware of the bus lane,” a DDOT spokesperson said Wednesday.
Even so, the remainder of the shutdown won’t be a walk in the park. Here are some suggestions for commuters as they grin and bear it through Sept. 3:
1. Avoid the shuttle buses unless your starting point or destination is at Brookland or Rhode Island Ave. stations.
Even with their special lanes, the bus shuttles have been s-l-o-w. If you’re coming from the northeast end of the Red Line, best to switch to the Green or Yellow Line at Fort Totten and take the train to Gallery Place, which lets you off just a couple blocks away from the Red Line’s Judiciary Square station.
2. But if you are starting at Brookland or Rhode Island Ave., use the express shuttles — the ones that go directly downtown.
If you’re traveling during rush hour, skip the station-by-station shuttle buses, and use the routes that make a straight shot to Union Station and Gallery Place.
3. Board the Green Line at a station farther out from Fort Totten.
Crowding has made Fort Totten a nightmare these past few days. So, if you have the option, considering driving or taking the bus to West Hyattsville, Prince George’s Plaza, College Park or Greenbelt stations. Board the train there, so you snag your spot on the train (and hopefully a seat!) before the doors open out onto the masses gathered on the platform at Fort Totten.
4. Take the bus.
There are lots of useful buses that make stops at stations along the northeast end of the Red Line, and whisk passengers straight into downtown — no eight-car train crowding necessary.
Metro has a full list of those bus alternatives here, but here are some highlights:
- Silver Spring residents commuting downtown can use the 79, which runs along Georgia Avenue to Gallery Place and Archives stations, or the S9 running along 16th Street to Franklin Square.
- Takoma residents should consider the 59 MetroExtra, which runs down 14th Street to Metro Center, or the 52 or 54 buses that make more frequent stops on a similar route.
- Fort Totten commuters may want to take the 64 bus to Federal Triangle, the 80 bus to McPherson Square and the Kennedy Center, or the E4 to Friendship Heights.
5. Stay informed of changes to service, and have a backup option in mind — in case a malfunctioning train or a signal problem throws a wrench in your preferred detour strategy.
Don’t be this guy.