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Get There: March 22, 2009 - March 28, 2009

Red Line Delays Through Weekend

The rain may not be the only thing discouraging people from traveling to the Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend. Although Metro has no scheduled track maintenance this weekend, it does have track repairs to perform following the derailment of two trains near Bethesda on Friday afternoon. So trains on that line will continue to share a single track between the Friendship Heights and Medical Center to get around the problem area, and that will cause delays through the weekend. Metro says service should be back to normal by the time the rail system opens on Monday morning. See Lena H. Sun's story on the derailments from today's Post. The Red Line is the most heavily used in the rail system, but it's the Blue and Orange lines that pass closest to the Tidal Basin and the Mall, where the blossom festival is centered. The transfer point from the Red to...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 28, 2009; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , transit  
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Major Delays on Red Line After Derailments

Weekend Update: Metro says Red Line delays are likely to continue through the weekend in the aftermath of Friday afternoon's derailments near Bethesda. Trains will continue to share a single track between the Friendship Heights and Medical Center.vThe transit authority says it expects to have full service restored by Monday morning. 6 p.m. Friday: Two trains have derailed near Bethesda. Metro says trains are sharing the same track between Medical Center and Friendship Heights to get around the disabled trains. There are delays in both directions, and the transit authority expects them to continue for the rest of this evening. All the stations are open. Here's Metro's statement on the incident: A six-car inbound train heading toward the Glenmont Metrorail station had a mechanical problem and was stopped between the Bethesda and Friendship Heights Metrorail stations. When a second train was brought in to move the disabled train out of...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 27, 2009; 5:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Metro Adds Service for Cherry Blossom Festival

I count three Washington events that participants love and commuters hate: The national Christmas tree lighting, the National Marathon and the Cherry Blossom Festival. (What's missing?) The two-week festival starts Saturday. Each spring at this time, Metro becomes the target for a lot of anger: Trains are crowded and break down. Tourists don't know the rules of the rails. But Metro also ramps up service to handle the crowds. The transit authority just announced this plan for the upcoming two weeks of the festival. * From Saturday through April 12, Metro will convert 15 six-car trains to eight-car trains on the Red, Orange and Green lines during the weekday off-peak hours. After 8 p.m., all trains will operate with six-cars on all rail lines. * On the weekends, some eight-car trains will operate on the Red, Orange and Green lines from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Normally, there aren't any...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 27, 2009; 10:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Events , Metro  
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The Weekend and Beyond

Here are some things to worry about, or enjoy, in your travels this weekend and into April. Cherry Blossom Festival Two of the year's worst commuting weeks are about to begin for those who must get in and out of central Washington. Yes, the blossoms are lovely, but if you're packed aboard the Blue or Orange lines, all you can see are the backs of the six passengers surrounding you. If you're driving on 14th Street, or Constitution and Independence avenues, you won't be much better off, given the congestion around the Tidal Basin and the Mall. The big parade downtown is scheduled for 10 a.m. next Saturday, April 4. See the full schedule here. Metro's equipment will be stressed. Look for plenty of trains to be taken out of service because of door problems. However, Metro will operate more eight-car trains weekdays and weekends, and will open two hours...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 27, 2009; 9:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Several People Hurt After Train Hits Bus in Pr. George's

Several people were injured this afternoon when a MARC train apparently struck a Metro bus at the Riverdale Park train station, causing it to hit another bus, a Metro spokeswoman said today. Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith said the train struck the rear end of an F4 route bus headed to New Carrollton just before 4:30 p.m. The bus then collided with another F4 bus headed to Silver Spring. Another Metro spokeswoman, Angela Gates, initially said there had been no collision with the train and that the bus had been hit by the gate blocking the train crossing and then rear-ended by another bus. According to news reports, Prince George's County fire spokesman Mark Brady said six people suffered minor injuries and paramedics were evaluating the condition of about 40 passengers aboard the train and the buses. The Metro spokeswomen had no further information about the injuries. All of MARC's...

By Mike McPhate  |  March 26, 2009; 5:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Metro Board Rejects Consideration of Fare Increase

12: 44 p.m. Update: The Metro Board of Directors just voted four to two in favor of considering a fare increase of up to 5 cents to offset service cuts proposed for the bus lines. But the motion was defeated. The two votes against the motion were cast by the District. Any of the three jurisdictions -- Maryland, Virginia or the District -- has veto power on a motion like this. Maryland and Virginia representatives favored giving riders the opportunity to comment at hearings on the choice between a fare increase and a service cut. The District is opposed to considering a fare increase option. Instead, the full board unanimously decided to ask riders for comment only on the version of the 2010 fiscal year budget that would be balanced through cuts in bus service. (See the previous entry for the list of cuts, reductions and a few fare increases...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 26, 2009; 12:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Metro  
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Metro Plans to Spend Stim on Bus and Rail Improvements

While the main action before the Metro Board today is balancing the transit budget for the next year, and the options to cut bus service or slightly increase fares to accomplish that, the board also is on track to approve use of $202 million in federal stimulus money. The list of projects should bring some joy: Buy new buses to replace the oldest in the fleet, replace the Metro Sales Office, fix crumbling platforms and add more fare vending machines that can handle SmarTrip transactions. That's a partial list. You can review the full list here on Metro's Web site....

