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Metro Suggests Bus Alternatives to Red Line

Is this a bad sign? "Individuals who would prefer to avoid the Red Line may consider Metrobus as an alternative," the transit authority says in a statement.

You could take it as a negative about the immediate future of rail service. These aren't proposed as bailouts to get around some transient problem that has disrupted a line. These are different commuting routes offered to people who now travel by the Red Line.

But I can't be negative: I've been saying that Metro needs to communicate better with travelers. In fact, I've been saying that all rail and road agencies need to provide better guidance about what the problems are and what alternatives travelers have. Then you can make your own decisions.

Also worthy of note today: The transit authority is saying that it's trying to get a jump on whatever the National Transportation Safety Board recommends it do to improve safety. In the statement, General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. says, "Whatever the NTSB recommends, we know that we will likely need to replace some standard parts, such as track circuit cable, which takes weeks to manufacture and deliver. We want to have these parts in stock and available to us."

Again, that sounds like a prudent step, but it can't leave us confident of a quick return to normal.

Metrobus Suggestions
These are the transit authority's bus suggestions. After more than a month of disrupted service, many of you probably have discovered these already.

From Silver Spring via 16th Street NW: Consider the S9, which will take you to the western part of downtown D.C. (This is a great new limited stop route. The trick is finding the closest stop to Silver Spring Station. It's in front of the Lenox Park apartments in the northwest corner of the Colesville Road/East West Highway intersection.) Metro, to its credit, includes this piece of practical advice in its statement: "Inbound passengers have to sit through a layover after the bus arrives back at Eastern Avenue and 16th Street. Outbound passengers are carried to this stop [Colesville Road/East West Highway] before the bus returns to Eastern Avenue and 16th Street for a layover."

From Silver Spring via Georgia Avenue: Consider Metrobus Route 79, the Metro Extra limited stop service to the eastern part of downtown, another fine service. The bus shelter is on the south side of Wayne Avenue west of Dixon Avenue. Downtown, the bus travels on 9th Street NW southbound and 7th Street NW northbound.

From Fort Totten: Consider Route 80, North Capitol Street to the Kennedy Center. The nearest stops along the Red Line include Brookland; North Capitol and H Street NW, near Union Station; 7th and H Street NW near Gallery Place, and Connecticut Avenue and K Street NW, near the Farragut North and Farragut West stations.

From Chevy Chase Circle: Consider Route L1 to Potomac Park (18th and E streets NW, near the State Department) or the L2 to McPherson Square, or the L4 to Dupont Circle.

From Friendship Heights: Consider Route 37, a limited-stop service, to Archives Station via Wisconsin Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, 20th and 21st streets, I (Eye) and H streets, 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Metro collects its bus timetables, maps and rules at this link. It also provides a very valuable new service called NextBus, which offers real-time information about bus arrivals.

[Commenters below are adding many good suggestions. I'd like to highlight a couple here.]

From Takoma: Consider using the 50s Line Metrobuses via Walter Reed Medical Center and 14th Street to reach McPherson Square and Pennsylvania Avenue, or the 60s Line (a rush hour service), which connects with downtown via Georgia Avenue-Petworth Station. (From PullitSirPrize.)

MARC Riders: WashingtonDame suggested adding a Circulator-type service to run between Union Station and Silver Spring. That reminded me that MARC has been warning riders it can't hold trains at Union Station to compensate for the Red Line's problems. MARC suggests that riders who are experiencing serious subway delays in the afternoon consider using the Circulator bus that runs along K Street and Massachusetts Avenue between Georgetown and Union Station. Other possibilities include Metro's crosstown D buses.

Metro Resources:  Riding the System  |  Trip Planner   |   Map  |  Post Coverage

By Robert Thomson  |  July 28, 2009; 2:12 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus alternatives, Metrorail delays, Red Line crash  
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Next: P.M. Delays on MARC Brunswick Line


Metro has redefined what it means to be a world class embarassment. They ought to shoot everyone in management and start over. What a freaking disgrace.

Posted by: dem4life1 | July 28, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Metro is basically admitting that the red line is a complete disaster.

Maybe I just need to suck up the additional cost and start driving downtown. Better yet, maybe someone with web skills could set up a site where we can arrange carpools.

Posted by: jonnydoe1234 | July 28, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Like I commented to you previously Dr G. . take the S9 & run it 6 days a week. . Monday thru Saturday, and make it run ALL day.

Get METRO to get with the DOT people in Monkey County Transit Services, to have the S9 layover at Colesville & EW Highway. Im sure the drivers would like to use the bathroom facilities in the shopping center/gas station at that corner.

