Metro Adds Service for Cherry Blossom Festival
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 eight-car trains on the weekends.) And more eight-car trains will be on standby to go into service if the lines become excessively crowded.
* On Sunday, April 5, Metrorail will open two hours early, at 5 a.m., for the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race, which will start at 7:45 a.m. at West Potomac Park. (It also ends there.) The closest Metrorail stop is Smithsonian, on the Blue and Orange lines.
Metro offers some advice for both tourists and regular riders.
* Avoid the peak commuter times, which are 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. The worst time of all for crowding on the trains would be 4 to 6 p.m.
* Before you travel, buy a $7.80 one-day Metrorail pass. You can use it after 9:30 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends. You can buy them at the fare vending machines marked as selling passes or at the Metro sales offices. (It's not just saving you money. It also means you don't have to deal with the paper Farecards. Buying and using them is a souce of constant bafflement for visitors.)
* While most Metro parking facilities take only the SmarTrip card for payment, some take Discover, Mastercard, Visa, American Express or Japanese Credit Bank credit cards. Those Metro locations Anacostia, Franconia-Springfield, Largo Town Center, Vienna, Shady Grove and New Carrollton stations.
* While Smithsonian is the tourist magnet, all the downtown stations are likely to be crowded.
* Allow for some extra travel time, both coming and going. (Two reasons I can think of: Some trains will break down. Passengers -- and not just tourists -- mess with the doors, and that's the easiest way to knock out a train. Also, you might find an arriving train is so crowded, you'll want to stand back and take a chance on the next one.)
* There's really no good reason to stand at the edge of the platform to watch the train approach. (It will get there when it gets there, and you've got to let the riders get off first anyway.)
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