Orange Line rid­ers bris­tle at SafeTrack shut­down

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY MAR­TINE POW­ERS mar­tine.pow­ers@wash­post.com

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.

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