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Metro riders stranded by service stop

Update (5:15 p.m.): Metro dispatched additional trains to six different end-of-the-line stations Saturday to help hundreds of customers reach their destinations after above-ground stations were closed, a spokesman for the transit agency said.

The agency sent trains to Greenbelt, New Carrollton, Largo, Branch Avenue, Huntington and Vienna after hearing reports of customers stranded in the Fort Totten, Anacostia, Stadium-Armory, Ballston and Pentagon City stations, said Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman. He said all the trains made it to their destinations except for the one bound for Vienna, which was stopped by the weather and eventually had to be towed back by a diesel-powered piece of equipment. The 10 riders on that train, he said, were eventually driven to their destinations by Metro supervisors.

Taubenkibel said Metro trains would still run underground every 25 to 30 minutes until 3 a.m. Sunday. He said officials had not determined what services would run on Sunday, noting that snow was still falling, but hoped to have as many services as possible available Monday.

Before officials shut down bus service Sunday, Taubenkibel said, 17 buses got stuck in snow and 21 were involved in accidents.

Update (3:15 p.m.): Vanessa Marenco, 32, walked to the Metro bus stop at 16th and M Streets NW just after noon, hoping to catch a ride up to Mount Pleasant to see some friends for the holiday.
The bus never came.

Metro suspended bus service everywhere starting at 1 p.m., and apparently by that time, the last bus had already passed Marenco's stop. Still, Marenco was not disheartened. Making the 30 minute trek to Mount Pleasant was only a minor inconvenience, she said. And besides, seeing this much snow was "wonderful."

"It's too bad, though, that it definitely cripples the city," Marenco said. "Good thing it was a Saturday, because this would have been crazy on a Monday or Tuesday."

Not all were as pleasant as Marenco.

A 24-year-old woman who declined to give her name arrived at the 16th and M stop just before 1 p.m., not knowing that bus service had been suspended. The woman said she had just gotten off work at noon at Prometric, and, as she does most days, was hoping to catch the bus back to her home off Georgia Avenue.

The woman said her second option would be to take Metro, but even then, she lived more than a half mile from the stop. As the clock ticked past noon, she checked her phone, then wandered off.

"I do understand," she said. "I expected to be able to get out, but I think it's great as long as you don't have to drive."

-- Matt Zapotosky

Update (3 p.m.):Metro will run one final train to the end of each line where customers need it, and after that, travelers wanting to get past the below-ground stops will have to make other arrangements, a spokesman said.

The move comes after some customers at the last below-ground stops complained that they had no other way to get to their final suburban destinations. At 1 p.m., Metro shut down all its bus service and rail service at all above-ground stops because snow was starting to cover the electric third rail, making travel impossible. They announced the shutdown just before noon.

Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman, told The Post at about 2 p.m., that one last train would run to each end of the line stop to service customers who had no other way to get home. Which train that will be and what time it will arrive in each case is unclear, he said. He also said only one train will run to the end of those lines and no shuttle bus service will be offered. Doing otherwise would be dangerous, he said, because the roads and the electric third rail are covered in snow, creating a risk for the buses or trains getting stuck with customers stranded outdoors.

"Several stations, we were told people were desperately trying to get home, so looking at the conditions right now, we are going to make those efforts," Taubenkibel said. "Our plan would be at the stations where the people need to get to the end of the line, we're going to take one train and send it all the way to the end of the line."

It is not clear that the plan is being enacted or that riders are being made aware of it. A Washington Post employee at the Fort Totten station said that trains were only running toward downtown D.C., and no announcements had been made to indicate otherwise. Taubenkibel said riders had been notified of the change.

-- Matt Zapotosky

Update (12:55 p.m.): Metro officials are now saying service will be suspended by 1 p.m. as originally reported on its Web site.

Update (12:41 p.m.): Metro officials said service will be suspended by 1:30 instead of 1 p.m. as reported on its Web site.

Update (12:10 p.m.): Metro officials said they will stop serving above-ground stations at 1 p.m. Saturday

All Metrobus and MetroAccess service also will stop at 1 p.m. because roadways are quickly becoming impassable, officials said in a statement.

