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Posted at 6:10 PM ET, 04/22/2010

A win-win scenario for Metro

By Washington Post editors

In 2005, Metro modified the Orange Line to run fewer but longer trains during the morning rush. The idea was that by removing just a couple of trains each morning and cannibalizing their railcars to turn some of the remaining six-car trains into eight-car trains, then adjusting the schedule to equalize the gap between trains, Metro could run a number of longer trains each morning while only extending headways by a few seconds per train.

Without WMATA buying a single additional railcar, and without much of a noticeable change in wait time, riders suddenly found themselves enjoying eight-car trains about a third of the time. It worked great, and the famous Orange Crush became a little less crushed.

Now, interim general manager Richard Sarles is suggesting something similar for the Red Line. If we dismantle a couple of existing six-car trains and use their components to fill out some eight-car trains, the Red Line might run a lot more smoothly.

There would be more seats available at the peak-of-the-peak rush period, more flexibility in the schedule in case something went wrong, and lower operating costs. It could be a great idea. So why doesn't Metro make this change systemwide?

It only works where trains are already operating very frequently. The Red Line currently has the shortest intervals between trains of any line in the Metrorail system, so removing a couple of trains at rush hour and readjusting the schedule only adds a few seconds between trains.

The change is so slight that nobody generally notices the difference. However, if you did it where trains run less frequently, the additional time between trains might be several minutes rather than a few seconds, which would be enough to drive away riders and destroy whatever cost savings might otherwise be achieved.

Long story short, this could be a really good move for Metro, but only at times of day when trains are running so often that riders won't notice waiting a little longer.

Dan Malouff blogs at The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Washington Post editors  | April 22, 2010; 6:10 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, transportation  
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This seems like a very sensible way to optimize transport.

Posted by: Nymous | April 22, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

I love it when I get an 8 train car on the Green Line. I've got room to actually sit down during rush hour, which is great! I'd love to see 8 train cars on all the lines ('cept maybe the Yellow Line--it's so short. Does it need 8 cars??)

Only drawback, with the trains stopping at the end of the platform, I don't know where to stand. From where I enter the station, I end up at the rear of the train. The numbers one the "time until next train" sign are too small and too far away to be seen half the time. I don't know if I'm getting an 8 car train or a 6 car train until it pulls up.

Posted by: redgrifn | April 23, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

There's occasions where the Yellow Line needs 8 cars during peak hours or during major events. Then when you consider that the Yellow Line is the most direct route between the east side of the core and both Crystal City and Alexandria...

Posted by: ajfroggie | April 23, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

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