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Red Line Open, But Speed Restrictions Continue

Riders will find all stations open, and the trains will be using both tracks. But service will be slow, because the trains are in manual control rather than automatic, the speed limit on the entire line is 35 mph, and the trains run especially slow through the zone between Takoma and Fort Totten where the wreck occurred on June 22. (Isn't that a clearer way to say it than one of those eAlerts from Metro?)

What's really clear: The restrictions result in crowding and delay on the rush hour platforms and on the trains along Metro's most heavily-used line. Trips are likely to take at least a half hour longer than normal.

To balance out the line, operations controllers will hold trains for several minutes and sometimes will order operators to unload them at Rhode Island Avenue, Brookland or Fort Totten, so the trains can return to pick up more passengers. Those left on the platforms must wait for a through train to pick them up.

The shuttle bus service is running between Silver Spring and Fort Totten, Metro says. While the service is being run efficiently, the back street route between Silver Spring, Takoma, Fort Totten, Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue takes so long that riders are almost always better off sticking with the trains.

Tonight and tomorrow night at 10 p.m., Metro plans to shut Red Line service between Silver Spring and Fort Totten to allow the crash investigation to continue. At that time, it will be necessary to take the shuttle buses to connect between those stations.

Trains throughout the system continue to pull to stop at the front of the platform no matter how long the trains are -- good move -- though its rare to hear an announcement reminding riders to move up -- bad move.

See the story in today's Post by Lena H. Sun for new details about Metro's plan to place the 1000 Series cars in the middle of the trains, rather than on the ends. This is a major task for the transit authority and will take several weeks to accomplish. Whether it makes travel safer is unclear to me. What is likely is that it will reduce the system's efficiency further.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 30, 2009; 6:37 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail delays, Red Line crash  
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Does anyone think running trains at 35 mph from Shady Grove to downtown and back (nowhere near the accident) is making us safer? I drove in today as I'm sure thousands of us normal riders are doing. That's ten times riskier than riding the Metro at 60 mph, but a whole lot faster (I came EARLY) and less annoying. METRO needs to get real and Catoe needs to get going.

Posted by: nadie1 | June 30, 2009 7:10 AM | Report abuse

I'm so sick of this 35mph crap. I will be driving into the city until they return to normal speeds.

Posted by: POLOinDC | June 30, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock,

Why are we being charged for rush hour service? My red line train is so slow and very crowded. For as long as these trains are operating at 35mph and at reduced frequency, I really don't think we should be charged for rush hour service we aren't receiving. My job is partly commission based, and this slow Metro commute is making me lose an hour worth of sales so I can spend as much time as usual with my family. Metro hadn't been charging rush hour service for several days, so Metro clearly recognizes that they are providing substandard service.

Posted by: FunInSun45 | June 30, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Washington DC is not a legitimate city.

Posted by: djones13 | June 30, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Fire John Catoe. Metro Riders Demand Accountability.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | June 30, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

As far as the speed restrictions on the Red Line go, I think it is peculiar that WMATA believes their safety concerns are exclusive to the Red Line. Why are the other lines deemed safe and running without any restrictions? It seems rather unscientific and downright stupid to slow trains down and have them show up less frequently on one line when hundreds of thousands of people still need to get to work on time. Yesterday the Dupont Circle station was impracticable to the point where they had to shut down platform escalators, lest people be trampled or thrown into the rails. That is a far unsafer situation than riding Red Line trains at regular speed and frequency. I resorted to the D6 bus to get to Union Station, which took over 40 minutes. Is there a reason for there to be a bus stop in every single block in downtown DC? I think most people would be willing to walk a couple of blocks if it meant they would stop less and make it to work on time. WMATA needs to stop the charades and actually focus on providing adequate service, rather than extending their existing mediocrity farther into Virginia.

Posted by: bv2112 | June 30, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

We are seeing a system stretched to the seams. Simply put, people came to depend on it running well. Metro needs to put more trains on the Red Line during rush hour to clear the platforms and the rush. It's the busiest line, but I don't blame people who don't want to ride it.

