Roads Over Trains?
The results of my request for comment on the decline in Virginia Railway Express ridership left me wondering about commuters returning to their cars after sampling transit. (I'm an example of the opposite: I took up travel on Metro's Red Line after it dawned on me that I was paying $10 to warehouse my car downtown each day.)
Transportation editor Steve Ginsberg is going to ask one of his reporters to look into it for a news story, and I may write about the question in an upcoming Dr. Gridlock column. I think a return to highways would be an unfortunate development. We need VRE and MARC to work, so that Washington commuters will have options. Steve and I would appreciate hearing from any VRE or MARC riders -- or former riders -- whom we could interview for The Post on this topic. You can let me know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, home community and a phone number at which we can reach you.
Here's a sampler of some of the comments I received when I asked commuters to analyze the decline in ridership on VRE after so many years of growth:
This comment from LD captures the spirit of many of those who responded to our post:
"The sad truth is that the VRE's schedule is meaningless. Delays are caused daily for a myriad of reasons, some within VRE's control, and some not: heat restrictions in the summer, snow delays in the winter, flooding emergencies in the spring, on top of signal and electrical problems, other train movement, train mechanical problems, and the list goes on and on. When a VRE rider enters the platform, he/she really doesn't know if the train will be on time, or even coming."
This was an interesting suggestion from Jim:
"The improvements at the Springfield Interchange have made the drive much easier for a lot of people. I suspect some of them may have switched from VRE back to their cars for that reason."
There were some votes for slugging up I-95 rather than taking the train. That was expressed by Steve:
"I quit a month ago after nearly three years of declining service, lame excuses, and a commute that went over 4 hours three nights in a row. A number of us left at the same time and now are happy Slugs. The only three things that really matter to me on VRE are safety, maintenance and on time service. Fortunately, the first they do well; the second and third are poor and getting worse."
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