"We ran trains throughout the night to keep the tracks clear of snow and ice, but we are fast-reaching the point where we risk trains becoming stranded on snow-covered tracks," General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. said.

Metro said the electrified third rail, which powers trains, is in danger of becoming covered by snow in outdoor areas.

Modified underground service will be:

  • Yellow Line - Service from Pentagon to Crystal City only

  • Red Line - Service between Medical Center and Union Station only

  • Orange Line - Service between Ballston and Stadium-Armory only

  • Green Line - Service between Fort Totten and Congress Heights only

  • Blue Line - Service between Ballston (extended to Blue Line)

  • and Stadium-Armory only

The underground Metrorail stations will remain open until 3 a.m., the normal closing time for a Saturday night, Metro said.

All Metrobus service will stop at 1 p.m. Metrobus service stopped in Maryland and Virginia at about 11:30 a.m.

Officials said MetroAccess will not start any new trips after 1 p.m. due to poor road conditions, but the service will honor trips home if someone took a trip prior to 1 p.m.

Metro's customer call center also will close at 1 p.m.

Update (10 a.m.): Metrorail is still up and running. However, as snow depths approach eight inches, the transit agency may shift to running between underground stations only. Metrobus service is available only on snow emergency routes and conditions are difficult at best.

Update (7:40 a.m.): Metro says bus service is limited to snow emergency routes, so passengers should expect detours and major delays.

Original post: Metro opened at 7 a.m. Saturday and will operate trains about 10 to 12 minutes apart, but Metro buses and Metro Access trips are experiencing major delays because of heavy snow on the roads, the transit agency said in a statement.

Metro generally operates close to a normal schedule in snowfall of up to six inches, the agency said. Once snow reaches eight inches and snow starts to cover the third rail, though, the agency may suspend above-ground service.

"We will monitor snowfall levels very closely and we will plan and react accordingly," said Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. "It is very slow moving on the roads today ... Customers should please dress warmly as waits for buses and trains will be longer than usual."

Throughout Friday night, Metro kept empty trains running across outdoor tracks to help keep the snow off. On Saturday, the agency planned to use twenty de-icing trains across all five lines. Four Metrobuses were also used to help transport homeless individuals to shelters Friday night and Saturday morning between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Throughout Saturday, Metro will be using 2,200 tons of bulk rock salt to treat roadways and parking lots and 18,000, 50-pound bags of de-icer to treat sidewalks and platforms, the agency said in the statement.

--Matt Zapotosky

By Michael Bolden  |  December 19, 2009; 7:11 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Commuting , Metro  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: D.C. snow emergency is now in effect; residents urged to stay home
Next: DDOT suspends Circulator service


Posted by: MikeLicht | December 19, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Apparently you have never seen "The Day After Tomorrow"

Posted by: bmp246 | December 19, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Looks like we have additional work required under the capital budget. Burying the outdoor lines as well as third and fourth tracks.

Metro fails us again.

Fire Catoe NOW.

And Dr. G will's not Catoe's fault.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | December 19, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Went from Foggy Bottom to Pentagon City today just past noon. NOTHING was posted at Metro stations alerting riders that service would be suspended less than an hour later. Needed much better communication -- could have prevented a lot of frustration.

Posted by: elizabethbsullivan | December 19, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Metro could screw up a 2 car funeral.

Posted by: Viennacommuter1 | December 19, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Metro should postpone the snow for a couple hours so they could give more notice. C'mon people, Metro was keeping service running as much as they could before calling it quits because the trains can't run anymore when the snow gets too deep. If you took a trip, using any mode of transport today, you risked getting stuck because the snow, which was still falling, could make things worse. Metro was making announcements inside the stations starting at about 11:45.

Posted by: thetan | December 19, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

"hoped to have as many services as possible available Monday."

Oh, this sounds ominous. I pray for liberal leave on Monday.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 19, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

All the other bus services in the area such as Fairfax Connector, Omniride, and The Bus, shut down hours before Metro and yet you don't see any complaints about them. Why do people treat Metro as their personal bus/rail service?

Posted by: Jimof1913 | December 20, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

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