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Metro makes service plans for snow

Metro says it's making plans for train, bus and van service based on a forecast of up to six inches of snow overnight. The transit authority expects Metrorail will operate close to a normal schedule, but Metrobus and MetroAccess riders could encounter delays and detours Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Metro will run empty trains on the above-ground tracks overnight. That should help keep the third rail free of ice. But Metro also can run specially equipped trains with de-icing equipment. (The third rail has to be free of ice so the juice can flow to power the trains.)

During the December blizzard, Metro had to close the above-ground portions of the rail system when the snow depth was more than six inches. That's the threshold at which the trains start to encounter serious problems with power systems. Below that threshold, Metro planners expect they can keep the entire system running.

But Metrobus and the MetroAccess paratransit service operate on the same roads with everyone else. So if snow and ice impede motorists, they impede the buses and vans, too. Metro's drivers may make detours, or they may decide that it's unsafe to proceed and stop the run. So if you're fortunate enough to have a choice, take Metrorail rather than a bus Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

Bus riders can try the Next Bus prediction technology to get an idea when the bus will arrive. Log onto Metro's Web site, or call 202-637-7000 and say "Next Bus," then enter the bus stop ID number. But do keep in mind that while this is a GPS-based system, it also relies on computerized calculations about how long it should take the bus to travel from where it is now to the stop where you are waiting. A detour, a spun-out car or an icy patch will throw off the predictor.

MetroAccess passengers with scheduled trips can call 301-562-5360 for a status update on their rides.

Metro put its storm plan into action this afternoon. Transit employees are staging equipment and personnel. Supplies are in place to treat station entrances, parking lots, walkways and platforms. Still, be very careful Tuesday night and Wednesday on those wet tiles on the outdoor platforms. Remember the trains still stop at the front of the platforms, so don't run to catch up.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 2, 2010; 5:10 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Metro , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm  
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