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Metro Presents Red Line Makeover Plan

Transit authority managers today presented a plan to address many of the things that most annoy Red Line riders, but it also raised questions about whether the work program itself would annoy the customers.

The staff hopes to win approval from the full board for a rehabilitation program from Dupont Circle to Silver Spring.

[Staff writer James Hohmann provided this update on the schedule: The whole project will take about 48 months, Metro said. The first phase, from Rhode Island to Judiciary Square, will take about 18 months. The next phase, from Judiciary Square to Dupont Circle, will take about a year. Then the rehab from Rhode Island Avenue will take about 10 months. Fort Totten to Silver Spring will take about eight months.]

The rest of the Red Line would be repaired in subsequent stages. Dupont Circle to Grosvenor, then both ends of the line, to Shady Grove and to Glenmont. Programs for the other lines would follow.

This morning, the Metro board's Finance, Administration and Oversight Committee approved the plan for submission to the full board later this month. If the board signs off, the program could begin early next year.

The rehab program has been in the works for a long time, and Metro managers are not relating these needs to the June 22 crash. This plan was first presented to the board last July. At that time, many board members spoke favorably about the concept of concentrating repair projects on a single line to get them over with as quickly as possible. But they also were concerned about the level of service Metrorail could provide during the nighttime work hours, which would begin after the evening rush.

What They'll Fix
The contractor would upgrade the train power system, automatic train controls and communications. Air conditioning and ventilation equipment would be rehabilitated or replaced. Tunnel ventilation and fire equipment would be rehabilitated. Platform tiles would be replaced. Lighting, public address systems, elevators and escalators would be improved.

The $177 million contract would include some other work that Metro considers necessary: That includes replacing the escalators at the south entrance of Dupont Circle and at Foggy Bottom. A protective canopy would be placed over the Foggy Bottom entrance and a stairway would be added, as well. The platforms at Shady Grove and Rockville would be rehabilitated and repairs would be made on the tracks from Grosvenor to Medical Center.

Why They Need To
This is the easy part. The Red Line is the most heavily used of the five lines. The downtown stations and tunnels are the oldest part of the system. Riders complain about everything they encounter: the elevators and escalators that don't work, the crumbling platform tiles, the poor lighting, the lack of clear announcements over the speakers. Plus, it's hot down there in the summer.

How They'll Do It
This is the tricky part. Transit authority managers say that by concentrating on sections of a line, they can minimize service distruptions. Trains would have to share a single track around the work areas, they say, but it could be done with little impact on the regular nighttime schedule.

Single tracking during the week would begin as early as 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. During those hours, Red Line trains are running about 15 minutes apart. The question is how far Metrorail would slip from its regular schedule during single tracking.

What would happen to the headways between trains: Except between Judiciary Square and Farragut North, said Metro manager Dave Couch, who is in charge of engineering and capital projects, Metrorail is going to be able to maintain existing headways. He said the rail system is looking at ways to limit the impact on headways between Judiciary Square and Farragut North.

Metro could start working later at the heavily used downtown stations. And it very likely would make special accommodations for events at Verizon Center that crowd the platform at Gallery Place.

How They'll Pay
Most of the money comes a capital improvement program called Metro Matters, which is subsidized by the local jurisdictions that form the Metro service region. But about $34 million will come from the federal stimulus program.

By Robert Thomson  |  July 9, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, Red Line  
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Comments

Do it, I say. Get those shovels going.

I'm sure it will be difficult politically, though - won't riders of other lines complain of favoritism? I can hear the Orange Crush crowd being particularly vocal, and with good reason.

Posted by: edwardaggie98 | July 9, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Living and commuting through it would suck, but if it creates *genuine improvements* it would be worthwhile. But that's serious, tangible, my-life-is-better benefits that need to come out of it.

Posted by: EtoilePB | July 9, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

What are headways?

Posted by: Tony-Tony-Tony | July 9, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

We just got done with a full multi-year escalator/elevator rehab didn't we!?! I guess that was just $#!^-work.

Posted by: nadie1 | July 9, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

As for Shady Grove platform, they keep doing rehab on the surface tiles and then they are all broken-up again six months later, I assume from exposure to the elements. I don't expect this will be anything different. But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by: nadie1 | July 9, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I caught the red line train Monday from Shady Grove to Farragut North at about 6:30 am. My observation indicates that, above all, more cars are needed. This is more important than the various "fixes" mentioned in the article. The crowding that people who pay up to $13.25 each day for a round-trip and parking is unacceptable. People are jammed into the poorly ventilated cars and it's a major accomplishment to exit the train at the intended station.

Posted by: Watersville | July 9, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock, on a couple of the comments so far: The board committee members seemed most concerned about whether Metro actually will have the money to do all this. They are asking the staff to provide a list of other projects that will be postponed so this one can go ahead.