Also, to make it a TRUE express/limited stop, if the layover is at EW-Highway & Colesville, you can send the S9 down 16th street, eliminating the Eastern Ave & Alaska Ave loop & save 7-10 minutes of travel time heading downtown, making the S9 even more attractive to the users who wish to travel downtown w/o using the REDLINE.

Posted by: PullitSirPrize | July 28, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

...and is metro going to run more buses down Connecticut Ave? What's that sound? Silence. Already a crapshoot if the bus is packed and blows by the stop or not (L1) in the morning.

Posted by: blah1233242 | July 28, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: blah raises a good point. This announcement from Metro isn't about adding extra bus service. This is about telling you where to find existing service that makes the most sense for Red Line riders.

As I said in the entry, that's a fine thing for Metro to do. This is a crisis, and riders need all the information they can get to deal with it.

But buses are no substitute for trains. A bus carries about 50 people, and a train can handle about 1,000. If half the riders on one train decided to switch to buses tomorrow morning, Metrobus would be overwhelmed.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | July 28, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Catoe - consider resigning.

WaPo - consider covering riders wanting management changes at Metro.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | July 28, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

From Fort Totten: instead of catching the Route 80, which travels towards Brookland Metro and travels away from downtown & runs into crosstown from North Cap & H street into downtown DC, try the Route #64.

The Route 64 also leaves from Ft Totten & heads more directly downtown, via New Hampshire Ave, the Georgia Ave/Petworth GREENLINE station, before continuing its journey more directly DOWNTOWN via 11th Street, the UStreet GREENLINE station, the METROCENTER station, and the FEDERAL Triangle Stations. Less than 40 minute average on the route 64 to MetroCenter vs more than 50 minutes & cross town traffic on the route #80.

Posted by: PullitSirPrize | July 28, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The reason the S9 runs down Eastern & Alaska is that it is intended to add express service to downtown for DC residents who live in that area,work in downtown and can't get seats on the Red Line at Takoma. The 79 and S9 service is heavily subsidized by District taxpayers and its main purpose is not to serve the freeloaders in Monkey County. If Marylanders want express service, they should fund their own and it can go straight to downtown.

Posted by: blankspace | July 28, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse


I take the S9 to work every day. There is only ONE stop on the S9 route (Alaska and Kalmia, near Georgia Ave) that is also not served by the S4, or within short walking distance of an S4 stop. That stop is not close enough to the Takoma Metro station to make a difference. Plus, anyone waiting at that stop could easily get on the 79 to get to downtown. The S9 would serve the vast majority of D.C. and Maryland riders better by going straight down 16th Street, with a stop at 16th and Kalmia.

Posted by: Miles_Standish_Proud | July 28, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

The reason they can not get on the REDLINE at TAKOMA, is that NEITHER the S9, or the 79 go to TAKOMA. So your comment is moot.

And if you were to look at Doctor G's posting, the good Doctor G, or METRO didn't even give the users of METRO any option from TAKOMA via using METROBUS to avoid the REDLINE.

From TAKOMA, passengers wishing to avoid REDLINE Metrorail service, can find trips downtown using the #50 series METROBUS via Walter Reed & 14th Street to get to McPherson Sq & Penn Ave, or the #60 line, which only goes downtown in Rush Hours, via Georgia Ave/Petworth station.

Posted by: PullitSirPrize | July 28, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I meant to say, only one S9 stop that is not on the S4 route, which is the route that the S9 should mimic (instead of the S2 route which it now follows).

Posted by: Miles_Standish_Proud | July 28, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

They need to run a Circulator-type bus as parallel as possible to the Silver Spring-to-Union Station Red line route. Then, turn some Red lines trains around at Union Station to relieve congestion on the downtown part of the Red line.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 28, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

This is a nightmare for us regular 16th Street bus customers. The S9 has been full to capacity by the time it reaches Buchanan Street headed downtown at 8:23am this week, this was unheard of before the accident last month.

Posted by: CrestwoodKat | July 28, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

WHAT??!! They are even more incompetant than I previously thought! They come out with this "announcement" and don't actually add more busses? Going towards Cheby Chase in the afternoon means the L2. A circutios route through Adams Morgan. Why don't they run the L1 in the evenings? Straight up Conn. Ave, like the Red Line. Are these people insane?

Posted by: Trout1 | July 28, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

The S9 routes were designed to relieve congestion on the already overburdened 16th Street Bus lines, not for the convenience of Red Line riders. The system has barely been in place 3 months; please stop preaching about what it "ought" to do. The changes were almost a year in the making.

