Orange Line riders bristle at SafeTrack shutdown
We’re almost in the home stretch.
Metro’s SafeTrack Surge No. 15 begins Tuesday with a monthlong shutdown of the eastern end of the Orange Line between New Carrollton and Stadium-Armory. It’s expected to be the second-tolast installment of the year-long track maintenance program launched last June.
But even as SafeTrack lurches toward its conclusion, there are new concerns from riders affected by the work. Orange Line riders who live east of the Anacostia River say they are frustrated by Metro’s last-minute decision to switch to a complete shutdown, rather than the single-tracking that originally had been planned.
During the surge, which concludes June 15, the New Carrollton, Landover, Cheverly, Deanwood and Minnesota Avenue stations will be closed.
“The outreach has been nonexistent,” said Justin Lini, an Advisory Neighborhood commissioner who lives near Minnesota Avenue station in the District. “This was supposed to be single-tracking, and now they’re shutting down everything. It’s very disconcerting.”
Metro announced the change April 28. The reason, officials said, was to maximize productivity — and to confine the service disruptions to east of Stadium-Armory, limiting the ripple effect felt by riders on the rest of the system. It’s the same decision officials made for Surge No. 14, when they decided to close the northernmost segment of the Green Line rather than single-track trains.
Orange Line capacity west of Stadium-Armory is expected to be reduced by 20 percent. Capacity on the Silver Line west of East Falls Church will be cut by half, with 12-minute wait times between trains.
Metro said that although Orange Line stations east of the Anacostia will be closed, riders will be adequately served by bus shuttles.
But Lini said that in opting for a shutdown instead of single-tracking, Metro failed to consider the needs of residents. He noted that the surge is happening during the last month of the school year, when it’s vital that children arrive at school on time.
A large percentage of the neighborhood’s students rely on Metro to get to school, he said.
“The timing of this is abysmal,” he said.
He said Metro should have communicated with residents and local leaders before changing plans — and that they should have done a better job of informing riders about how the service disruptions will affect their lives. He fears that relying on buses will mean more people stuck in traffic and big delays.
“Already, on a good day, we can barely manage a rush hour or weekend traffic. The lack of accommodations for residents — it’s just stunning,” Lini said. “There’s no regard for the needs of the community here.”
The issue was raised at last week’s Metro board meeting, where member Malcolm Augustine said he had received “a tremendous amount of negative feedback” from Prince George’s County residents who will be affected by the surge.
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld agreed the agency could have done more to inform riders of the changes and their options.
“We could always do better,” Wiedefeld said.
But he still believes a total shutdown is the best option. And, he added, experience from previous surges has shown that riders tend to ignore warnings until the last minute.
“People focus on this literally when it starts,” Wiedefeld said.
To assist riders displaced by the station shutdowns, Metro will run two shuttle buses during the course of the surge.
One will run at 30-minute intervals throughout the day, tracing the route of the eastern end of the Orange Line. It will start at New Carrollton and stop at each Orange Line station between there and Stadium-Armory before turning around.
Metro officials, however, are encouraging riders to use special “express” shuttles that will carry riders from shuttered stations to the nearest open station on the Blue/Silver lines.
For example, displaced Minnesota Avenue riders will be taken to Stadium-Armory. Deanwood users will get a lift to Capitol Heights. And those who typically embark at Cheverly, Landover or New Carrollton will be ferried to Morgan Boulevard.
Metro said this option will be faster and easier for Orange Line riders east of the river. But note this disclaimer: The shuttles are free, but express riders should still tap their SmarTrip cards on the bus, otherwise they could potentially pay a higher fare once they board a Blue Line train to finish their trip.
Metro said displaced Orange Line riders who transfer to the Blue Line and are charged a higher fare will receive a rebate, but that’s only possible if riders’ SmarTrip cards contain proof that they used the shuttle bus from a closed Orange Line station — hence the need for an additional “tap” on the fare box on a free bus.
“To be eligible for the rebate, riders MUST tap their SmarTrip card on the shuttle bus,” Metro said in a statement. “This will not charge your card, but will indicate to Metro that you are starting your trip from a closed Orange Line station.”
Want to skip the shuttle buses altogether? If you usually parkand-ride at New Carrollton station, consider driving to Greenbelt station on the Green Line or Largo Town Center on the Blue and Orange lines.
MARC’s Penn Line provides a nonstop ride between New Carrollton and Union Station.
The Maryland Transit Administration is planning to add extra rail cars to Penn Line trains during the next month to temporarily add capacity.
There are also bus-only options for displaced riders.
Metro will run additional service on the U7 bus, which operates between Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood stations.
The A12 bus makes a stop at Landover station and continues to Capitol Heights. The F1 and F2 carry riders from Cheverly station and toward its other terminus at Takoma station on the Red Line, while the F8 starts in the same place and ends at Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center. The F12 connects the eastern three stations on the Orange line — Cheverly, Landover and New Carrollton.
Riders coming from shuttered Deanwood station can head to the Green Line’s Congress Heights and Anacostia stations via the W4 bus. Those same riders can also take the R12 to get to the other end of the Green Line, stopping at College Park and Greenbelt stations.
Minnesota Avenue station is served by the V2 and V4 — which end at Navy Yard and Anacostia stations — as well as the X1, X2, X3 and X9, which can take commuters to downtown, Foggy Bottom and Adams Morgan.
Prince George’s TheBus will operate special shuttles between Landover and Morgan Blvd. stations every 15 minutes from 6 to 10 a.m., and 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays. The 15X, 16, 18 and 23 can help displaced Orange Line riders reach the eastern ends of the Green and Blue lines.
Surge No. 15 is scheduled to wrap up June 15. After that, there’s just one more planned long-term service disruption left: Surge No. 16 will return to the Red Line between Shady Grove and Twinbrook stations, though Metro has not released dates for that project or whether it will entail singletracking or a full shutdown.