Dave Couch told the board members that the Dupont Circle south escalators and the ones at the Pentagon are unlike the others in the system. It's tough to find parts for them. So they want to replace the ones at Dupont south.

On Foggy Bottom: I get complaints all the time about those escalators. I think it's good to see Metro addressing that particular problem, though a second entrance for the station would be even better.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | July 9, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock, on the Shady Grove platform issue:

The contract would include replaccing the slab, the part underneath the tiles, as well as the tiles at Shady Grove and Rockville. They didn't say this today, but I believe they'd be using the new type of tile, that you can see at the north end of the Takoma platform. These all would be good things, in my opinion.

Basically, I think the items to be fixed alll sound fine. (Although this would not get us any more train cars.) My chief concern at this point is about how disruptive this would be for riders while the work goes on.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | July 9, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"That includes replacing the escalators at the south entrance of Dupont Circle and at Foggy Bottom."

How is Foggy Bottom related to a Red Line preventive maintenance plan? Foggy Bottom isn't a Red Line station.

The Red Line needs a lot of work, unrelated to the accident. I support Metro in doing the work. I just want clear communication of what the impacts will be, so I can decide whether to take Metro or bus home when I'm out late.

Because it appears to be the eastern portion of the Red Line where we may see some schedule slippage, I also hope Metro will consider extensing S9 and 79 service into the later hours while this work is being conducted, to provide another rapid transit option for affected travelers.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | July 9, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Headway is a railway term which refers to the amount of time between train arrivals at stations. The term typically is used this way: "Under normal conditions there should be three minute headways on the Blue and Orange Line during rush hour."

Posted by: Former_Archivist | July 9, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

All of this is great but those of us that travel beyond Silver Spring and Grosvenor will still feel ripped off so long as we continue to pay more money for half the service. If WMATA feels that it's necessary to turn the trains around at those stops, fine but then don't charge us more than those getting double the service.

And how about more parking at Glenmont?

Posted by: bmfc | July 9, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

The Red Line definitely needs an overhaul. While I'm not exactly excited about the idea of 15 months of delays, if it truly improves the system, I'm for it. It would be best if Metro could do their best to minimize service disruptions during rush hour, of course.

It seems like the Red Line is being worked on practically every weekend during the summer. Clearly, these temporary fixes aren't working.

But I agree with the earlier post - most of all, I want solid communication from Metro as to what is going on so that I can plan around it where possible.

Posted by: runnergirl03 | July 9, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Re: Foggy Bottom second entrance... Dr Gridlock, I happen to work near that station and I can tell you that a second entrance (placed either in the center of the station or at the east end) isn't feasible. The station's platform lies directly under George Washington University buildings, and they would not be open to the disruption it would cause (plus there's no room).

Posted by: peabody | July 9, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Very much hope these funds do not get approved. It sounds like an absolute nightmare even when done correctly and this management has proven nothing is done as planned. If the money goes through, I think a move will be necessary when my lease is up. 15 months is probably equivalent to about 2 years in real time.

Posted by: djones13 | July 9, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Can I sue Metro for ruining my standard of living. I chose to live in Silver Spring on the assumption that Metro was functional. Now you're going to concentrate your fixes on the sole section I use, causing numerous delays and ruining my weekends?

Screw you Metro. Screw you Catoe.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | July 9, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I live in Silver Spring and would like to see the Red Line properly maintained. I'll bring the countersuit against the previous commenter.

"The station's platform lies directly under George Washington University buildings, and they would not be open to the disruption it would cause (plus there's no room)."

The solution is simple: Destroy GWU.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | July 9, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I think metro would be smarter to concentrate on the downtown core first, DuPont Circle to Union Station. This would likely enable them to finish that section faster than 15 months and affect the most riders the least amount of time.

Posted by: GlenBurnie | July 9, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I am all for it! All these things need to be done. Most other systems that have to do work like this over an extended amount of the system do it this way. It will be an inconvenience for sure ... but the temporary patchwork that is always being done is just that ... only temporary. The system is 30 years old ... eventually everything needs to be rehabbed from the ground up .. and this is really the only way to do it whether you like it or not. Yes ... we need more cars. Those however take much more time to be acquired, tested, and put into service. If they had the money it would be good to do both in parallel, but until they do have enough, this makes sense.

Posted by: jon76indc | July 9, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm skeptical... all escalators at 12 & G have been broken for 2 weeks with no sigh of work on them... and prior to that were completely rehabilitated last spring (and were out of service for months). Dupont Circle's big open Q Street escalators are frequently out-of-service -- where are plans to put in some sort of special floating canopy there?

Posted by: rpike | July 9, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

They need to get their priorities straight. Number ONE - make the trains run on time and efficiently. Everything else should take a backseat to that. Cosmetic changes to stations are fine when the underlying system functions correctly. Right now, and for quite some time, it has been a disaster.

