Red Line Blues
If there had to be a service disruption anywhere in the Metrorail system, the area near New York Avenue Station would probably be the best place to have it. If you normally traveled the eastern sector of the Red Line, then this morning, you could have used the Green Line between Gallery Place and Fort Totten to get around the stations shutdown by the police investigation of a suspicious package.
Still, it took longer to get around, especially if your destination was the area around Union Station and New York Avenue. Gallery Place and Fort Totten, the transfer points between the Red and Green lines, were very crowded. Some riders remarked that it was like a midday rush hour.
My own experience getting from Silver Spring to Farragut North was pretty good under the circumstances. At Silver Spring Station, there was a sign on each fare gate warning of the delays. (I've heard complaints from riders about sometimes not going key information before entering the system, but that was not true in this case.)
I asked one of three Metro workers for the best way to get to the Farragut North area, and he recommended getting off the Red at Fort Totten, riding the Green to Gallery Place and taking the Red to Farragut North.
That was definitely the best answer. Alternatively, I could have taken the Red down to Rhode Island Avenue, its last stop at the time, and gotten onto one of the special buses to get to a downtown station. Or, I could have taken an S2 or S4 Metrobus down 16th Street NW.
Metro employees were available to answer rider questions on platforms and on trains. The electronic message boards advised of the delays, as did the Red Line train operators. (Green Line operator did not, but if you had gotten that far, you probably had already heard announcements in English and Spanish.)
I started out from Silver Spring at 11:15 a.m. and got to Farragut North at noon. That's usually more like a 25 minute trip from arrival at the station to exit.
My only complaint about the amount of information supplied to riders is that references to "an emergency situation" or "a police situation" can allow the imagination to run wild. I already knew from Debbi Wilgoren's story on our Web site and from radio that the issue was a suspicious package at the Brentwood Yard. Why not share that with rail passengers, the people who most need to know?
I asked that of Candace Smith, who is a public relations officer at Metro, and she explained it this way in an e-mail back to me:
"The announcements are made at times when initial reports are sketchy, so sometimes the announcements are vague. We recognize that they can be more specific as more details are learned. We are in the midst of reevaluating how we can improve the announcements and other forms of communication. On the Web site, we
did notify people that it was a suspicious package and had more details."
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