Metro riders in northern Virginia are preparing for an autumn of discontent.
The transit agency is starting the longest service disruption of its nine-month maintenance blitz. Orange Line trains will single-track between Vienna and West Falls Church from Sept. 15 until Oct. 26.
Service got off to a rough start Thursday after a slight depay in implementing SafeTrack led to a brief suspension in service.
Buses were already at the Vienna station because of SafeTrack, so affected passengers were loaded onto the buses. Metro says service was restored within 15 to 20 minutes, but riders may still encounter crowding because of the safety surge.
Riders should expect longer wait times at the following stations:
- Dunn Loring
- West Falls Church
- East Falls Church
The weekends will not offer any relief. Three stations will be closed for weekend work during the six-week long safety surge.
On the weekends of Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 1-2, the Vienna, Dunn Loring and West Falls Church stations will be closed. The Vienna and Dunn Loring stations will close again the weekends of Oct. 8-9, and Oct. 15-16.
Riders are already searching their options of travel for the next six weeks. Napoleon Boakye said it already takes him an hour to get into downtown D.C.
"I think it's really terrible, because we depend on the train to go in and out from downtown and back here," Boakye said. "I will probably take Uber. Or I will try to cut down my travel."
For this next surge, riders are really being encouraged to find a different route or use telework or flexible work schedules during the safety work. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said SafeTrack is making a difference.
"There will still be issues," he said. "This equipment wears out, but the odds of that happening go way way down."
He said riders keep telling him to do what he's doing to help fix the Metro system.
Metrobus, Fairfax Connector Enhance Service
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is encouraging riders to try to use buses as much as possible. To find a bus-only trip, use WMATA's online trip planner and choose the "bus only" option. See Metrobus timetables here.
Metro will add limited free weekday rush hour express Metrobus shuttle service between Vienna and West Falls Church every 5-10 minutes during the morning and evening rush.
The Fairfax Connector will run a special express shuttle ($4 per trip) from the Vienna Metro station (bus bay N) to the Pentagon only (pickup at bus bay L-7).
You can also find a full list of alternative bus routes on Metro's website and more about other transit options during the surge.
Other Ways to Avoid Metrorail
In addition to taking the bus, here are more options for getting around without Metrorail:
Biking: The Washington Area Biking Association (@WABA) previously tweeted this Google map of D.C.-area trails, bike lanes and bike-friendly roads. Find information on the best bike routes along the Orange Line here. If you need to tune up your biking skills, check out WABA's classes on learning to ride and urban cycling online here. Need to rent a bike? Capital Bikeshare stations are located throughout the area; you can see rates or sign up here.
Car2Go or Zipcar: Get a short-term rental car from Car2Go or Zipcar.
Carpooling/Slugging: Drivers can use the I-95 and I-495 Express Lanes for free with three people in the car (but you'll need an Express Lanes E-ZPass Flex transponder). VDOT also recommends checking out Slug-Lines.com if you're interested in slugging ("casual" carpooling to meet HOV requirements).
Driving: Drivers should expect increased traffic and are encouraged to carpool or travel outside of peak periods if possible. If you must drive, leave yourself plenty of extra time to get around.
Lyft and/or Uber: You might want to download a ride-hailing app like Lyft or Uber if you haven't already. Find the Lyft app here for either iPhone or Android, and the Uber app on iTunes here or on Google Play here. Lyft said it will offer Metro riders discounted rides throughout SafeTrack's phases; see discount zones and info here. Uber says UberPOOL, in which passengers share cars, will be available across the entire D.C. area through the year of SafeTrack.
Taxi: You can, of course, hail a cab on the street, but you can also order one online or by phone.