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Transit Travel Tips For Today

[1:45 p.m. update: Metro says there are delays in both directions now on the Green Line. Trains are sharing the same track between Fort Totten and Prince George's Plaza following a report a cracked rail outside West Hyattsville Station.]

The Red Line section that was open for the morning rush shut again as of 10 a.m. But the service from Silver Spring to Fort Totten will reopen from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Based on my experience this morning, that will be the best option for transit travel, better than taking the still-operating shuttle buses between those stations.

When the trains are running in the zone where the crash occurred on Monday, they are moving slowly. In part, that's because they must cross at a switch point, but all trains on the Red Line have a speed limit of 35 mph as a precaution following the crash.

While ridership on the bus shuttle appeared to be down this morning, the buses still must navigate those many secondary streets between the stations. My experience over the past days was that it took 40 minutes between Fort Totten and Silver Spring.

The Red Line trains also are slow. You may very well be holding at a station for five minutes or so while the line clears up ahead. But it's still a better bet than the shuttle buses. (By the way, I saw no evidence of that phenomenon we described yesterday, about people avoiding the first car. I rode in the first car from Silver Spring and it was jammed with standees at Takoma. The trains are pulling to the front of the platform as a safety precaution. Some riders still aren't aware of that. I noticed when we pulled into Fort Totten that many people farther down the platform moved quickly toward the first car when they realized where it would stop, but it didn't help them much, because the first car was already crowded.)

While I'm not recommending the shuttle, there are other bus options. In particular, there is the S9 limited stop service on 16th Street and the Metro Extra (79) limited stop service on Georgia Avenue.

Me, I'm going to the ball game at Nationals Park. But I haven't decided how to get there. I might drive down 295, park at RFK Stadium and take the free Nats Express to 300 M St. SE, a few blocks from the stadium. Or I might take the Red Line from Silver Spring and change at Fort Totten to the Green Line to Navy Yard Station. I'm going to allow lots of time for that trip, because the Red Sox are in town and the stands have been packed the past two nights. That will mean lines for the Nats Express and crowds on the Green Line and at the L'Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place transfer points before the 7:05 p.m. start.

If I were heading to Silver Spring from downtown this afternoon, I'd walk over to Mount Vernon Square Station and catch the Green Line to Fort Totten, then transfer to the Red Line. I think there would be less crowding on that route than on an all-Red Line trip from downtown.

At noon, I'll probably be talking about some of these things, and other travel issues, with Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU radio.

What did you learn from this morning's trip that will be useful this afternoon?

This post has been updated, 10:25 am, June 25, 2009.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 25, 2009; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, Metrorail, Red Line crash, delays  
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Next: Reactions as Red Line Reopens


Am I missing something - why would you switch at Takoma to the green line? The green line doesn't go through Takoma does it?

Posted by: archers44 | June 25, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock, when did Takoma become a transfer station? Do you mean Fort Totten?

Posted by: redlinerider | June 25, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Make sure the car you ride in has AC. My Red Line experience this morning was sweltering thanks to the lack of it. Nice.

Posted by: eor11 | June 25, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

@archers44, @redlinerider: Thanks for letting us know. This post has been updated.
- Post Metro

Posted by: Sarah Mimms | June 25, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse


Mine too, I could see puddles of sweat as people left their seats.

Posted by: josh703 | June 25, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I take the Red Line from Chinatown to Union station every morning. One thing I've learned the past couple of days is not to fully trust the signs saying how long until the next arrival. With the trains running so slow, if the sign says 5 minutes it's closer to a 10 minute wait.

Posted by: bobtheflob | June 25, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I've tried the 80 bus since Monday evening. It's so slow!!! I tried to take the red line to Brookland yesterday evening and it was terribly packed. I left the station to take the bus home. It took 1.5 hours to get to Brookland from Connecticut and K. That was torture for me! I hope the subway is running timely to Brookland around 7 pm tonight. I'd rather walk than take the bus!

Posted by: shejoy | June 25, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock, in a number of your recent reports of delays and slowness on the red line, I am not clear if you referring to the ENTIRE red line, or just the part of the red line that is east of Metro Center?

