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How Not to Commute Today

These are some suggestions about what NOT to do. I've collected them from my own experiences and from yours.

Avoid the shuttle buses. The system is well organized and it's running far, far better than I had expected. The bus bridges are usually a nightmare during a Metrorail emergency. The reason I suggest avoiding them is just that you probably can find a faster alternative. The shuttle between Silver Spring and Fort Totten has to travel along many local streets, make lots of turns and halt at lots of red lights and stop signs.

Avoid the S4 on 16th Street. I've tried this from downtown to Silver Spring two evenings in a row and it's been even more crowded than usual. Lots of passengers waiting downtown on 16th Street for buses that already are jammed by the time they get there. I think it might be more productive to wait for the S9, the limited stop service, which is scheduled to come every 10 minutes. Normally, it would be just a rush hour thing, but during the Red Line emergency, it's operating at midday, too. And there are extra buses.

First bus isn't necessarily best. There's a lot of bus bunching because of the crowding on the buses, as people bail out from the eastern side of the Red Line. If you can afford to be patient, pass up the first crowded bus and see how things look on the next one, which may arrive pretty quickly after the first. (Wish that NextBus alert system had started already, but that's still a week away.) You might try this with the 79, the Metro Extra on Georgia Avenue.

Don't pass up a 70s bus. The fastest bus to and from Silver Spring on the Georgia Avenue route is the 79, the limited-stop Metro Extra. But many of those buses are filled with commuters using it as a Red Line alternative. Consider using the other Georgia Avenue buses, the 70 and 71, because you might be more likely to get a seat.

Avoid the east side of the Red Line. Even though the Brookland and Fort Totten stations have reopened on the Red, I think you might still be better off taking the Green Line (and the Yellow Line, depending on the hour) up to Fort Totten and getting on the shuttle bus there -- if you feel you have to take the shuttle. The Red Line is the most heavily used in the system. (Still no word on when the track between Fort Totten and Silver Spring will reopen.)

Don't forget about the baseball traffic. If it hadn't been for the crash, I'd be focusing more attention on this: The Nationals are playing the Red Sox again tonight and Thursday. The games start at 7:05, and are likely to be very crowded. So that puts rush hour pressure on the Green Line, through Navy Yard Station, and on South Capitol and M streets.

Don't stand where you usually stand. While you're waiting for a Metro train, I mean. As a safety precaution, the transit authority has ordered the operators to stop all trains, whether they're six cars or eight cars, to stop at the front of the platform. They don't want eight-car operators to forget how long the train is and stop where the doors can open in a tunnel.) That's a very good plan. But it means that people need to move up the platform, or they won't have time to get into the first car.

By the way, this may partly explain why you're seeing fewer people in the first car. Some are avoiding it because of the crash stories. Others may not be standing where they should to board the first car.

All right, that's what I've got so far, but I know you've got more. So please lay out your suggestions in the comments field.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 24, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
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S9 this morning passed by a lot of passengers (I was on it from Colesville Rd. in Silver Spring to M St downtown from 8:10 to 9:10)

Posted by: chiquita2 | June 24, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

So what *is* the best way from Silver Spring to Fort Totten?

Posted by: EtoilePB | June 24, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock: EtoilePB, if you have to get to Ft Totten because you have to get to Ft Totten (as opposed to just needing to make a Metrorail connection), then I'd take the shuttle, but count on it taking about 40 minutes. If the real need is to get downtown, I'd take the 16th Street or Georgia Ave buses. And given what I've experienced on the Red Line shuttles, I'd check out the new shuttle from Silver Spring to Georgia Ave/Petworth to connect to the Green Line. I think that might be a more direct shot as a bus connection.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | June 24, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, please enlighten us on the faster alternative between Ft. Totten and Silver Spring. Last night I took the green line from Gallery to FT, which was a breeze, but the shuttle bus from FT to SS took 40 minutes!

Posted by: JDMansfield | June 24, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: chiquita2, that's a good cautionary note about the S9. So it was me this afternoon -- and that would be my stop at 16th and M -- I'd walk down to the south side of McPherson Square and pick up the S9 right where it starts, to cut down on the passenger competition along the route home.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | June 24, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Robert, I didn't realize there was a shuttle from Silver Spring to Petworth. Think I'll try that tomorrow, or use the 79 express as a bus bridge to Petworth. The shuttles from Fort Totten are ridiculous - it seems the drivers take the worst possible routes between the metro stations, i.e., those destined to sit in the most traffic and hit the most stoplights.

