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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 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.
Visitors:
* 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.)

* An alternative is to buy a plastic SmarTrip card. You can add value to the card to pay the fare on Metrorail and Metrobus and also to pay for parking on weekdays at the Metro lots and garages.

* 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.

Regulars:
* If you have the flexibility to do so, try to stay away from the Smithsonian Station, the most popular with tourists during the festival weeks.

* 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.)

Metro Resources:  Riding the System  |  Trip Planner   |   Map  |  Post Coverage

By Robert Thomson  |  March 27, 2009; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Events , Metro  
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Next: Major Delays on Red Line After Derailments

Comments

April 5 sounds bad. The Caps play their final home game of the regular season that day (currently set for 3:00 PM; there is a very slim chance it could move to 12:30 if NBC picks it up, but I doubt that will happen). Sounds like a good day to drive in to the game via a route that avoids the Tidal Basin.

Posted by: 1995hoo | March 27, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

How could you forget the 4th of July Metro nightmares?

Posted by: DeniseABrown | March 27, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Denise, even though July 4 is indeed a very stressful day on Metro, I think of it a bit differently from those other events I named. Because it's a holiday, it doesn't create the same conflict between participants and regular local travelers.

Leaving the mall after the fireworks can be a downer, because of the crowding on Metrorail, but that's all among the participants, rather than regular travelers.

And 1995hoo, thanks for the reminder about the Caps game.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | March 27, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

April 5 sounds bad. The Caps play their final home game of the regular season that day (currently set for 3:00 PM; there is a very slim chance it could move to 12:30 if NBC picks it up, but I doubt that will happen). Sounds like a good day to drive in to the game via a route that avoids the Tidal Basin.

Posted by: 1995hoo | March 27, 2009 11:23 AM

The Caps game won't be moved. NBC currently has the Red Wings vs. Wild scheduled, which will certainly outdraw Caps vs. Atlanta.

Dr. G, there is a Caps game tonight, which I believe is sold out. There's another one on the 3rd, which is against Bufflo and therefore the BuffaNuts will be out in force. I'd advise people to avoid Chinatown unles they're going to the games.

A reminder for visitors: DC is a real city, with real people who live and work here. Welcome to town, but remember most of us are not on vacation with you and are just trying to get to work, get home, etc. and just trying to go about of daily lives.

PLEASE don't make snide comments about how everyone here is in a hurry, or tell me to slow down.

Keep your voices down--I know you're excited to be going to see the blossoms and all, but you and your six other family members chattering at the top of your lungs on metro at 7 am?

Please don't take up 12 seats when you only have 4 people. Its just downright rude.

Please don't stop at the top or bottom of escalators and/or steps. There are people behind you. Step out of the way to allow others to continue moving.

Enjoy your stay.

Posted by: RedBirdie | March 27, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Anything has to be better then waiting to get into a Metro station (if you could get to one) after the Obama inauguration.

It would be great to remind tourists that the best times to travel are not during rush hours. Metro used to really stress that to tourists but they don't really do that enough.

And, of course....stand right, walk left please!

Posted by: thetan | March 27, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it matters how much metro stresses to not use the system during rush hours, visotrs want to be up and going at 8 am (though I don't understand why. You're on vacation-SLEEP IN!). When I used Shady Grove, from April-October I heard the announcement every morning "Attention customers, the one-day passes are not vaild until 9:30 am." And its not pre-recorded! Visitors want to start their day at the crack of dawn, and then eat dinenr at 5 pm--which puts them in direct conflict with us locals who are trying to get to and from our jobs.

One, though, I was headed down to some event during the summer, it was FolkLife festival, a sturday, so the train is PACKED, and some woman goes "My, I wonder what all these people are here for?!" Yes, lady, ebcause you are the only person in all of the world who thought heading down to the mall/smithsonian on a summer weekend sounded like a brilliant idea. I'm just constantly amazed at people who think they're going to get the city all to themselves.

Dr. G, April 11 & 12 is also NCAA Hockey Frozen Four at the Verizon Center. The event is sold out, PLUS a lot of people are just coming to town for the festivities.

Posted by: RedBirdie | March 27, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the Frozen Four is on Thursday and Saturday, April 9 and 11, with the Thursday double-header starting at 5 p.m., so that could be a hectic night. Also, there is a skills competition, which still has tickets available, on April 10, so things will be hopping at Verizon for several days at the end of the festival. Also, the Caps game on April 5 is locked down at 3 p.m.; NBC took another game for 12:30.

Posted by: ValleyCaps | March 27, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

you're right, I was looking at my calendar wrong! The 10th is also the night the Hobey Baker is awarded, right?

Wings-Wild is the 12:30 game on NBC. My husband is mad because that one isn't going to be over before we have to leave for the Capitals game.

Posted by: RedBirdie | March 27, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Doc: The cherry blossom race starts and ends at the Washington Monument not West Potomac Park like it has in past years.

Posted by: ArlingtonVA3 | March 27, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for correcting me on the NBC thing. I wasn't sure when they announce which game they chose. (For some reason I keep thinking it's the Monday before, although I'm probably just mixing it up in my mind with the way college football does it.)


"I don't think it matters how much metro stresses to not use the system during rush hours, visotrs want to be up and going at 8 am (though I don't understand why. You're on vacation-SLEEP IN!)."

I kind of understand this in a way. If someone comes from far away and has only a limited time available and doesn't know if he'll ever be back, getting up early to see as much as you can makes some sense. (I got up at 6 AM when I was in St. Petersburg, Russia, in order to be out and about by 8....but then, the traffic is worse there than it is here....)

Posted by: 1995hoo | March 27, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for all the comments. I will be visiting on the 28th and now have some insight on what to expect. Thanks again.

Posted by: gordonwall | March 27, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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