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When to run extra trains?

Many thousands of people enjoyed Saturday's annual book festival on the National Mall, but some didn't have such a great time getting there and wondered why there wasn't more transit service.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was very disappointed in Metro's performance on Saturday. When a Nationals game is on (stadium capacity 41,000), Metro will run extra trains. But when 130,000 people were expected on the Mall for the National Book Festival, Metro did not seem to be running any extra trains.

I just missed a Blue/Orange Line train at Metro Center at about 9 a.m., and had to wait nearly 15 minutes for the next train. When we got to the Smithsonian stop, one escalator from the platform was not working and closed off; the other was available but not running.

It took quite some time for the people who got off the train to actually make it up to the Mall. When a friend arrived at the Smithsonian stop at around 10 a.m. as the festival opened, the Mall exit was closed, and she had to walk from the Department of Agriculture exit. To say that Metro seemed unprepared for the festival would be an understatement.
-- Margo Dunlavey, Rockville

There's always something going on in the nation's capital. What events will get extra trains, or some special service? Some of the service issues depend on the nature of the event. Some on whether the event's sponsor wants to pay the extra cost for an extra public service.

A Nationals game at Nationals Park, or a Redskins game at FedEx, or the Caps and Wizards at Verizon Center generates special conditions. They put a lot of stress on particular train lines at particular stations and particular hours, especially right after the games. Metro needs to get people off those train platforms in a hurry. That's a special challenge at stations like the Green Line's Navy Yard Station near Nationals Park or the Blue Line's Morgan Boulevard Station near Fed Ex Field, which aren't transfer points.

Mall events like the book festival, or the Black Family Reunion Celebration on Sept. 11, draw big crowds to the Mall, and they do put extra stress on the train system, but the crowds tend to be more spread out in their arrivals and departures than the crowds for sporting events or concerts. Plus, they can use several different stations coming and going.

For Mall events, of course, there's the Fourth of July and then there's everything else. Metro goes into the Independence Day celebration expecting to provide more than half a million rides, especially around fireworks time. This July 4, the transit authority provided rush hour level service from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Sometimes the sponsor of an event will pay to open the system early or keep it open late. A reader asked why Metro wasn't opening early this month for the Nation's Triathlon, along the Potomac River and the Mall. After all, Metro does open early for the Marine Corps Marathon and some other events.

The difference is that the sponsors cover the thousands of dollars it costs to run the system per extra hour, or to provide more trains for a certain time. This Saturday, Metrorail will open at 6 a.m., an hour early, to accommodate people participating in the One Nation March at the Mall. Look for more details in a follow-up posting.

By Robert Thomson  | September 28, 2010; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Events, Metro, National Mall  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock  
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If they can waste millions on terrorism preparation, they can spend some money to be aware of what's going in the region that will likely draw a crowd and stress the system.

Metro FAIL.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | September 28, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Metro has cameras that monitor how many people are left on platforms because the trains are too crowded.

They should be able to easily adapt by (1) adding the 7th and 8th car and/or (2) runniung trains more frequently.

Is it REALLY so difficult for people at METRO to use common sense???

Posted by: cibor | September 28, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Margo here's a tip. Instead of bothering with a transfer (where you have a good chance of having to wait 15 minutes), why don't you just get off at Gallery Place Station and walk down 7th street (downhill too) to the mall. It's only about 6 blocks and a very easy walk.

You're going to a large festival where you will be walking around anyway. Do a little research and figure out other options. You don't have to be a lemming and follow the crowds. Other stops that are accessible to the Mall include:

Green/Yellow: Archives-Navy Memorial, L'Enfant Plaza
Red: Judiciary Square, Union Station
Orange/Blue: Federal Triangle, Federal Center SW

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | September 28, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Never get off at the Smithsonian stop.

Posted by: jckdoors | September 28, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm not clear on why someone already on the Red Line, going to a festival on the Mall between 3rd and 7th, wouldn't use Galleryplace or Judiciary Square.

The Smithsonian Metro stop is indeed on the Mall, but not the part of the Mall where NBF was.

Dr. G, out of all the events you listed where there is extra Metro service, which are the ones where the sponsors cover the cost of that extra service, and in which cases does Metro take on the costs?

Posted by: DOEJN | September 28, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

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