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Bad Ride on Bad Air Day

So we told you Monday would be a bad air day, and to help out the environment, you should leave the car at home.

And what did you get? A bad commute.

The bad vibes started early -- real early, in fact -- when Metrobus riders discovered that the transit authority had not gotten the word that Monday was a Code Red alert day, for potentially unhealthy levels of ozone. Whenever that happens, most of the local buses in the suburbs are free, to encourage people to at least temporarily abandon their cars.

But early morning Metrobus riders in Maryland and Virginia who should have been traveling for free instead had to pay the regular fare, till Metro heard about the Code Red at 7:28 a.m. and shared the news with bus drivers.

By mid-afternoon, that glitch was starting to look minor, when commuters on Metro's Orange Line and MARC's Camden and Brunswick lines began to encounter bigger problems on their way home.

A Metro train derailed between Rosslyn and Court House stations. No one was hurt, but thousands were delayed. The outbound and inbound trains had to share a single track around the accident. To relieve the congestion, Metro set up a bus bridge to link the Foggy Bottom, Court House and Virginia Square stations.

But bus bridges are like pouring 10 pounds of sand into a five-pound bag. (You train passengers are the sand and the bus is the bag.)

These were some of the same passengers caught up in Wednesday's rail service interruption between East Falls Church and West Falls Church, when the heavy storms brought down power lines on the tracks. Bad week to be Orange.

Meanwhile, there were equipment failures and delays on the MARC lines, but the most serious problem was a heat kink that developed along the Camden Line tracks and forced a temporary halt to train service.

MARC management issued a statement of explanation and apology about the day's events:

"After last week's service disruptions, we continue to experience service delays due to weather related events and unforeseen problems. Yesterday intense weather caused a sun kink near Dorsey on the Camden Line. This caused numerous delays to trains operating on that line and caused a ripple effect to both of the other lines.

"Camden Line train 853 had repaired locomotives that were to be delivered to Washington, these locomotives were intended to operate trains on the Penn Line and Brunswick Line. This train arrived DC almost 2 hours late, which prompted the cancellation of two Penn Line trains, because we had no locomotives for them.

"The Brunswick side experienced similar delays, caused by track work and freight congestion due to the sun kink, backing up all traffic."

Did anybody get home on time?

By Robert Thomson  |  June 10, 2008; 5:52 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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