Posted by: Pearlsb4Swine1 | July 28, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

That advice is a joke to those of us in NW who cannot board any of the trains OR buses heading downtown. That's just asking which form of transportation would you like to bypass you today? overstuffed train or bus not even making a supposed stop? Until more buses are run or a route directly down Connecticut can accommodate people who actually live in the city that announcement may be translated to drive or cab. What a sham of a city.

Posted by: djones13 | July 28, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Well I'm can't speak to longer range commuting, but I go to DuPont Circle a couple of times a week from Alexandria.

I used to ride the train all the way, typically via the Yellow and Red lines.

Now I take the Blue line to Farragut West and then pick up any N bus headed toward Friendship Heights. There is frequent service at rush hour. So far it has been a timely and efficient alternative.

Yesterday I caught the bus from DuPont to Farragut West. There is a convenient bus stop on Conn. near the southern metro entrance. My elapsed time all the way back to Alexandria was better than before the accident using rail all the way.

Staying inside the system and changing trains takes longer than you think.

I would say that anybody changing trains to continue to their destination on another line should take a look at bus links for the completion of their trip. The bus also has the potential for getting you closer to where you actually need to go than getting off at a metro station.

If you use a smart card, using the bus is easy and you get automatic credit for a transfer on the front or back end of any rail trip.

The metro web site makes figuring all of this out pretty easy.

I have also been using NexBus to make sure I'm not just cooling my heels at bus stop.

Posted by: pcaine | July 28, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I find buses more convenient from Woodley Park, simply because I don't have to ride the escalator down into the station from the street. That kills 3 minutes right there. If I ride the circulator, I can easily get to the Green/Yellow at Columbia Heights. If I ride a regular L bus, it drops me at my front door.

Posted by: thetan | July 28, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

After reading these comments, it struck me that the true irony of Metro's current state of total dysfunction is that, the farther out you live it's easier to commute. It's people who naively made the decision to live "in the city" to make their commutes easier who are completely getting screwed. They can't get on the trains or buses at all. At least people boarding at Shady Grove or Twinbrook have a shot at getting on a train in the morning rush hour.

Time for the federal government to move its agencies out of DC. Federal workers are 40% of rush hour commuters, and concentrating the vast majority of them downtown is a disaster.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 28, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for more buses as long as they don't "block the box" @the Colesville/East-West Highway intersection. It can take a half hour just to get through that intersection from the NOAA garage (just past the shopping center) because of gridlockers trying to beat the light. The worst gridlockers are inevitably buses - Metro, RideOn, /and/ commuter.

Posted by: mvm_ffx | July 28, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Regarding pcaine's comments, it seems to me that, depending on where in the Dupont Circle area you're going, it's probably faster just to walk from Farragut West to Dupont Circle than it is to take a bus (assuming you're able to walk it, of course). The circle itself isn't terribly far at all from either Farragut West exit. If you're going to the area around where the Palm is on 19th Street, for example, it's probably substantially faster to walk given the traffic flow on the one-way streets and the like.

I have just begun a new job that lets me telecommute pretty much every day. Very nice not to have to fight the traffic, and my blood pressure is much better as a result!

Posted by: 1995hoo | July 28, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock, why do Metro's rail disruption reports stop at July 22nd? See:

That particular day appears to have four trains with brake problems, and there appear to be two trains that overrun their station a day (possibly related?) Hoping you can get answers to these, as Metro doesn't seem to have them....


Posted by: FunInSun45 | July 28, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Maryland taxpayers subsidize the "Dillon Bus Service" and "Maryland Transit Authority" buses that currently pick up passengers in Columbia and various points until the Silver Spring Metro to take them downtown.

HOWEVER, they refuse to allow passengers to board at the Silver Spring Metro stop for the ride downtown (but they allow Columbia residents to get off in Silver Spring), or allow passengers boarding downtown to disembark at the Silver Spring Metro northbound (although the pick up passengers at the SS Metro in the afternoon).

Call your elected representatives and demand this subsidized transportation alternative pick up passengers in Silver Spring southbound in the morning and drop them off northbound in the afternoon!

This nonsense about "not competing with Metro for transportation ridership" does not apply under the current circumstances.

Posted by: cibor | July 29, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Dr. G! I didn't know about the 37 bus. Wmata's own Rideguide never thought to mentioned it. Now, by leaving just 20 minutes earlier, I can avoid the Red Line mess (and $4.50 in rail fare) on my commute from Wheaton/Glenmont to Ballston. Thanks for saving me a lot of cash and gray hairs!

Posted by: cprferry | July 29, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

cprferry - how does the 37 bus help you? it goes from friendship heights to 7th/penn via foggy bottom.. unless you're taking 3 busses..?

Posted by: blah1233242 | July 29, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

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