Posted by: JDMansfield | June 24, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: JDMansfield, I should note that none of these ideas beats a regular old trip on the Red Line, but Metro can't say when we're going to have that luxury again. I also took the Green Line to the shuttle at Ft Totten last night. And the shuttle will stick with that same twisty route. You could consider getting off the Green Line one stop early at Georgia Ave/Petworth and take the Metro shuttle to Silver Spring from there. I haven't tried that yet. Metro just announced this new shuttle last night.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | June 24, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

One catch to the S9 - I took my usual Ride-On Bus to Silver Spring this morning, and was told that the S9 bus doesn't actually pick up at Silver Spring (is this correct???) I was told by two Metro supervisors to go to either 16th & Eastern or 16th & E-W Hwy to pick it up. Instead, I hopped on a sardine can of an S4, jumped off at Military Road, and within five minutes, no less than THREE S9's arrived, all together. I got on the second, and got to Dr. G's stop at 16th & M at the same time as the original S4, but I had a seat and air conditioning the whole way.

Dr. G - When they say the S9's are running "all day", does that mean AM Rush, Mid-Day, PM Rush (until 7 or so), or does it mean until system close tonight?

Joe in SS

Posted by: vtavgjoe | June 24, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to have to agree with fellow riders. The dumbest mistake I could have made yesterday afternoon was taking the Fort Totten shuttle to SS. Every single turn led into traffic. Ridiculous. The whole bus ride took an hour. I'm sticking with the 79 from DC to SS. Took it this morning and not only was it less crowded, it only took 40-45 minutes.

Posted by: Tess89 | June 24, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

For those coming from the Glenmont, Wheaton, and Silver Spring stations below are some options for taking a bus and connecting up with the redline on its western side.

From Glenmont: Take the C8 to White Flint or the Ride-On 10 to Twinbrook. Both trips take about 30 minutes.

From Wheaton: Take the 34 (towards Friendship Heights) to Medical Center. Trip takes 25-20 minutes.

From Silver Spring: Take the J5 (towards Twinbrook Metro) to Grosvenor Metro or the Ride-on 5 (towards Twinbrook) to Grosvenor Metro. Trips take 20 mins and 35 mins respectively.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | June 24, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

@ Dr Gridlock: After some map work, I think the GA Ave/Petworth shuttle from Silver Spring will just about do it. Thanks for the tip! Now to see if I can actually get one...

Posted by: EtoilePB | June 24, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

From Silver Spring, the 1, 11, and J2/J3 run far more frequently and are much more direct than taking the J5 or 5.

Posted by: FHMetro | June 24, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I took the S9 last night at 7 PM from 16th & I to SS and again this morning at 9:05 AM from Colesville Rd. & E-W Hwy, and both trips were hunky-dory. Last night's trip took the scheduled 37 minutes, and while this morning's was some 10-15 minutes longer, there were fewer passengers. For those looking to replace the eastern side of the Red line--at least before 7 PM--it's a good alternative. (Dr. Gridlock: Any word on whether the S9 will run past 7 PM during this event?)

Note to those who might take the S9 from Silver Spring: The initial pickup is from the northern side of Colesville Rd. at East-West Highway, which is a block or two away from the actual SS Metro station.

Posted by: sburban | June 24, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

For the past two days, from Silver Spring to Gallery Place I have taken one of the J buses (J1, 2, 3, 4) to Bethesda station then hopped on the red line there. There are also a couple RideOn buses that travel that same route along E-W Hwy to Bethesda.

The whole process took about 55 minutes today -- longer than my usual commute, certainly, but really not bad. The 70s buses are an OK option as well if you're headed down 7th Street/Georgia Ave.

Posted by: L1234 | June 24, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I called Metro customer service center about 6:50 and asked them when the last scheduled S9 from downtown to Silver Spring and was told 7pm. I then asked if they are going to be extending service on the S9 due to the Red line and the agent said, "not on the S9."

Posted by: dhlunar | June 24, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I've had the opposite experience of most of you and Dr. Gridlock. I took the shuttle from SS to Fort Totten this morning and vice versa tonight and the ride was 30 minutes and not bad. I took the S4 into DC yesterday morning and the 79 express bus home last night and both took an hour, agonizingly slow and stopped in major traffic. I favor taking the Green Line to Fort Totten and then the shuttle (or maybe even get off at Takoma and then take the 12 or 13 bus to SS, which gets me closer to my SS home than the Metro stop is).

Posted by: melp | June 24, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

@Dr Gridlock: I never did find the GA Ave/Petworth shuttle at Silver Spring, but the red line replacement shuttle left Silver Spring at 5:02 on my watch and had me walking into Fort Totten just under half an hour later -- so really, not bad. (On the other hand, the size of the line waiting to board shuttles at Fort Totten was shocking! I wouldn't want to do it in that direction.)

Posted by: EtoilePB | June 24, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

"From Silver Spring, the 1, 11, and J2/J3 run far more frequently and are much more direct than taking the J5 or 5."

Thought the J2/J3/J4 buses were obvious ones so I didn't list them. They also can be very crowded and very slow at times. I have no experience with the 1 or 11 and only listed buses I have taken on a regular basis in the past. I have found the J5 to be very smooth and it puts you a little higher up the red-line which might help as trains have been packed the closer you get to the city.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | June 25, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Remember, you can always ride a bike!

Posted by: supersmax | June 25, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

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