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Posted at 12:35 PM ET, 03/10/2011

Metro considers new train destinations

By Robert Thomson

Orange Line train to Largo? Blue Line train to Greenbelt? Riders may be hearing those announcements starting in mid-2012, depending on decisions Metro will make as it plans to split the Blue Line and add some trains to the Orange Line.

The transit authority staff will try to figure out how to best communicate with riders about why it plans to split Blue Line service next year and how the split will be accomplished. The first goal is important because if Metro starts sending some Blue Line trains over what is now the Yellow Line bridge across the Potomac, it wants those trains to have passengers. The staff figures many riders will choose this new option if they see a time savings in reaching their destinations on the eastern side of downtown Washington.

The second goal is important because the planners don't want people getting on the wrong trains. Metro board member Peter Benjamin pointed out during this morning's meeting of the board's customer service committee that riders who board the correct color line can't be taken to the wrong place. The train might stop before they expect -- they might wind up on a Red Line train that turns around at Grosvenor when the rider wants to go on to Shady Grove -- but they can't be taken to a destination they didn't expect.

Board member Jeff McKay noted that many Blue Line riders at stations like Franconia-Springfield or Van Dorn Street simply step aboard the next train that arrives heading toward D.C. and know they'll wind up at Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom and Farragut West. That won't be the case when trains arriving at those stations are destined either for Largo Town Center or Greenbelt.

Board member Elizabeth Hewlett worried about the fate of Orange Line riders hoping to reach New Carrollton. Under the new plan, some rush hour trains arriving at their platform will be bound for Largo Town Center.

So, should those new trains have new colors, or just different destination signs?

New colors you say? Think that would make things clear? Metro staff would like you to think about what the nice, simple Metro map would look like. The transit authority is bringing back the designer of the original, iconic map -- the one that to many riders is the symbol of Metro. He will be tasked with revising the map to account for the Blue Line split, the additional Orange Line service and the new Dulles rail line. How many colors would you want him to add?

As you think about that, consider also that this Blue Line split and extra Orange Line service is for rush hour only.

Metro already has done some research on what riders will be most comfortable with, but needs to do a lot more. And as board member Catherine Hudgins pointed out, station managers should be involved in the discussions along with riders. Right now, a station manager can tell a tourist to get on the next Blue Line train. In June 2012, that interaction is going to get more complicated.

The transit staff's feedback from riders, which included an online survey, found that people are open to some stylistic changes -- but not many, and nothing drastic. The staff got a negative reaction when testing new colors for lines, although riders do accept that there should be a new color for the Dulles line, since that will be a brand new service.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said the board still needs to approve the Blue Line split, as a policy matter. But it's difficult to see a fallback position on this. Metro needs to clear room in the Rosslyn tunnel to accommodate trains coming in from the new Dulles line, starting in 2014. No alternatives to the Blue Line split have been made.

Picture yourself on an early morning platform, before that second cup of coffee. What would it take to get you to the correct destination? Would you prefer a new color or simply a new destination sign for certain trains?

By Robert Thomson  | March 10, 2011; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Comments

I'd just like to have the trains run on time.

Posted by: linroy62 | March 10, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

@ linroy62 -- thank you for making my day! So true. I would rather have trains running smoothly, and regularly -- as someone who rides the Blue Line, I've noticed that the Blue Line trains haven't been running as often as they did even 6 months ago.

Posted by: townhousekids | March 10, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I would prefer to have a new color vs. just a new destination. I think that would make it a little easier for me to identify as a long time Metro user who is used to the current colors and destinations.

Posted by: antztaylor | March 10, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: I'm not sure this plan will make the trains run on time, but it would create a Happy Time for riders on the western side of the Orange Line that would last for about a year and a half.

That would be the time between the addition of the three trains per hour during rush periods in June 2012 and the time the Dulles line opens around the start of 2014.

Passengers on the Orange Crush waiting at, say, Court House, would have these three extra trains per hour in the morning without the extra riders coming in from the Dulles line.

Even after the Dulles line opens, a good part of that ridership will be heading out to Tysons in the morning -- reverse commuters who wouldn't be further crowding those inbound trains on the Orange Line platforms.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | March 10, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

One thing that should be considered is how frequently the new routes will run and if people will actually wait for those new trains vs. changing. If Blue line trains over the bridge will only operate once every 20 minutes, but regular blue line trains will operate every 5 minutes, than why show it as a separate color? No one is going to wait 20 minutes just so they don't have to transfer trains...they'll just take a regular blue line and change at Pentagon for the yellow line.

Posted by: thetan | March 10, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"New colors you say? Think that would make things clear? Metro staff would like you to think about what the nice, simple Metro map would look like."

