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Metro Handles Stadium-Bound Crowds

Among the hundreds of people crammed into Green Line trains this morning, it was easy to distinguish between the worshipers bound for the papal mass and the commuters.

The worshipers were smiling.

NY%20Platform.jpg Crowd covers Navy Yard Station platform this morning. (Thomson)

Their attitude helped ease some very crowded trips on Metrorail. Navy Yard Station, where passengers got off for the short walk to mass at Nationals Park, was crowded but calm. It took about five minutes to clear the platform after a train arrived from downtown, compared to about three minutes before recent Nationals baseball games.

The worst crowding I saw was at the L'Enfant Plaza, where the platform was lined at least four deep with riders transfering from the Orange and Blue lines. My Green Line train already was jammed with standees when it arrived at L'Enfant shortly before 7:30 a.m. Metro staffers on the platform helped ease the passage through the doorways, but it still was difficult. The train held at the platform till the doors were safe to close.

The worst problem I know of was created by a malfunctioning Green Line train at L'Enfant Plaza. I was at Navy Yard by then, so what I saw was a gap in train arrivals between 7:40 and 7:59 a.m. -- probably the worst possible time, given that worshipers were told to be at the stadium by 8:30 a.m.

Metro says a door malfunctioned led to a train being taken out of service. To relieve crowding, a Greenbelt-bound train was unloaded and turned around to serve passengers in the Branch Avenue, or stadium-bound direction. Metro counted that as a seven-minute delay. But by my reckoning, watching trains arrive at Navy Yard, it was 19 minutes between the departure of a six-car Branch Avenue-bound train and the arrival of the next train, which was eight cars long..

You can jam only so many people aboard the cars, when the next train did arrive at Navy Yard, it created no more difficulty on the platform than the previous jammed train had. Transit police officers lined the platform and directed people to use both exits. People split at about mid platform, turning left or right depending on which escalators were nearest.

Overall, I'd give Metrorail a B+ on its morning operators under very difficult conditions. The malfunctioning train at a crucial point at a crucial time was bad. Many Metro staffers were on the platforms and mezzanines, but their level of involvement with passengers varied greatly. Many were very attentive at vending machines, fare gates and platforms. Others were clustered in their own conversations.

Train announcements were clear and useful, although I would have been more direct about the Green Line train being your ride to the papal mass. Most stadium bound people were traveling in groups, with at least one person aware of the route. But their greatest attribute was their calm. Transit police did a fine job directing crowds on the Navy Yard platform.

What were your observations this morning?

By Robert Thomson  |  April 17, 2008; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Events  
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