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Metro warns that icy roads could affect bus service

Our Capital Weather Gang is looking at a wintry and wet Thursday as what the Gang describes as a "nuisance" storm moves in to the Washington area. But because so many people will be out for celebrations or for a long weekend, the region's transportation agencies continue to prepare. [See posting on D.C. storm preparations.]

The transit authority says it is getting ready for the possibility of a light mix of freezing rain and sleet Thursday and Friday mornings. The main impact would be on Metrobus and MetroAccess service, rather than on Metrorail.

A little bit of ice would be enough to throw off the Metrobus schedule. The transit authority suggests that riders use their phones, mobile devices and computers to take advantage of the NextBus prediction technology. (The phone number is 202-637-7000. Say "next bus," then enter your bus stop ID number, which you can find either on the Metro shield at the bus stop or on Metro's Web site.)

But this is not a technological slam dunk. The NextBus GPS-based prediction system can be thrown off by traffic congestion, weather conditions, bus detours and other factors. Use it as an aid, but don't lean too heavily on it.

Metro says some neighborhoods may see buses and MetroAccess paratransit vehicles detour around streets that are icy. MetroAccess passengers with scheduled trips can call 301-562-5360 for a status update on their ride.

Ice-fighting equipment is positioned throughout the rail system to treat station entrances, parking lots, walkways and station platforms. Starting at 1 a.m. Thursday, Metro will have de-icer trains operating on above-ground tracks and will continue to run those trains through the night to help keep the third rail free of ice.

Metro also uses heater tape on sections of track with significant grades and in rail yards. (It's a cable clipped onto the third rail and turned on when temperatures dip below freezing.)

Customer service offices closing
This is the holiday schedule: The Customer Information office (202-637-7000) will close at 6 p.m. Thursday and reopen on Saturday at 7 a.m. The Customer Relations office (202-637-1328) will close at 2 p.m. Thursday and reopen on Monday at 8 a.m. The Lost and Found office (202-962-1195) will close at 2 p.m. Thursday and reopen Monday at 11 a.m.

While those offices are closed, you can still dial 202-637-7000 to use the voice activated telephone system for general information and to use NextBus.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 30, 2009; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, MetroAccess, Metrobus, travel tips  
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