I'm not calling for Catoe, but if the trains are running on manual, and there's radio communications, why can't you throw an extra three trains in? And if you can't run it by the radio, then you have to solve that problem too.

This needs to get fixed, and soon. It's unacceptable.

Posted by: DCCenturion | June 30, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

It would appear that WMATA has not yet finished troubleshooting and correcting whatever failed in the signaling system that resulted in last weeks wreck.

Posted by: SandBoxJohn | June 30, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Slower trains is one thing, but why are there fewer trains? That compounds an already horrible situation. At the slower speed Metro should run MORE trains, not less! Pity everyone standing on the platforms from Friendhip Heights into Metro Center each morning.

Posted by: LifeBeforePrinciple | June 30, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

The Red Line has become a joke. What were previously over crowded trains are now DANGEROUSLY over crowded trains. Metro claims there has been no reduction in ridership; I'm willing to bet that will change given the last week of non-service. So many on the red line can afford alternates and with the service so poor, Metro should expect that. Unfortunately, I don't think Metro leadership will care less if their flag ship rail line sees reductions in riders. But, let's see what surface commuters think with the added cars along MA, WI and CT Aves.... For 9 buck I can park all day and be sure of arriving to and from work in some order. Red Line has become so crowded, overburdened, underserved and unreliable that my switch will be an easy one. Sad though as I've been a committed metro commuter for so many years.

Posted by: lovinliberty | June 30, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

After hearing from my husband about how crowded the Red Line was, I walked 3.5 miles home last night. I walked 3.5 miles to work today. At least the Red Line issues are making me healthy.

Posted by: Elkay1 | June 30, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I can deal with the 35 mph limits, but did WMATA get rid of the added trains during rush hour from Grovsner to Silver Spring? I'm glad my agency is moving be back out to Virginia. Right now, dealing with the beltway traffic is easier than Metro nonsense.

Posted by: bighud1971 | June 30, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I just wish the Metro could catch a break. Not only do we still have all of the lingering effects of last week's accident, but with suicides-by-train becoming oddly frequent, doors breaking, sick passengers, police activity, cracked rails, and mysterious other kinds of "train malfunction," my supposedly 55-minute door-to-door commute hasn't taken me less than 1h 20m in over a week. (And that was the short day! Yesterday was 90 minutes each way.)

I at least am in the middle of a very long and very good book so don't always notice, but my boss and my fiancé are both starting to get pretty ticked off about me always being half an hour late for anything.

Posted by: EtoilePB | June 30, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Rather than fire Catoe he should be forced to try to board a red train going downtown during rush hour from Woodley Park.

Posted by: djones13 | June 30, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

djones13, I love that idea. And make sure it is announced very loudly and clearly that he is boarding!

Posted by: nadie1 | June 30, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I agree with DJones. Has anyone seen Catoe outside of the bubble in the last week, or has he been in board meetings?

I don't believe that Catoe should be let go because of the crash. The response, however, is completely on his shoulders, and it has been completely reactionary, and generally lacking.

I rode the S9 this morning, which, inexplicably, appears to be back on its old schedule. The driver announced that the 8:20 bus had broken down, and we were boarding the 8:30, so we'd have to wait (it was 8:17 when she said this.) That made me late to work. Again. Thank you, Metro.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | June 30, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

OK, so the Red Line commute has been awful -- slow trains, long gaps between trains, suffocating crowds, etc. Here's my question -- with a decent-looking weather forecast for the 4th (how unusual!), I am considering going down to the Mall for the fireworks. BUT -- considering that taking the Red Line home from the fireworks is an ordeal under the best conditions, and that the Red Line has been a nightmare ever since the crash, what can we expect on Saturday? Is it ridiculous even to contemplate? Or are they going to step up and make an effort to get the fireworks traffic close to the "normal" mess?

Posted by: Janine1 | June 30, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Thank God for my car.

I don't care how long it takes to drive in.

I don't care how much it costs for gas and parking.

I don't care how much pollution I create.

Anything is better than the hot, crowded, dangerous Metro.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 30, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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