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Travel Tips for Hot Days

Here's some advice for a day when the forecast calls for high temperatures approaching 100 degrees and air quality bad enough to rate a Code Orange.

-- The buses in Northern Virginia are free, because of the Code Orange alert. (That includes the Metrobuses that run in Northern Virginia, but none of our other jurisdictions participates in this free ride program on Code Orange days. You know a bus line is participating when you see the farebox covered, but they usually display signs saying, "Code Orange Day, Ride Free.")

-- MARC train passengers are likely to be slowed by CSX heat restrictions, which reduce train speeds for safety during times when high heat may bend the rails. But VRE seems to have worked out a way with CSX this year to reduce the delays caused by these afternoon restrictions. Both lines have problems with equipment that breaks down in the stress of hot weather.

-- Metro trains, buses and rail stations are cooled, but the temperatures can vary and sometimes the equipment is just busted. If you think you're on a train or bus without working air and you want to help out future passengers, get the number of the bus or rail car and call it in to Metro at 202-637-1328, or use the customer comment form you can find on this page.

-- The station equipment was designed to keep the underground stations 20 degrees cooler than outside, but you riders know it doesn't necessarily feel that way. First of all, the equipment is old and needs replacement. Metro is in the midst of a lengthy program to do that. All the underground stations are open to the outside air. Some have more exposure than others because they're near the point where the tracks reach the surface. (Stand on the inbound side at Union Station and feel an incoming train push the warm air toward you.)

-- All the cars on a train are not necessarily at the same temperature, and if you're uncomfortable in one, move to another at the next station to see if there's improvement. Above ground, figure out which is the shady side of the car. Even on a rush hour train, the crowd often is not equally distributed, and as the train arrives in the station, you may have a moment to move for one with fewer passengers -- and less body heat to distribute.

-- It's an especially good time to "Move to the center of the car" and away from the doors, where the warm air rushes in every time the train stops.

-- Out-of-service escalators and elevators are always annoying, but take it easy on busted escalators during the hot weather. Metro provides information on the status of each station's escalators and elevators at this link.

-- You can find many transit options and schedules listed on CommuterPage.com

-- Drivers, watch out for the midday tree-trimming work on the Capital Beltway between Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike in Montgomery County. That section is narrow anyway and there's been lots of congestion there the past few weekdays.

-- Unless the air conditioning at work is better than at home, this is a good week to telecommute, if you have that option.

-- For the sake of the air quality, try to avoid filling your vehicle's gas tank during the daylight hours.

What other advice can you share with drivers and transit users for this weather?

By Robert Thomson  |  August 7, 2007; 8:24 AM ET
Categories:  Weather  
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Next: Advice on Today's Travels

Comments

Remember your car's engine doesn't have the same pickup with the AC running full blast. So when you're merging onto a highway (or trying to sneak into traffic in that two-car wide space as people love to do) and slamming on the accelerator, the car is going to hesitate with the strain it has on it already.

Posted by: Ashburn | August 7, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

My car is smart enough that it actually cuts off the A/C compressor when I accelerate hard. So my attempt to accelerate onto the Beltway usually means a blast of hot air right in my face :)

As for those complaining about Metro being too hot...just drive if you can. Traffic is rediculously light these days (at least inside the Beltway)

Posted by: Woodley Park | August 7, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

The thing about the free buses makes me wonder something. There's a bus stop about a half-mile walk from my house. But we're told that on these Code Orange and Code Red days we should avoid going outside. What's the proper approach for someone like me, then? Do I walk the half-mile and risk breathing the bad air and such, or do I drive and contribute to pollution?

(I drove today.)

Posted by: Rich | August 7, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Rich,

I think that would depend on your own personal health. It is advised that people who are most at risk should not venture outside during these heat advisory/poor air quality days (the elderly, the very young, people with asthma and other breathing problems, etc.) So if you feel like you can walk the half mile each way and not put your own health at risk than go ahead, grab a bottle of water, and take the bus. I also think they make buses free to encourage people who may just walk somewhere to take a bus to avoid the health risk.

Remember to stay hydrated everyone!

Posted by: Laura | August 7, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Rich,

Drive to the bus stop.

Posted by: Steve | August 7, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I don't mean any harm, but you folks are lazy. I catch the bus and Metro to and from work every day, including during the code orange and red days. I walk from Dupont Circle Metro up to Florida Ave., even when the AQI is code orange or red. And my car is a little 2-door compact that gets about 28 mpg city.
What's my point? The heat is no excuse to sit on my butt and drive to work.

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