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Was Your Red Line Commute a Bit Easier?

Metro had about 40 trains on the line this morning, transit authority spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said. That's only slightly fewer than normal.

"We were doing turnbacks at Grosvenor, and some at Silver Spring," he told me in an e-mail. "However, since we were experiencing backups to Glenmont, we were turning some trains at Rhode Island Avenue and sending them back to Shady Grove. We did lose one train due to a door problem in the 7 a.m. hour."

This afternoon, he said, the game plan is basically the same. "We will throw as many trains out there, monitor service, and if we have to, turn some trains back," Taubenkibel said.

A Red Line rider submitted this report about the morning commute, heading toward Glenmont at about 8:30:

The platform at Gallery Place, which was very crowded yesterday, was empty, and trains seemed to be less than 5 minutes apart instead of 10. I thought "great, I'll take the Red Line" (to Union Station) instead of walking, as I have most days since the Ft. Totten accident. Oops - should have walked again. It appears that Metro's concerns about a backup at Fort Totten were warranted, as we were held 7 minutes at Judiciary Square because of "trains backed up at Ft. Totten."

To his credit, the train operator made an announcement explaining that we would be holding at Judiciary, the reason for the delay and he apologized for not knowing how long we would be delayed ("dispatch hasn't told us.").

Although disappointed in the unexpected delay, my conclusion is that having more trains, even if they are sitting idle at stations, is an improvement in safety and comfort from yesterday's overcrowded platforms.

That sure beats what I heard from Neil Sood about Monday afternoon's commute:

I left work by L'Enfant Plaza today [Monday] at 4:40. I know the walk to Union is about 20 minutes, but I figured that 30 would be more than enough for Metro and it was worth it with today's heat. I check my phone before I entered the station (yes, I chose AT&T, but one carrier these days is still absurd), and see no alerts.

So I continue and make rather good time to Gallery Place (5 min.). When I get there, there are a smattering of people, which I figure means 7 or 8 minutes -- still not
a problem. I wait a bit and then wait some more. Soon, it is too late for me to make the walk and I am forced into waiting for the train. 20 minutes later, the train shows. So, I get on at 5:10. We pull into Union Station at 5:12, but I figure being in the first car I still
have a chance to catch the 5:15 to Frederick. The horde disembarks to find that one of the escalators has been shut down for maintenance. I make it up and out only to get to the platform at 5:17. It's not the end of the world, but I would have been home
before 7. Now, it will be close to 7:30. They cost me 45 min with my daughter.

He said he discovered an eAlert message from Metro that came in at 5:10 p.m. reporting a problem at Friendship Heights. I saw that, too. The message advised riders to expect delays to Glenmont because of a switch malfunction outside Friendship Heights Station.

By Robert Thomson  |  July 7, 2009; 10:35 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail delays, Red Line crash  
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Next: Metro Riders Still Dealing With Crash's Aftermath


My commute this morning was one hour and forty minutes long.

I'm going to go with, "no improvement."

I left a comment elsewhere this morning, but: the service has gone from bad to worse. I am now missing appointments and meetings. Silly me, I thought that leaving 45-60 minutes for a 20-25 minute trip would be sufficient.

The lengthy comment is in this post:

Posted by: EtoilePB | July 7, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Still a rough commute for me from Silver Spring to Gallery Place during the 7:00 hour this morning. I hit Silver Spring when there was a train sitting on the platform, but once we started to move, we just kept stopping because there was a train directly ahead of us. We picked up speed once we got through Fort Totten, but again, it took over 15 minutes to get from Silver Spring to Fort Totten. I've started leaving the house 15-20 minutes earlier to get to work on time. Wasn't too crowded until we got to Union Station, but that's par for the course.

The conductor kept announcing the time as we arrived in the stations. I don't know about anyone else, but for me, that just emphasized how painfully long the trip was taking. I'm sure she was just trying to be helpful, but I don't know how much good it did. That said, her announcements were much clearer than some conductors, who sound like they're mumbling nonsense into their microphones.

Posted by: runnergirl03 | July 7, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Commute from Cleveland Park was about as bad and inhumane as it has been the last two weeks. Could not get on the first train into the station and had to more or less force myself onto the second train. Unfortunately trains were then backed up from "Dupont Circle to Fort Totten" according to our less than informative driver and we held "momentarily" at every stop to Farragut North. I arrived at work only 15 minutes late which is an improvement, but an unwelcome one because I looked like Gary Williams after a tough first half having sweat through my entire shirt. Metro is useless within the city during rush hour. If you live in Maryland go ahead and take it, but it is an absolute joke getting on a downtown train in the city. Walking from Cleveland Park to Farragut North has become a reality... would New York ever allow this to happen?