Make the trains fun on time. Prevent overcrowded platforms. Get us to work ON TIME!!

Posted by: Trout1 | July 9, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm an Orange Crusher, and I say -- get 'er done, Metro! I'm disappointed that so many people complain about the inconvenience of essential maintenance to their part of the system, or the attention paid to a part they don't use. The whole system needs to be kept up to be effective. (Actually, it's seriously overdue for significant expansion, but that's largely the fault of us taxpayers.) I believe Metro's been pretty good about scheduling work to minimize impact.

As for cost, less regular maintenance means more expensive and time-consuming major work later. The cost of today's ride isn't just for today's travel; it must also contribute to ongoing repair, replacement, and improvement.

I'm no happier than any other commuter when the Orange Line gets hit with maintenance delays. But I just add set aside extra time for my travel, and think about how good things will be when they get done. Sacrifice for a better future has been out of fashion in our great nation for a couple of generations (including mine, I must admit). I'm hoping the recession will remind us how pleasurable it can be to anticipate that better future while suffering today's pain.

Posted by: jeffq | July 9, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Dr. G, any idea if this project would include platform exit improvements at Shady Grove? At least at rush hour, it's a major issue with hundreds of people trying to squeeze down one escalator and one staircase (it can take a while to get out and the elevator doesn't appear to be helping much.) I'm not sure what can be done but I am surprised it's not been brought up much, if at all (is there an emergency exit strategy?) People literally sprint out the doors so as not to get stuck in a 5-minute backup and miss their bus, etc. Thanks

Posted by: jmrzx | July 9, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Lindemann - don't get me wrong i want it fixed, I just don't want the quality of life I expected when I moved to Silver Spring destroyed because Metro has been incompetent all along under Catoe's poor leadership.

I want Catoe fired, new management and a commitment from the Region and Congress for dedicated funding.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | July 9, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

"All of this is great but those of us that travel beyond Silver Spring and Grosvenor will still feel ripped off so long as we continue to pay more money for half the service. If WMATA feels that it's necessary to turn the trains around at those stops, fine but then don't charge us more than those getting double the service."

Tell that to everyone who has been demanding that the turnbacks be re-instated. More people ride the portion between Grosvenor and Silver Spring than between Shady Grove and Grosvenor and between Silver Spring and Glenmont. People at the inner stations aren't getting double service. The Shady Grove trains are full by the time they get to my station, and the Grosvenor ones are the only ones we can ride.

Posted by: thetan | July 9, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't the Foggy Bottom entrance already have a protective canopy?

Posted by: eomcmars | July 9, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Totally agree with the poster on Shady Grove exit. It is by far insufficient to the current volumes. They need two sets of stairs, not one. That backup to get out is a pain, and it's something I've written Dr. G several times (and never had commented on).

Posted by: nadie1 | July 9, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

They'll NEVER pull it off as they think they will! For goodness sake, for 3 days running Metro has failed to return 3 steps into position on the escalator between the mezzanine and the tracks on the sound bound side of DuPont Circle South. I'm not saying get the escalator working, just put the stupid steps back that are sitting there and freeze the steps so that rush hour passengers do not have to climb all over each other coming and go on 1 escalator! They'll NEVER pull things off like they expect. They ought to hire the BART management and replace the whole WMATA management. At least BART replaced those killer switches before someone got killed!

Posted by: lovinliberty | July 9, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Like a Seinfeld episode I once saw. Metro is really good at scheduling work but not so good at actually fixing the problem. I get on at Wheaton and for three months there was only one escalator working while the other two were out of commission. They are all working now but for how long? Metro is always crying about funding. Here is a way to raise money start fining people for eating and drinking on the Metro. That message about eating or drinking on the Metro is a total joke. One day I wouldn't be surprised if someone has a BBQ going...

Posted by: tsamm | July 9, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Boy, wait until we get some real DC summer weather. Then we'll see some real unhappiness on the Red Line. On a more serious note, what can Metro do but be cautious? If there were a repeat incident like the Fort Totten crash, and it turned out that the investigation was rushed to completion because of the desire to resume normal service, there would be an outcry for a criminal indictment. It took 30 years of accumulated neglect and lack of foresight to create this problem, and it unfortunately will not get fixed quickly.

Posted by: JK1234 | July 9, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

You have to be kidding, you don't think the people between Silver Spring and Grosvenor don't get "double" sevice?!?! Of course more people ride between Silver Spring and Grosvenor, but the point being, how do you feel about paying the same amount for LESS service? How would you feel about paying the same price at Starbucks for that tall (small) coffee than the guy getting a venti (large) coffee because he was first in line?
------------------------------------------
"All of this is great but those of us that travel beyond Silver Spring and Grosvenor will still feel ripped off so long as we continue to pay more money for half the service. If WMATA feels that it's necessary to turn the trains around at those stops, fine but then don't charge us more than those getting double the service."

