Mixed Results on Metro Communication
Metro, which has been working on improving its communications with riders, showed last night it still has a way to go.
Power problems plagued the Orange Line during the afternoon rush on Monday. Metro's eAlert, an e-mail notification to subscribers, said:
"Disruption at Dunn Loring-Merrifield. (Due to a power outage, all of the station's escalators and elevators are out of service. Shuttle bus service has been established between Dunn Loring and Vienna. The station remains open.)"
That was mostly true, except for the part about the shuttle bus service. Many aspects of Metro's action plan for the afternoon were fully described in an advisory from the transit authority's public information office. Metro posted that notice on its home page and sent it to media outlets across the region to be broadcast or posted online. But riders would not have known about them from the eAlerts or from announcements made in the stations.
For example, riders would not have known that Metro's plan called for every other train to turn around at West Falls Church.
Meanwhile, on the trains and platforms, little information was reaching passengers. At 5:35 p.m., I was aboard an Orange Line train that reached Foggy Bottom and was taken out of service because of what the operator described as a "problem at Rosslyn."
The passengers aboard the crowded train got off calmly and waited. So did the train. Meanwhile, there was nothing on the electronic message board about the power problem farther down the line. The board indicated that an eight-car train (ours) was boarding. The next two lines indicated that two six car Orange Line trains would follow, but showed no arrival times.
The message board did show that there were delays on the Red Line.
People on the hot and jammed platform were debating whether to take cabs to their destinations. At 5:46 p.m., a station announcement asked us to "please be patient. Trains will be servicing the platform as soon as possible." I saw no Metro personnel on the platform. Meanwhile, the train that had been taken out of service remained in front of us.
At 5:47 p.m., the train doors opened.
Nobody moved. Then the operator told us the train was back in service toward Vienna. He told us there were delays on the Orange Line toward Vienna. "The good news is there are two Orange Line trains directly behind us. Please stand clear of all doors."
It was a good, clear announcement. He told the many people on the platform that they need not crowd aboard this train because there were two more coming, and gave plenty of time for the repeated message to be understood before he closed the doors.
After that, the train operated smoothly to West Falls Church. Before Dunn Loring, I heard no announcement that the station's power was out and that the elevators and escalators were not working.
At West Falls Church, a big crowd boarded for the trip to Vienna, but by then it was easy for our train to accommodate the additional passengers.
The trip back downtown was much longer, leaving Vienna at 6:22 p.m. and arriving at McPherson Square at 7:38 p.m. But the train operator continued to make clear and detailed announcements about our situation. When the doors opened at stations, we also could hear announcements on the platform about signal delays that were affecting the entire system.
The operator told us how many trains were stacked up ahead of us to get through the Rosslyn tunnel. All through this time, both going toward Vienna and coming back, I had difficulty checking my Verizon cellphone messages to see if there was any additional information on the eAlerts.
At no point was there any information about other transit options for Metrorail riders, such as the possibility of taking the 38B bus, which parallels some of the Orange Line stops in Virginia after departing from Farragut Square.
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