A more complicated, perhaps busier map that accurately depicts where a particular line of trains will take passengers once they board one of them is vastly more preferable than a simple, easy-to-read, nice-on-the-eyes map that either doesn't provide such information at all or is so confusing in its simplicity that riders can't figure it out.

When highway planners are deciding where to put new roads, or deciding on new traffic patterns by making streets one way, etc, do they even consider whether or not their changes might make road maps more complicated? No? Then why should Metro - which I thought was designed, developed and run by transportation engineers just like the road system - care about that?

Posted by: FeelWood | March 10, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

The headline is kind of deceptive. They aren't considering new destinations (which would be a bad idea on its own seeing how horribly they manage the ones they already have). This is about making the Metro system more confusing. Metro riders aren't smart enough for this. They already can't comprehend where to stand on a platform to get on the empty two cars of an eight car train.

If the blue line "split" is supposed to make sense like the turnbacks, just run every other train from Springfield to King Street and back and run more yellow trains. Don't put the same color line on completely different routes.

The easiest way to clear the Rosslyn tunnel won't even be considered: run 3 eight car trains when you'd normally run 4 six car trains. Same capacity, 25% fewer trains.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | March 10, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

"From Dr. Gridlock: I'm not sure this plan will make the trains run on time, but it would create a Happy Time for riders on the western side of the Orange Line that would last for about a year and a half."

Depends how far west on the Orange Line you're talking about. The new Orange Line trains will originate at West Falls Church, right? I get on at Dunn Loring, so that doesn't help me any. And how are they going to get these new trains to start at WFC anyway? Will they turn trains around at WFC, or run No Passenger trains through Vienna and Dunn Loring that suddenly come alive at WFC? (Thereby thumbing it in my face, BTW.)

Posted by: FeelWood | March 10, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm...The NYC subway map is as complicated as a circuit board and millions of tourists (many non-English speaking) manage to figure it out. And their trains run 24 hours, are cheaper, and are more likely to run on schedule. Are WMATA's priorities screwed up?

Posted by: kim6160 | March 10, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I could see permanently running Blue from Pentagon to L'Enfant Plaza, and instituting a shuttle from Rosslyn to Pentagon. Ditching standardized routes in favor of custom routes is ridiculous.

Posted by: michaelmagnus9 | March 10, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

The map must be easy to read for tourists. That's the focus.

Posted by: Aerowaz | March 10, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Either way they go they need to make sure the PIDs and the trains are marked correctly. The PIDs are starting to become more inaccurate lately (says train arriving in 2 minutes but pulling into the platform) and sometimes the colors/destination on the trains aren't correct. I've seen a Red Line train to Branch Avenue or a Green Line Train to Shady Grove. I knew what was going on but for a tourist won't know those two options are impossible and the red line train in front of them in really a Red Line to Shady Grove. And if the PIDs says a Red Line Shady Grove train is 2 minutes out well then of course this isn't the right train.

Posted by: archers44 | March 10, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Fix the escalators first.

Posted by: bs2004 | March 10, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

@getjiggly1--

You mean you've actually SEEN an eight-car train?

Posted by: ceebee2 | March 10, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Can we do first things first? Fix the elevators and the cameras, arrest the criminals we KNOW about (the DC public school kids), not search bags of commuters for theoretical or potential terrorists. Christ, just FIX it before we try to go more places!

Posted by: Bailey310 | March 10, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

ceebee2, six cattle cars plus two empties show up from time to time.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | March 10, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

kim6160 is right. NYC's system is complicated - but multi-millions of folks know how to use it ... and it's more reliable!

I think Metro needs to focus on running trains ON TIME during rush hour - I'm getting tired of waiting on the platform for 10-15 minutes during PEAK OF PEAK for a train! What, exactly, am I paying extra for???

Posted by: plume928 | March 10, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't Metro just offload every third Orange Line train heading into DC at Rosslyn so that the Orange liners can transfer to the next Blue Line train? Seems like it already happens every morning rush hour anyway, so no cost to implement.

Posted by: liz222444 | March 10, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Change the routing to Numbers and Letters. Numbers are normal service, letters are special services (e.g. Yellow Line to Greenbelt (Non-Rush) or Blue Line to Greenbelt (Rush Hour))

Posted by: Gregg Loizzo | March 10, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Why would they split the Blue line to Greenbelt? Wouldn't it make more sense to have the Yellow Line service both Huntington and Franconia-Springfield to the South, and maybe expand it's service to Greenbelt if necessary? The Blue could then continue to go from Franconia-Springfield to Largo. Basically the same service changes but with less confusing change to the system maps.

Posted by: anotherjosh | March 10, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Let's see...