By Robert Thomson  |  March 26, 2009; 11:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  
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Now: Metro Board to Consider Cuts vs. Fare Increase

The full Metro Board of Directors today will consider two proposals to send to the public for review at hearings. One offers people the alternative of bus service cuts or a 5 cent fare increase. The other would allow people to review only the bus cuts, as described in the previous entry. This menu of choices is the result of a vote just now in the board's finance committee. The idea arose because some members said they had heard from riders who said they would be willing to consider a fare increase rather than endure the service cuts. The strongest opposition to the fare increase idea is coming from the District of Columbia. Even if the full board decides to ask the public to consider the fare increase versus service cut idea, it still will be up to the board to decide the matter before July 1. A 5 cent...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 26, 2009; 11:14 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Metro  
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Now: Metro Board Wrestling With Bus Cuts

The board this morning has begun a discussion of what bus service cuts to propose to the public to help balance the transit budget that takes effect in July. Maryland, Virginia and D.C. representatives all have come to this morning's meeting at Metro headquarters with proposals for how they would close their jurisdiction's portion of the overall budget gap of $29 million for fiscal 2010. These are all proposals, at the moment. In fact, even by the end of today's meetings, they'll still be proposals. The change will be that the board has agreed to let the public review them. There are no proposals on the table to change Metrorail service. Ten bus lines are on the list for complete elimination. Seventeen routes or route segments are on the list for elimination or reduction. Six routes could be up for fare increases. Fourteen lines could see wider gaps between bus...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 26, 2009; 10:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Metro  
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Transit Police Chief Explains Metro Crime Stats

Most larcenies are parking areas. In 2008, about half the crimes were in parking areas, Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn tells the Metro board this morning. See those crime stats here on Metro's Web site. I've got a letter from a reader that I'll share with you soon in which he describes the difficulty he's been having in reporting the theft of his bicycle from a station in Prince George's County. He says it's been impossible to report the theft to transit police over the phone. So I'm wondering if other travelers have had any similar difficulty. Share your experiences with me via e-mail at drgridlock@washpost.com....

By Robert Thomson  |  March 26, 2009; 9:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Where the New 16th Street Express Bus Will Stop

The new S9 express bus service between downtown Washington and Silver Spring Station hasn't started yet, but here's a peak at the stops and the schedule: Use this link to see a map and chart. Metro will begin the S9 service on Monday. An enhancement to the S routes, it is scheduled to operate every 10 minutes. Look for the blue and gray Metrobus Express signs....

By Robert Thomson  |  March 26, 2009; 9:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Rockville Water Main Break Closes Wootton Parkway

UPDATE: 1:05 a.m. ET Rockville police have closed parts of Wootton Parkway because of a water main break that occurred at approximately 5 p.m. The road is closed to traffic between Greenplace Terrace and Hurley Avenue near Wootton High School, police said, while officials from the city's public works department respond to the break. Rockville police said parts of Wootton Parkway remained closed past midnight as crews continued their efforts. Officials said they expected the road would reopen before the morning rush. Road Essentials:  Incident Map  |  Traffic Cams   |   Key Routes...

By Mike McPhate  |  March 26, 2009; 1:05 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Video: Pyrotechnics on the Potomac

A fireball exploded from a sculling boat on the Potomac River today as part of film production for the CBS Paramount television pilot 'Washington Field.' Earlier: Officials Downgrade TV Film Crew's Plan...

By Mike McPhate  |  March 25, 2009; 3:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Get Smart: Region Launches Safety Campaign

The people who run the Street Smart campaign for pedestrian safety always pick a good location to launch these education and safety campaigns. This morning, it was an education to stand near the press conference and watch pedestrian, auto and bike traffic move through the intersection of 14th and U streets NW in Washington. At first, all looks well. Both streets are flat and have good sight lines for all travelers. There are plenty of signs: "Don't Block the Box," "No Turn on Red," "Pedestrians Must Wait For Walk Signal." All the crossing signals have pedestrian countdowns. And there's an enforcement camera to intimidate red-light runners. What could go wrong? It's actually one of the most problematic intersections in the District, bringing together many thousands of travelers forced to make many decisions -- not necessary the right ones -- as they try go get through it. It doesn't take too...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 25, 2009; 1:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Safety  
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Metro Tweets About Delays

