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Passengers Ride, React During Slowed Commute

Red Lines are slow this morning, traveling only at 35 miles per hour even at the opposite end of the line from the crash site. Given the slow speeds and the portion of the track closed because of the investigation, commuters are advised to add an hour or more to their travel time.

On trains coming downtown from Shady Grove, an announcer explains to riders that the slower-than-usual speed is because of last night's accident. Several passengers said they thought about avoiding Metrorail altogether, but decided against it because they didn't want to fight road traffic or look for parking downtown.

"I figured everybody and their brother would be driving, so parking would be a mess," said Michael Szirotniack, who commutes from Gaithersburg to the Department of Defense in Rosslyn.

Some riders noticed heavier-than-usual ridership early, perhaps caused by commuters looking to avoid rush hour delays. "It was like rush hour going out," said Louis Spitz, 73, who takes the train from Friendship Heights to Dupont Circle each morning. "Maybe people were worrying there would be delays and they got on a little earlier."

Vanessa Evans, a human resource specialist from Frederick, boarded a train early and said she was determined not to let the delays bother her as she headed to her job in downtown Washington. "I'll get there when I get there," she said.

Metropolitan Police Department analyst Robert Brittain, 61, of Damascus, was waiting for the Red Line at the Shady Grove Station. He normally rides the MARC train to Union Station, but was taking the Metro all the way in today and said yesterday's crash won't change his behavior.

"Overall, riding the train is safer than driving," said Brittain. "Most people just jump on and don't think of all the moving parts. With all the mechanics there is an opportunity for something to go wrong."

Virgil Campbell, 43, of Alexandria was working at Washington Hospital Center yesterday afternoon cleaning hospital equipment; many of the crash victims were brought there by ambulance and helicopter.

Said Campbell: "A nurse came up to me and said, 'You guys can't clean any more equipment. We need it because of the train derailment.'" This morning he was riding a shuttle bus on his way to his job with Prospect Waterproofing.

"We saw one guy on a stretcher," said Campbell. "He was kind of out of it. It was like a scene from a movie, people all dazed, holding their heads." Campbell was traveling with his colleague Jeffrey Brandon, 46; they started their commute an hour earlier than normal to get to work at 7 a.m.

Some commuters in Northeast D.C., meanwhile, set up impromptu carpools this morning as they prepared for a difficult trip to work.

-- Yamiche Alcindor, Catherine Cheney, James Hohmann, Theola Labbé-DeBose, Rick Rojas and Debbi Wilgoren

By Washington Post Editors  |  June 23, 2009; 7:35 AM ET
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Thanks so much for keeping us informed! Good to see that real journalism still lives!

Posted by: maiyahziz | June 23, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Commute was heavier on the redline due to the fact that the MARC train Brunswick line was completely cancelled, and all those riders had to get into town somehow.

Posted by: KEK2 | June 23, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I normally ride my bike from my house in Takoma Park to the Takoma Metro, and then take the Red line to Farragut North. Today I just biked all the way in. First, it surprised me how quickly I made it downtown. Second, it's scary to ride a bike on 14th Street, even though it has wide bike lanes. Ironically, the scariest part were Metro Buses, some of which drive between stops in the bike lane.

Posted by: ermiwe | June 23, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

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