Metro can't get trains to run with any regularity
Metro can't get the PID information to be accurate, at times saying invisible trains are boarding
Metro can't decide which escalators (at least the ones that might work) go up and which go down with any consistency at some stations
Metro can't get train operators to announce the upcoming stations...

The list goes on and on. So why doesn't Metro just try to work on fixing what they have before making more changes? This is going to become yet another Metro cluster-f that will end up costing us as both taxpayers and as "customers" in the long run.

Chances are Metro will somehow screw up all the signage that has to be changed, which will have to be redone, which they'll blame on not having enough funds to do it right the first time, then they'll say they need more money to fix the screwed up signs which is why they have to raise fares or cut back service...

Posted by: mika_england | March 10, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I think it's better to go with new colors than completely changing lines.

Posted by: aha3 | March 10, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The time has come to seriously plan for another Potomac River crossing if the Silver line gets extended to Dulles and the Orange line gets extended to Gainesville. A line under or over the Potomac at the I66 crossing and under Constitution Ave makes sense for commuters and visitors.

Posted by: hsolares | March 10, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

The phrase comes to mind: "Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

Our once wonderful transit system is being destroyed by idiot managers hatching wild schemes and unable to focus on the obvious.

Posted by: washpest | March 10, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"...riders who board the correct color line can't be taken to the wrong place..."

I'm sorry but maybe I'm reading too much into this but if I take a Blue line train that follows the yellow line to Greenbelt when I want to go to say, Farrugant West, Arlington Cemetary, or Rosyln, just how do I get there?

Posted by: Jimof1913 | March 10, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Jimof1913, you'd get off that Blue Line train at L'Enfant Plaza and get on either a Blue Line in the direction of Franconia-Springfield or an Orange Line train in the direction of Vienna.

Of course, if your destination is one of the stations you mentioned, you probably don't want to do that. But a Blue Line rider whose destination is Metro Center, or L'Enfant Plaza or Capitol South or Gallery Place -- most anything on the eastern side of downtown -- would probably find the new service faster.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | March 10, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

@GetJiggly - I believe all of these plans call for 8 car trains everywhere. The Silver Line trains are "married" in groups of 4, so they will *have* to be 8 car trains.

I think that they should code the train by its destination. A train leaving Franc-Spring going to Greenbelt should simply appear at the platform as a yellow or green line train. A train at Vienna going to Largo should appear as a Blue Line train. Metro already does this with a few yellow line trains at the beginning and end of rush hour that go all the way to Greenbelt, and I haven't heard of anyone getting lost yet. This would save even making any changes to the map.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | March 10, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Blue A, Blue B, etc.

Too easy?

Posted by: DOEJN | March 10, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

How about "Blue" goes via Arlington Cemetary, and "Yellow" goes via the Pentagon bridge. Both Blue and Yellow Line trains serve Franconia Springfield, but only yellow serves Huntington. Since more people ride in the central core than all the way out to the ends, the color at the central core matters more than at the ends.

Likewise, some Orange trains can go to Largo, and some only go as far as West Falls Church. Read the destination signs.

As for the person who asked how trains could start at WFC...the train yard is at WFC. As it is now, they enter the system on the middle track at WFC, then reverse direction empty to Vienna to begin the run. In this proposal, they would simply open the doors at WFC and head towards the city.

Likewise, in the other direction, the trains go to Vienna, then have to run empty from there back to WFC to enter the yard. With this proposal, WFC would be the last stop and the train would go straight into the yard. Those wanting Dunn Loring or Vienna can simply exit the train and get onto the one behind it...enough people get off at the stops between DC and WFC such that there would be plenty of room on that following train for people going to the last two stops to enter.

Posted by: thetan | March 10, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Seriously? I get to have a longer commute and continue to pay an outrageous price for it? Only on Metro. There are a decent number of people who take the Blue Line in to Rosslyn/Foggy Bottom every day. I commute from King Street to Rosslyn every work morning, and there's always a good number of people who pass on the yellow train for the blue train - which could only mean that they need to get to Rosslyn/Foggy Bottom area. Same in the evening. Did Metro do any significant research when looking at the number of people who take the Blue from along Franconia to Rosslyn and vice versa?

And, the Orange line train gets another train? They already run two Oranges to one Blue. And, usually, the second Orange is nearly empty.

Posted by: amvb86 | March 10, 2011 9:34 PM | Report abuse

if the people running metro actually rode the blue line during the morning rush hour they would see that trains are always packed between crystal city and farragut west. everyone gets off at foggy bottom and farragut west. where is the statistical proof that diverting trains over the yellow bridge will help?

Posted by: crsiggy | March 10, 2011 10:57 PM | Report abuse

I think anotherjosh and thetan have exactly the right idea. Instead of "splitting" blue, you should "split" yellow. Those Blue line trains that are diverted over the bridge should be re-labeled yellow line trains. This keeps us from having to add another color to the already-crowded central area of the metro diagram. We'd just have both blue and yellow go to Franconia Springfield but only yellow go to Huntington. Use destination signs to figure out which yellow line train you need.

