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Changes planned for Red Line

Richard Sarles, the interim general manager of Metro, has been on the job just a few weeks and hasn't been too visible to the riders. But he had some interesting things to say about his plans when he testified before a House committee on Wednesday that was looking into Metro safety and governance.

As the Metro board today discusses how to close the transit authority's $189 million budget gap, it will be looking at plans to adjust the schedule on the Red Line, Sarles said. The result would be wider scheduled gaps between trains, but more eight-car trains.

Widening the gap between trains hardly sounds like an upgrade, but riders know that the current Red Line schedule is a fantasy. For example, it doesn't reflect the addition of an extra station at New York Avenue, and it certainly doesn't reflect last year's switch to manual control of all trains.

The change in the official schedule would establish three minute gaps between trains from Grosvenor to Silver Spring and six minute gaps from Silver Spring to Glenmont and Grosvenor to Shady Grove. Metro says this will improve reliability throughout the day. And the capacity on the line will remain constant, because the number of eight-car trains will be increased.

In his testimony, Sarles said Metro is looking at improving on-time performance for its services, boosting the reliability of elevators and escalators and increasing training for front-line employees. He talked about improving the physical condition of the transit system.

The Metro system, he said, "must be brought into a state of good repair."

"We're developing products that will allow the public to see how we're doing," Sarles said. He called this a "vital signs report."

The Metro board is preparing to hire a search firm to help find a permanent replacement for former general manager John B. Catoe Jr., who resigned effective April 2, so Sarles is a short-timer. But if he can accomplish one of those goals he set out Wednesday, he will be remembered fondly by riders.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 22, 2010; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, Red Line  
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Next: Metro plan curbs service cuts


More hot air from Metro ...

Posted by: blackforestcherry | April 22, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

metro has a schedule?

Posted by: nativetexan2 | April 22, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Establishment of 3 minute gaps between red line trains at rush hour would certainly be an upgrade. This week the gap between trains at rush hour has averaged 4-5 minutes. Adding 8-car trains to the mix would make this plan a dream come true -- if there were any way it could actually work out as planned.

8-car trains seem to be rarer than unicorns, though I did see some last week during the nuclear summit (was Metro putting on its best face?) though once the summit was over it was back to all 6-cars, all the time. As for the 3 minutes between trains plan...if the red line is supposed to be doing better than that now, I'd hate to see what a wider gap will look like when it's implemented.

Posted by: VDouglass | April 22, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Reversing ex-GM Catoe and MetroRail Chief Kubicek's orders to run the trains at full speed for schedule, schedule, schedule, and the heck with safety is a good first step. Especially since they never met the schedule anyway. And everyone will be safer.

Posted by: ryanc22032 | April 22, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Get us back into automatic control, and we just might be in business here!

Posted by: HydroxCookies | April 22, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I'll believe it when I see it.

Posted by: linroy62 | April 22, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Dear Lord in heaven, PLEASE let them return to automatic control. I am sick to death of being jerked around. And the worst is when they announce a station, come to a complete stop, and then start up again with no warning. This drives me nuts and if the driver does it at one station, he will probably do it at several others.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | April 22, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

3 Minute interval for trains? Working escalators? Working eleveators? Wow! This is definately a possibility. Have to run now I have a meeting with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny...

Posted by: tsamm | April 22, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Hope he can pull it off. Performance is paramount, but it seems the whole system is looking more run down than ever. Just look at the sheer chaos at the Van Ness Station, it's a total embarrassment. Right now, this is a third world system.

Posted by: Trout1 | April 22, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Feeling the others about automatic control. I've been noticing it this week: my inbound commutes are what I would describe as perfect, surprisingly: 8-car trains (on the orange line!), not painfully crowded, minimal wait times, minimal wait times at my transfer point (Metro Center)...

But with all of that, my commute is taking 1:10 to 1:25. In 2008, the same commute, on a "perfect" day, took me :45 - :55. The difference, as far as I can tell, is purely in the actual speed of the trains, and in how they run on manual control.

Posted by: EtoilePB | April 22, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Metro should inoperate the Forest Glen station as 0-2 people enter or exit the train per stop. It is a complete waste of time for the rest of the commuters on the Red Line and I am sure exhausts much money and unnecessary resources. Are their recommendations just fool-hardy suggestions and ideas? I am sure there are other areas that could change before their so-called analytical recommendations.

Posted by: PostPardon | April 22, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

"Right now, this is a third world system."


Oh come on, it's not that bad...

Next time you pay a visit to Chicago, try out the CTA's rail system, and make sure to include some quality time undergound on the red and blue lines.

It won't take long before you begin to appreciate how nice the DC Metro system still is, even with the financial and operational shortcomings.

Posted by: HydroxCookies | April 22, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, you can just skip Medical Center except maybe for every fourth train. Everybody working at the Medical Center or NIH drives (I see a few cyclists) anyway, completely clogging up every road in and out of Bethesda.

Posted by: Wallenstein | April 22, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Three minutes between trains would be absolutely amazing, especially during the evening rush when it seems like everyone is trying to get to Union Station to catch a commuter train. Even though my commute should take me straight from Gallery Place to Silver Spring, I often find myself taking the green line to Fort Totten and transferring to the red line for the final two stops. It might not be faster, but it's much more sane.

Posted by: runnergirl03 | April 22, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Ummm, isn't this proposed schedule really the schedule the Red Line was "supposed" to be running before the accident?

I presume that this all is dependent upon automatic control being returned, all the switches working, the rails not cracking every other day, and Metro being able to actually find those elusive 8-car trains.

By the way, why is Mr. Kubicek still Chief of Rail Operations?

Posted by: ceebee2 | April 22, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

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