Tell that to everyone who has been demanding that the turnbacks be re-instated. More people ride the portion between Grosvenor and Silver Spring than between Shady Grove and Grosvenor and between Silver Spring and Glenmont. People at the inner stations aren't getting double service. The Shady Grove trains are full by the time they get to my station, and the Grosvenor ones are the only ones we can ride.

Posted by: thetan | July 9, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: metrosucks100 | July 9, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Watersville--I think you'll get your wish. One of the reasons they cannot run all 8-car trains is that the power system is outdated and cannot handle that much load. One of the items noted in Dr. G's blog is that they'll be upgrading the train power system. One of the benefits is that they should be able to run more 8-car trains than 6-car trains. In fact, if they could upgrade it enough to run all 8-car trains then it might also solve the problem of trains stopping at different places due to 6/8 car train confusions.

Anarcho-liberal-tarian--do you want the fixes done, but you don't want them to impact you. So, how, pray tell, do you expect them to do this? They've already scheduled the work to be done primarily between 8pm and 6am Thursdays-Sunday. If they don't do anything, then the poor system including outages, bad lighting, lack of AC, etc will all impact your life. If they do the work, you complain of the impact on your life by the inconveniences of the work. Sounds like a d@mned if they do and d@mned if they don't situation. Explain how they can enact the fixes that would satisfy you?

Posted by: DadWannaBe | July 9, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Every single line in the Metro system has less service at the ends of the line. Orange line between Vienna and Rosslyn runs every 5 minutes or so at rush hour. Blue lines run every 5 minutes or so between Franconia-Springfield and Rosslyn. But between Rosslyn and Stadium-Armory, the trains operate every 2.5 minutes, because people can take either a blue or an orange. Same thing with Green/Yellow. Since Red doesn't have a branch, they do turnbacks.

I think it is perfectly fair to have turnbacks. If every train went to Shady Grove and Glenmont, it would take too long to run all those trains that extra distance, which means the busiest part of the line, between Silver Spring and Grosvenor, would have less service then it does now, not to mention that those trains would be jammed with people from Shady Grove and Glenmont and people at the inner stations wouldn't be able to get on.

You don't pay based on how much service you get. You pay the same amout at the tail of rush hour as you do at 11:00 on Sunday night. They charge extra during the peak (technically, that is the normal fare, and they discount midday fares) to encourage those who can to shift their trips to midday. I pay the minimum fare from Woodley Park because I'm only going a couple miles, not almost 20 miles from Shady Grove.

Posted by: thetan | July 9, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

this is good news, especially increasing the light in stations, and improving the car-speaker system.

Posted by: Max231 | July 9, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Umm, improving the car speakers won't matter when the train operators mumble what they're saying.

Posted by: jonnydoe1234 | July 9, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a great idea, it should get done ASAP, and everyone complaining about the delays that will come need to stop whining. Somehow, I'm thinking that guaranteed delays in exchange for more reliable service is a great trade-off. I would agree with the person earlier who suggested that the S9 and 79 operating times be extended to provide additional options for travelers (of course, I think the S9 and 79 should be extended to full 7-day operation, so yeah)

Also, I'd like to bring up the point about the exit improvements at Shady Grove. Is there ANY possible way this work can get us another set of stairs? The way Shady Grove at the afternoon rush currently operates is unacceptable.

Posted by: pikamander007 | July 9, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

"Staff writer James Hohmann provided this update on the schedule: The whole project will take about 48 months"

So the metro will be hell on weekdays after 8pm for 4 YEARS????? This is absolutely unacceptable. Make it ten years and only have 2 days a week affected. I know it's a shock, but people 1. work past 8 sometimes during the week 2. like to go out at night during the week 3. go to grad school part time. This is really the worst idea ever. Why do they have to do the red line in this long of a stretch. Here's another idea: do a year of work, then do some on the orange line. then green. then red again. then orange then red again etc.

Let's use some common sense here and share the pain.

Posted by: JG55 | July 10, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Where are they getting the money for this? Just two weeks ago, every Metro apologist was in print and on camera telling us they don't even have enough money to replace deathtrap railcars.

By the way ... when's the last time you saw an escalator not working in a mall? I've never seen it.

Posted by: DellC | July 10, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Re: the exit situation at Shady Grove, I wrote to Metro and received the following response: "We are aware of the difficulties faced by our customers trying to exit the platform at Shady Grove station. We are currently in the process of presenting several alternative solutions to Montgomery County government that will help alleviate the problems. Once the options are reviewed, Montgomery County government will then choose from the solutions given and provide the funding to implement the change."

Posted by: jmrzx | July 15, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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