Posted by: sethmorgan | March 10, 2011 11:54 PM | Report abuse

I think anotherjosh and thetan have exactly the right idea. Instead of "splitting" blue, you should "split" yellow. Those Blue line trains that are diverted over the bridge should be re-labeled yellow line trains. This keeps us from having to add another color to the already-crowded central area of the metro diagram. We'd just have both blue and yellow go to Franconia Springfield but only yellow go to Huntington. Use destination signs to figure out which yellow line train you need.

Posted by: sethmorgan | March 10, 2011 11:54 PM | Report abuse

I think anotherjosh and thetan have exactly the right idea. Instead of "splitting" blue, you should "split" yellow. Those Blue line trains that are diverted over the bridge should be re-labeled yellow line trains. This keeps us from having to add another color to the already-crowded central area of the metro diagram. We'd just have both blue and yellow go to Franconia Springfield but only yellow go to Huntington. Use destination signs to figure out which yellow line train you need.

Posted by: sethmorgan | March 10, 2011 11:55 PM | Report abuse

"a Blue Line rider whose destination is Metro Center, or L'Enfant Plaza or Capitol South or Gallery Place" already has the option of switching to the Yellow line.

vtavgjoe is probably right about coding trains by destination. If Metro isn't creative enough to come up with a new line name, destinations are a good proxy. It makes no sense to have the Blue Line intersect itself in downtown DC.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | March 11, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

what about numbering routes? same color line can have two routes and two route numbers. done.

Posted by: xrvax | March 11, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Why would metro suggest such changes when they cannot (still) get their elevators and escalators repaired to a degree that they go more than a week before breaking down again. They essentially need a mgr or director and supervisors who truly know what they are doing not just mouthing the words of proposed changes.

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | March 11, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

@getjiggly1

It's not that people who ride metro are not smart. They just don't pay attention. You would have to slap them and tell some of them what train they are getting on before they get it.

Posted by: u_morris2006 | March 11, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

What about additional stations? There is no train station anywhere near where I live at New Hampshire Avenue and Metzerott Road. Nothing but buses that do not run regularly. It is terrible.

Posted by: dcboy7 | March 11, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I really don't care what color this new "line" is. My concern is that those of us to ride the Yellow Line are going to see less trains in favor of these new yet-to-be-name trains. We already have only one Yellow to ever two Blue (and at night leaving DC, two Green to every Yellow). We're also held up in the am outside of L'Enfant so two Green trains can go in front of us, and in the pm same things happens before the Pentagon with Blue trains.

So Dr. Gridlock, are were Yellow commuters going to get more of the shaft now?

Posted by: TommyMcGuire | March 11, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/maps/barcelona-metro-map-printable.html

Barcelona uses colors and numbers, and the transfer stations have arrows with colors and said numbers. It looks hard, but it's not. It will take some time to apapt, but I give most people credit. Most. ...most.

Posted by: DCHillMan | March 11, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I've stepped on the wrong line train a few times, because I believed the station's signboard about what the next train would be and didn't check the sign on the train itself. It rarely happens anymore, because I'm careful to check the train itself, and sometimes even they are wrong. I've seen different cars on the same train with different destinations indicated on them. And this was within the past year!

Posted by: jgaines_60 | March 11, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Since the choke point is Rosslyn, the Blue line has to be rerouted over the 14th street bridge. But the Pentagon to Rosslyn tracks can be converted to a shuttle stub. Terminate the high level track at each station before it reaches the switch, which would be removed. Remove the low level switch at Rosslyn but keep the low level switch at Pentagon to permit moving trains to/from the stub. Construct a new loading and unloading platform at the high track terminal points with escalators/stairs to the lower platform. Specially designed articulated cars with extra doors on the north side of the car would facilitate fast loading and unloading and quick turn-around. I estimate 4 minute headways would be possible. The Blue line east of Stadium-Armory would become the Silver line. As subway projects go, this would not be terribly expensive.

When capacity again becomes a constraint on the Orange/Silver lines [and on the Red line], more sophistaced signaling to allow close headways and or the 9 car train are the next options. The nine car train is where the first and last cars of the 9 have double doors next to cars 2 and 8, and only emergency exits at the other ends, allowing all doors to fit in the station designed for 8 car. The 'golden' solution for the Orange/Silver lines is a new route continuing on I-66 to a new Potomac tunnel to Georgetown and thence under M or N streets to Union Station. BIG BUCKS!

Apres moi, le deluge.

Posted by: tukatuka | March 11, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

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