I'm trying to determine if morning rush hour trains from Friendship Heights to Dupont Circle are delayed, or just busy as they normally are at that time.


Posted by: data-driven24 | June 25, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: I'm looking back at the posting, but I can't spot a place where I refered to Takoma as a transfer point. In any case, they have not moved the railroad. The place to transfer between the Green Line and the Red Line -- when it's operating between Fort Totten and Silver Spring -- is Fort Totten.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | June 25, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

My Red Line experience this morning was horrid. The train I was on died half way between Shady Grove and Rockville. They ended up towing the train back to Shady Grove after sitting on a train with no power at all for half an hour. Then the station manager tried to charge me for taking me nowhere. He let me go through the handicap gate but what is going to happen when I go to Metro Center to try and fix my SmarTrip?

Posted by: kalonscott | June 25, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

How has the Post and everyone commenting ignored the fact that Metro has effectively eliminated any advantage of living in the city? Trains coming from MD down Connecticut are full by the time they cross into DC and people living at Van Ness, Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, etc. literally have no opportunity to board anything. In addition, no extra L buses down Connecticut are being run and those are full after just a few stops and refuse to make any additional stops until Dupont. Why pay more for convenience when public transportation does not exist? I'd gladly take 45 minutes from Silver Spring to Dupont instead of 1 hour, 5 minutes from Cleveland Park to Farragut North.

Posted by: djones13 | June 25, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

what is going on with the green line? my commute this morning from columbia heights to downtown was miserable - trains 6 minute apart and all packed. it's clear from your post that what happened is all the red line passengers got onto the green line at silver spring but why didn't metro run more trains to accomodate twice as many passengers?

Posted by: columbiaduck | June 25, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

At 7 am, 8 car train was packed by the time it arrived at Cleveland Park, where I get on. When they said that train was holding due to a possible medical emergency (maybe someone fainted from the heat and crowding), I gave up and drove.

Posted by: bh-dc | June 25, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"what is going on with the green line? my commute this morning from columbia heights to downtown was miserable - trains 6 minute apart and all packed. it's clear from your post that what happened is all the red line passengers got onto the green line at silver spring but why didn't metro run more trains to accomodate twice as many passengers?"

Bear in mind that capacity is limited by several factors. For safety reasons, it's necessary to keep trains a certain distance apart--proof of that came this week. Then you have to add in the fact that the Green Line shares track with the Yellow Line (during rush hour it's less track than at non-rush hour, but it still has an effect). By adding Yellow Line trains to the mix, you reduce the number of Green Line trains that can run because of the minimum-distance requirement--that is, each Yellow Line train takes up a slot that could otherwise be given to a Green Line train. The same problem occurs on the Orange and Blue Lines and on the Blue and Yellow Lines.

In addition, where would they get the extra trains from? The Green Line is normally served by the trains stored at the Branch Avenue and Greenbelt Yards. I suppose one could suggest that to the extent Red Line service might still be reduced they could move some Red Line trains to the Green Line via the connector track near Fort Totten, but it sounds like they want to avoid running trains in that area as much as possible, and it's also unclear whether there is room for any additional trains on the Green Line anyway (or whether they could spare any Red Line trains). Bear in mind that they try to keep some trains out of use so that they can call them into service in the event of a breakdown or other problem.

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 25, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

been traveling from huntington to silver spring the last two days (remote worked on tuesday)... I take Yellow to Mt. Vernon, Green to Georgia-Pentworth then the 79 up to Silver Spring. Works pretty well and adds only about 25min to normal commute.

Should I bother with the red line through to Gallery Place this afternoon, or keep with the more expensive work-around?

Posted by: kpj104 | June 25, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I strongly second djones13's comment. They need extra L-line buses coming down Connecticut. The L1 blew past my stop on Tuesday, and after running it down I saw it was overflowing. I tried the train yesterday and that was no good either. I'd rather not walk the 3 miles to work in this heat, but I can't afford a cab every day.