This began to become plain during the worries about traffic on Inauguration Day: Many of our transportation departments are looking for ways to reach travelers fast, using new technologies including Twitter and Facebook. Recently, Metro and VRE launched pages on Facebook to interact with riders. (This is a link to the Metro Facebook page. It's got 2.465 fans. This is a link to the VRE Facebook page. A much smaller operation than Metro, it's got 232 fans.) Today, Metro announced that rail riders can sign up to receive tweets on their cell phones to tell them, in 140 characters or less, what's gone wrong on their line. Sample message provided by Metro: "Blue-Orange: Expect delays to New Carrollton and Largo Town Center due to emergency track maintenance at Cheverly station." To sign up, go to www.twitter.com/metroopensdoors. The service is free to Web users, but people who use SMS may incur...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 25, 2009; 12:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Metro , transit  
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Riders Challenge Bus Service Cuts

When transit officials are forced to cut back on service, they say they pick reductions that will harm the least number of people. At a public hearing in Rockville last night, a portion of those least told the transit officials that they count, too. Montgomery County is considering a plan to cut five weekday routes, five Saturday routes and three Sunday routes starting July 5. Two other routes have segments that are proposed for elimination, the frequency of service on two more would be reduced evening service would be reduced on six more. The county says the routes have relatively few riders and that in many cases there are other buses those people can take. The riders who attended the hearing challenged that on every count. (And by the way, almost all of them think they're being under counted. They note the number of times they board buses only to...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 25, 2009; 7:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Transportation Politics , transit  
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Potomac 'Explosion' Scheduled for Today

A simulated explosion is scheduled to take place near the Key Bridge, which connects Georgetown and Rosslyn, between 9:30 a.m. and noon today. As reported by The Post's Paul Duggan on Tuesday, television producers are expected to create a bright flash of light lasting a few seconds. "It'll be safely upriver from the Key Bridge, a clear distance from any structure or roadway or bridge," a D.C. government spokesman told Duggan. Miscommunication between agencies led to confusion earlier this week when word circulated that there would be a large fireball lasting as long as three minutes....

By Washington Post Editors  |  March 25, 2009; 7:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Streets Are for People, Too

When traffic experts talk about sharing the road, they don't mean just with other drivers. You'll hear more from them this week about pedestrian safety as the again launch the Street Smart campaign, but first, here's a street scene. Dear Dr. Gridlock: As most folks know in our neighborhood, we've had three pedestrian deaths in the past year (it may even be in a shorter timeframe than that). Two of those were folks crossing in the crosswalk, though not at a light. One person was crossing against traffic. The local precinct has upped speed traps, but based on my experience, speed is not the issue. It's driver awareness that there are pedestrians. I have a young daughter, and her grandmother and nanny are out with her every day; her grandmother tells me frequently about traffic that nearly hit them or others she's seen. Just last Thursday, we were walking south...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 24, 2009; 6:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Safety  
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Trapped in DC by National Marathon

I must say I've heard fewer complaints about this Saturday's National Marathon than the ones in previous years, but this traveler's anger certainly compensates for lack of numbers with intensity of passion. Dear Dr. Gridlock: The Ridiculous Blockade of practically all numbered streets running between NE and SE Saturday morning for the Marathon Nuts shows once again how little concern D.C. officials have for the community. My wife and I were on our way to a funeral. There was total traffic gridlock going in all directions in the Capitol Hill area. We could not cross from NE to SE on any street from 4th Street to 20th Street. It was total chaos! We went back and forth trying to find a way across to SE. Every car ended up having to make U-turns at blocked intersections on small crowded streets in the neighborhoods. Most of Capitol Hill was tied up....

By Robert Thomson  |  March 23, 2009; 4:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Events  
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Metro Posts Data; Developers Complain of Problems

Metro today posted long-awaited links to its scheduling data. The decision to make the information freely available was announced last week to the delight of transit developers who want to play with the data. Some people though are complaining that they have been unable to download the files. Get There too received error messages. A Metro spokesperson said the agency's IT team would be consulted about the problems....

By Mike McPhate  |  March 23, 2009; 11:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Join Online Discussion Today

The construction season is springing foward across all our jurisdictions. Drivers will notice the effects across all our jurisdictions. Transit riders, meanwhile, will be worrying about the impact of government budget cuts on their trains and buses. Join me at 1 p.m. today and talk about your concerns. Here's a link to the discussion. And here's one to use if you'd like to submit a question or comment ahead of time. We can discuss any issue you like in local transportation....

By Robert Thomson  |  March 23, 2009; 10:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Many Changes Coming in Bus Services

Local bus services in the region's two biggest jurisdictions are taking a hit because of the economy. In Montgomery County, Ride on is scheduled to cut some service in two weeks. The county also is holding a hearing in Rockville at 6:30 Tuesday night on a second round of cuts that would occur in July. See those details here. A week from today, Fairfax County will begin a series of hearings on proposed cuts in its 2010 budget that include reductions in the Fairfax Connector service. The proposals include cutting more than a dozen routes and reducing the frequency of the buses on others. See a full list at this link. Metro, of course, is in the midst of its own budget struggles, and we should have a clearer picture this Thursday on how that will work out for bus riders. The transit authority staff made many proposals for bus...

By Robert Thomson  |  March 23, 2009; 10:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  transit  
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