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Big Delay on Orange Line (Again)

UPDATE: Delays continued Wednesday night on the Orange Line because of the sun kink in the rail, but the transit authority says normal service would resume by 5 a.m. Thursday, when Metrorail reopens for the day.

Discovery of the bend in the rail between East Falls Church and Ballston at 3:15 Wednesday afternoon led to big delays.

Orange Line service was suspended between those stations when the operator of a train heading toward New Carrollton noticed an irregularity on the tracks, Metro said. (Good work by the operator. The problem could have resulted in another derailment. VRE and MARC riders are very familiar with the slowdowns ordered in summertime out of concern for heat kinks.)

Orange Line trains then had to share a single track and cut their speeds between the East Falls Church and Ballston.

Metro also set up a bus bridge of free shuttles between the Ballston and Vienna stations to help passengers get around the incident. But there were long waits for buses, which carry about 50 people, compared to the 800 or so who can squeeze aboard a rush hour Metro train. Plus, the rush hour traffic slowed down the buses' progress.

Orange Line riders have been hammered this month. The storm on June 4 brought down power lines on the tracks and cut service. Then a train derailed between East and West Falls Church on Monday.

Just a coincidence, Gerald Francis, Metro's deputy general manager, told The Post's Lena H. Sun. (Read Lena's story here.)

It would be nice to think the streak ends here, but just in case, Metrobus 38B between Ballston and Farragut Square is known as The Orange Line With A View.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 11, 2008; 5:08 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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The delays are getting to be habitual. Wednesday last week, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week.

My friend was just telling me how she can no longer take Metrorail because of her (rather typical) day care situation. Come late, pay through the nose for it. Even assuming 20-25 minutes just-in-case is no longer reasonable. You have to expect 40-45 minutes lately. Three days in a row of late fees is about the same as what she'd pay in gas, even at four bucks a gallon, plus parking, so guess what she's going to be doing from now on.

I love Metro's employees and think they are among the best of any transit agency in any place I've lived, but the system infrastructure is crumbling rapidly and they are powerless against the forces of age, neglect, and underfunding. My car is looking better and better to me! At least if I'm stuck in traffic, I have air conditioning, a radio, and can slurp my Starbucks without fear of a $60 (or is it $80) ticket.

Posted by: :-( | June 11, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

For all of the flack that metro train operators have been taking, I have to give this one credit for spotting the kink in the rails, and possibly preventing a second derailment. Yes, single tracking is bad. Another derailment would be VERY bad. Kudos to whoever you are out there.

Posted by: Joe in SS | June 11, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I usually make it from Union Station to Vienna in 45 minutes. Today it was about 1 hour 20 minutes. We were originally told the westbound Orange Line train would terminate at Clarendon and we'd have to take a shuttle from there to the other westbound stops. After we'd sat at Clarendon for several minutes, the operator announced he'd been given permission to single-track to Vienna. Everyone cheered. After several more minutes of sitting, he announced we'd have to get off the train because of door problems. Everyone did not cheer. We caught the next Vienna train and from that point it was maybe 45 minutes to Vienna.

I am very glad an operator spotted the kink in the track. But as my husband pointed out, why would that happen today, which was not nearly as hot as the past two days?

Posted by: Shannon | June 11, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Husband and toddler were stuck, without much info from Metro, on the Foggy Bottom platform.

Why does metro still charge during these SNAFUs

Posted by: mclean | June 11, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those who keep pointing out that station announcements often sound garbled. But I thought Metro did a good job with their email/text Alert system this time around. I received my first email alert of the problem at Ballston around 3:38 p.m. while I still was at the office. Metro provided very frequent email/text alerts, explaining that there was a problem with the track just outside Ballston. And informing riders that shuttle buses were being put into operation. One of the most useful messages was this one, which I received at 5:19 PM (still at the office but I also got it on my cell phone):

"ID 44539) Disruption at Ballston. (There are currently 20 shuttle buses operating between Ballston & Vienna to help minimize delays. Buses are leaving every 25 min from Clarendon & Ballston. Customers are encouraged to utilize the 38B & 24P Metrobuses between Ballston & Clarendon.)."

Although buses can't carry many people, it seems to me that Metro was making a real effort this time around to let text alert subscribers know what was happening.

The Arlington OEM also put out an alert around 4:39:

"Metro reports track problem outside of Ballston Station. Expect delays in both directions. Shuttle bus service established between Clarendon & Vienna. jjb/oem

Sent by Arlington County OEM to All users (e-mail, pagers, cell phones) through Arlington Alert"

Posted by: Longtime Metro Rider | June 11, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

My commute tonight was worse then the one on Tuesday because of the derailment.

I had the same operator both nights interestingly enough - I know this because he was good at communicating but kept saying we'd be moving momentarily. After hearing that for 30 minutes with no movement I wanted to say momentarily is a short period of time and 30 minutes isn't a short period of time. I much prefer the operators who give info not just talk because they're told to talk to us constantly. If you don't know say you don't know but don't keep saying the same thing over and over again.

Posted by: Washington DC | June 11, 2008 9:28 PM | Report abuse

I think I'm caught in the matrix. Morpheus...send help!

Posted by: Metro Man | June 12, 2008 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Another evening of chaos on the Orange Line towards Vienna.

It was announced that our train was going out of service at Clarendon - no problem for me - as I live there. But the platform was over capacity (itself a danger) with agitated passengers shouting they'd been waiting there 45 minutes - while shuttle buses were only operating out of Ballston - and the through train I just got off was being put "out of service".

I hadn't even made it up the escalator yet - when Metro employees began shouting out that the train would not, in fact, go out of service, but would continue to Ballston, where presumably all those folks on the platform would queue up again for a small shuttle bus.

Meanwhile, the train had emptied - and many of those riders presumably lost their seats in the scramble to reboard.

The 38B bus on Monday and Tuesday from Farragut Square was a nightmare of overcapacity - but I'll do it again this evening rather than risk another Metro train this week.

Posted by: jqw3827 | June 12, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

It was not pleasant last night at Ballston around 4 p.m. The metro folks did tell those of us going towards New Carroltown that the trains were not going that way, only out towards Vienna. They directed us to to the bus (either shuttle or 38B.)

So bunches of us piled back up the stairs ( I personally grabbed one very confused tourist who wanted to go to the Holocaust Museum) to look for the alleged bus. No shuttle bus....ok - the 38B would do.

Every 38B that came up let off all the passengers then went "out of service". The third time that it happened, the crowd started to grow unhappy as we'd been waiting about an hour. I grabbed a passing Metro employee and explained the situation. God bless this man - he got us a bus that was supposed to go somewhere else, directed us all on the bus and told the driver to take the bus to Rosslyn.

The poor driver didn't know how to get to Rosslyn but fortunately, others on the bus did. The tourist with me wanted to know if the Metro always breaks down as this is the 2nd time she had seen it this week.

All in all, I'd like to know what use it is to direct folks to busses that are going "out of service". I'd also like to thank the Metro guy who got us the bus and the Metro bus driver.

Posted by: Chevy Chase | June 12, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

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