Posted by: smith241 | June 25, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

You can't switch to the Green line at Takoma, you switch at Fort Totten. That is why you end up with a long commute between the two where it is single tracked. If you look at a metro map it is a long distance in the sense there is not a stop right there, But I am glad to know that for part of the day I can get home the "faster" way instead of the long train ride to shady grove to catch the bus to my house. At least once I get on a train I can go all the way to Glenmont. Though I would caution using the trains because this morning many people waited 20 or more minutes for a redline train at metro center and even longer waits the further you went out.

Posted by: choc_aid | June 25, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

When you leave the Nats game tonight be prepared to walk to Waterfront or know which buses go where as a back up plan. The Navy Yard station was so crowded last night that people had to wait in long lines to get into the station and others left in droves as they were getting nervous with the overcrowding in the station. There was safety in numbers for the walk to Waterfront but it's not a great area.

Posted by: goaldigger | June 25, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

And to add to the excitement of evening rush hour, I just got an e-alert that there's a potential cracked rail on the Green Line and that they're single-tracking between Ft. Totten and PG Plaza. Ugh!

Posted by: camlyndc | June 25, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

When I left the game last night, even the NJ Ave entrance to the Navy Yard station was backed up, but Metro was doing a good job of controlling the flow of people to make sure the platform did not get too packed. They were holding people outside the fare gates, and at the top of the stairs to the platform. I presume the Half Street entrance was much worse.

Posted by: jskirschDC | June 25, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

@jskirschDC: What time where you at the NJ Ave entrance? When I was there, there were no Metro employees in sight, and an escalator going down was funneling people onto a nearly-full platform, prompting the people on the escalator to call out, "Keep moving! Keep moving!" Furthermore, Circulator proved that Metrobus was at least better in one respect--Metro used to have N22 buses lined up at the end of games last year. Not so with Circulator, which sticks to its one bus every ten minutes schedule, without regard to the end of a large event.

@goaldigger: You could also walk to Capitol South or Eastern Market. Lots of people walk both of those routes.

Posted by: DCLiz | June 25, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

The Red Line seems on the verge of collapse.
Case in point: I take the train daily from Tenleytown to Union Station, during morning rush hour and back again in the evening. Post-crash, all trains arriving at Tenley in the morning have been grossly overcrowded.
And Wednesday, the operator put the train out of service at Woodley Park after the doors wouldn't close.
Hundreds of us were left on the platform, and the next several trains were impossible to board due to overcrowding.
After about 20 minutes of this, I joined dozens of fellow commuters in heading to the street in a fruitless search for a taxi.
I opted to walk to Dupont Circle (as did many others), hoping to find an available taxi along the way. No such luck.
And upon arriving at Dupont Circle the escalator was out of service. (Of course!)
As a daily Red Line commuter, it's clear to me that Metro is a grossly underfunded agency, and that the management is trying to deal with this through deferred maintenance. I've lost count of how many times the Red Line has broken down; how many times escalators at any given stations are not working (I feel for the elderly who are confronted with this); how many times the train arrival times are grossly off-base; how many times crowded trains have no air-conditioning.
It's tragic and sad that a terrible crash took nine people's lives and injured 80 others. But it's not really a surprise.

Posted by: dcphil | June 25, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

To clarify: I am referring to the escalators at the street level, funneling people onto a full platform at the gate level. They should have at least been turned off, so that people could self regulate getting onto the platform.

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

Until the Red line gets fixed, would anyone recommend taking MARC from Silver Spring to Union Station in the morning rush then back out in the evening rush? I know it cost more, and is separate from metro, but it might be faster then Metro or bus.

Posted by: dhlunar | June 25, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

dhlunar, that is exactly what I've been doing. It is more expensive, but I'm definitely happy with the decision. By taking MARC (and Metro from Union Station), I got from Silver Spring to Gallery Place in just over 20 minutes this morning. The hard part for me is getting to Union Station in the evenings.

Posted by: runnergirl03 | June 25, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

runnergirl03, have you tried using the Circulator bus to get to Union Station rather than taking metro. Could be useful right now. It's efficient and inexpensive (just $1).

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | June 26, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

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