Posted by: djones13 | July 7, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Same problems this morning at Silver Spring 8:00AM. held for 2-5 minutes at first four stations, then the typical mess at Gallery Place.

Last night was worse with no AC in the car we were riding in from Metro Center to Silver Spring. But people are just resigned to poor service from Metro. I did inform the station manager upon departing at Silver Spring and he radioed ahead to Glenmont, but it's just typical Metro. Poor service period.

John Catoe MUST GO!

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | July 7, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I left Wheaton at about 10 'til 8 and my train held at four or five stations for two or three minutes. Other than that, it was OK.

The slower speeds near the crash scene are frustrating, but then again, I'm not convinced Metro was going full-speed even three or four months ago. It never seemed that fast to me.

Posted by: edwardaggie98 | July 7, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

According to my conductor, they were single-tracking around Takoma/Fort Totten this morning. No email alert though. Nearly an hour from Glenmont to Gallery Place.

Posted by: stend3 | July 7, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Trains were turning back at Grosvenor, which made the ride much more tolerable than last week (there were available seats all the way to Dupont!). However, very slow ride due to congestion downtown, and I don't think most people realized turnbacks were happening - I watched people cram into an already-full inbound train at Grosvenor even though a train had just pulled up to the outbound platform and gone out of service.

Posted by: grosver | July 7, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I am a disabled commuter who uses a wheelchair (I realize my circumstances are different from other riders). I haven't been able to ride on the Red line since the accident. My commute is from Dupont Circle to Smithsonian. By the time the inbound trains get to Dupont, they are crammed so full there is no way to get a chair in there. With the time-gap between trains, it's just impossible.

I understand that the trains must go slower as they investigate the crash. What I don't get is why the rush hour, a-train-every-3-minutes, schedule is not possible. If all the red line trains are moving at a slower speed, why would this affect the ability to schedule them 3 minutes apart?

I've been leaving from my house on California St., walking downtown to Farragut West to get to the Orange/Blue line. But I can't do this forever.

Maybe I'll try the Red line tonight to see if I can get on board.

I've been here for 20 years and I've never seen Metro as screwed up and crowded as it is at the downtown Red line stops. It's just unbelievable. So many people on the platform it is truly a hazard.

Posted by: NW_Washington | July 7, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

According to conductor this morning only a single train is being allowed between Takoma/Ft. Totten, but not single tracking.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | July 7, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

NW_Washington, what about going to Mass Ave and picking up one of the N buses that run along that route? The N3 will take you to Federal Triangle metro station and you could transfer there or the N2/N4 will take you to Farragut West. I've never taken these buses before so no idea how crowded they would be, but just wanted to point them out as a possibility.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | July 7, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Alright, here's a mathematical interpretation of why Metro is having problems. I'll use round numbers to make it easier, and no turnbacks in my example!

Lets just say that it takes an hour to run a train between Shady Grove and Glenmont. So thus it takes 2 hours to make a round trip. Now lets say you want people at the stations to see a train every 5 minutes. That means you need a 24 trains, because 120 minutes, divided by 5 minutes per train, is 24 trains.

Now lets say it suddenly takes twice as long to run the route because there is a problem. So instead of 120 minutes for a round trip, it takes 240 minutes. You want a train every 5 minutes. Well 240 minutes, divided by 5 minutes, is 48 trains. Well, unfortunately Metro doesn't have 48 trains, they only have 24. Maybe they can squeeze a few more in, but they would still have to have the trains and be able to afford to pay the drivers.

Now lets say that Metro absolutely cannot run more than 24 trains. So round trip is 240 minutes. 240 minutes, divided by 24 trains, = 10 minutes per train. So by running at half speed, the same number of trains come half as often.

Another way of looking at it is this. Between Fort Totten and Takoma, there is a bottleneck, which reduces the capacity of the line. Capacity is measured in number of trains per hour. Not talking about the number of trains operating on the line, i'm talking about the number of trains that can pass any given point on the line per hour. Less trains passing a given point on the line per hour means less trains passing your station per hour.

Posted by: thetan | July 7, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

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