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D.C.'s thin line of transit service

Airports | Amtrak | Buses | Capital Weather Gang | D.C. snow emergency | Plowing plans | Rails | Snow removal | Live traffic

For most events -- natural or man-made -- that create travel problems in the Washington region, government leaders advise us to take transit. That's not happening Wednesday, and for good reason: The transit system is down to underground Metrorail, and very few people are taking that.

As of noon, Metro had provided a mere 11,127 rides. (There's just no place to go.) There were 11 trains operating in the entire rail system, said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel. This is the breakdown: four are on the Red Line, three are on the Blue/Orange Line, which are follow the same route Wednesday), three are on the Green Line and one is working the Yellow Line.

Some riders are complaining about the long waits for trains, and indeed, the waits are long. Trains arrive at stations about every half-hour. Aside from the supply-and-demand issue, Metro also is restricting service because the trains are sharing a single track to get around the underground areas where rail cars are being stored to protect them from the weather. [See previous posting on single-tracking by Ann Scott Tyson.]

"We have 506 rail cars underground and that includes the trains that are running," Taubenkibel said. "We have to store as many rail cars as we can so that when we open up more service, we can place more service on the system. It does no good to run a lot of service when the ridership is so low."

Train cars are stored between Tenleytown and Van Ness, Wheaton and Forest Glen, Benning Road and Capitol Heights, Federal Center SW and Smithsonian, Court House and Virginia Square, Pentagon and Crystal City, Anacostia and Navy Yard, and between Shaw-Howard University and U Street.

The rail cars are stored so that once the weather clears and people return to work, Metro will have the trains set to accommodate them.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 10, 2010; 1:50 PM ET
Categories:  Metro , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm, tips for travelers  
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Next: Metro likely to limit rail Thursday


This snowstorm is reprehensible and someone must be blamed for causing it. FIRE CATOE

Posted by: stuckman | February 10, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

So will the above ground stations be open tomorrow? What about Metrobus?

Posted by: heatherfeather1 | February 10, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse


It hasn't even stopped snowing and blowing yet. Do you REALLY expect someone to have an answer to that question at this time?

Posted by: ceebee2 | February 10, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I wish we could see a photo of the underground railcar storage areas -- I don't know why but that totally intrigues me. It's cool to to find out there's "extra" stuff down there besides the stations and the tunnel with the tracks!

Posted by: 7900rmc | February 10, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Remember that the "light" rail Purple Line, as currently planned by the Md. Transit Admin., would be mostly on the surface and on bridges. Very little would be underground. However, in the 2006 elections many candidates handed out maps of WMATA's Metrorail with a purple line added. It looked like part of the Metrorail system, and many people thought it would be underground, as it is in Wheaton and Forest Glen. We don't need this, we need more buses.

Posted by: catbird500 | February 10, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Picture your typical train station. All trains operate on one track. The other track has a train on it, with all the lights off. Doesn't really look like anything too special.

Posted by: thetan | February 10, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

7900rmc, there aren't any special storage areas other than a few--VERY few--pocket tracks and non-revenue connector tracks. The trains are being stored on the regular tracks used for revenue service. That's why they have to do the single-track operations!

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 10, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Chicken and egg: You tell me you're running a train every half an hour, I don't try and take a ride!

Posted by: hcrawford1 | February 10, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I've ridden metro a few times these past few days and was really grateful to get around via the running trains and on foot despite the waits.

Where can we say how much we loved Charlie? :(

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | February 10, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Taubenkibel, yes, it does some "good to run a lot of service when the ridership is so low". You are keeping riders waiting in the stations for 45 minutes when they know you have plenty of trains and staff available.

Metro is not even posting expected arrival times for trains. Expectant passengers do not know if the next train will arrive in one minute or in an hour. Why not share some information? It's free, right? And, yes, it does matter. Instead of a long wait some will choose to walk.

Speaking of information, why did Metro allow snow to accumulate on the above-ground tracks Saturday night? Could you not have kept the tracks clear by running trains or snow sweeping equipment overnight? Couldn't at least of few of the above-ground stations have been opened over the weekend? You did start clearing the tracks when the snow stopped Saturday morning, didn't you? Your website has offered no information about your efforts to re-open Metro rail above-ground service.

Probably your organization has been working very, very hard to restore the public transportation service our city needs to function. But your slow underground service, long-closed above-ground stations, and lack of communication can give the impression of indifference. This snow storm may be a paid holiday for goverment employees, but when commerce stops many of us lose income.

If I sound annoyed it is because I walked from Foggy Bottom to Metro Center to work this morning because your next train was 30 minutes away (I had to ask the three idle station attendants), and I am getting ready to walk back in the wind and the cold. Yesterday I waited 45 minutes for a train at Metro Center -- no info on the signs, the train just suddenly appeared.

Posted by: InWDC | February 10, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I made the mistake of taking metro Monday for a concert at the 9:30 (for which I had bought the ticket 2 months ago, on December 11); in retrospect, I should have driven and taken a snow shovel to create a parking space. The waits were longer than 1/2 hour in some cases (I had to transfer from the red line to the green/yellow line, so I had 4 waits, 3 of them long). The signs saying when trains were allegedly coming often did not say when, and when they did say when, they were wrong. Worst of all, I asked several metro employees at several metro kiosks about scheduling and how late trains were running, and out of 5 people, I got 4 different answers. I had to leave the show early, as I had at best a vague idea of when trains might be running.

I don't expect miracles out of metro, but I do think (but from experience, do not expect) that employees of metro will know what they are talking about, that the web site will have useful, accurate, and up-to-date information (it did not), and that customer service phone lines will be available when metro says they will be (they were not). After re-reading the previous sentence, I think that I'm not asking for anything unreasonable. Public transportation is not a luxury, it is an essential public service. Sadly, I think the attitude of metro employees is one of indifference, and believe me, it shows.

Posted by: MyPostID27 | February 10, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Have any of you local folks seen cabs driving around? I'm flying into Reagan tomorrow, and with the Metro down, I'm wondering if I should even bother if I can't get to Springfield. Thanks

Posted by: Lumtron | February 10, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Why do people put up with this? Other cities (Chicago, NY, Boston) run their mass transit in all weather. That's when they're needed most. Why can't Washington?

Posted by: steve_k2 | February 10, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

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