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Where the Yellow Line Turns

Has the extension of the Yellow Line to Fort Totten during off-peak hours hurt riders on the Green Line? We got into that debate Monday during our weekly online discussion. Here's a sample:

Washington, D.C.: ... the Post has ignored the daily rush hour and non-rush delays on the Green Line as a result of the Yellow Line extension to Fort Totten. Why daily delays to Green Line riders to duplicate service for the least-traveled line deserves no coverage, I do not understand. But the Post and Metro seem to think that Red Line delays are more serious than Green Line delays. I'm not getting a discount on my fare for less service.

Yellow Line-Green Line Confusion: Why, oh why does Metro not extend Yellow Line service during rush? I take the Green Line to U Street; at Gallery Place, the Yellow Lines run virtually empty during rush since everyone on the platform is waiting for the Green Line to get off at U Street and Columbia Heights. Why does Metro have the empty Yellow Line stop at Mt. Vernon? Why not have it go an extra few stops in order to allow breathing room in the constantly-packed Green Lines during rush? Isn't rush hour when you would want to have the most trains servicing the most stations?? Why does the Yellow Line only service U St. and Columbia Heights during non-rush??

Now back to me today: The Yellow Line was extended a few years ago at the District's request to add service to developing areas north of downtown. The service originally terminated at Mount Vernon Square, just as it does now during peak periods.

During those times, many riders get off the trains at L'Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place, because they're main transfer points. So after Gallery Place, a northbound train at rush hour will be much less crowded for the short trip up to Mount Vernon Square. People get off at Mount Vernon Square either because that's their station or because they're going to wait on the platform to pick up the next Green Line train to continue north. (We see the same pattern on the Red Line at Grosvenor and Silver Spring.)

So why not let those rush-hour Yellow Line trains go farther north, up to the next transfer station at Fort Totten, where they terminate at off-peak periods?

It takes too long to turn them around at rush hour, when the gap between trains is much shorter.

With our type of system, there are two ways to turn back a train when it's part way through a line: Use one of the limited number of pocket tracks, which are off the main line, or use a crossover, a switch that leads from one main track to the other.

While a train is on a pocket track making a turnaround, other trains can pass by on the main tracks. At a switch point, a train turning back toward downtown would slow traffic on both main tracks during rush hours.

There's a pocket track north of Mount Vernon Square, so the Yellow Line trains can turn back there at rush hours. There's just a switch at Fort Totten, so that works for off-peak periods but not for rush hours.

[By the way, we care about all our transit ways, as well as our roads, and would like to hear from you when you see a problem or just something that looks weird and you want to figure out what's going on. You can comment on our postings here, send an e-mail to me at, or send a short note to me on Twitter.]

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

By Robert Thomson  |  May 5, 2009; 8:47 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Next: Commuter Alert: Orange, Blue Line Delays


The best way to look at it is that rush hour commuters never lost any service, but off-peak riders gained a lot. There is very limited ability to add service during the peaks, but off-peak increases should be implemented where possible and cost effective.

Posted by: thetan | May 5, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

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