WASHINGTON — Metro’s first 24/7 track work zone has already been blamed for increased traffic, but if that’s a category 3 disruption, the second “surge” will be a category 5: Two stretches of track will be shut down completely along the Orange, Silver and Blue lines, disrupting commutes across the region.
It is among the most wide-ranging disruptions of the 10 months of work announced.
Metro will rebuild tracks, and work on electrical and other problems that Federal Transit Administration identified as critical for safety between Eastern Market and Minnesota Avenue on the Orange Line, and between Eastern Market and Benning Road on the Blue and Silver lines.
The around-the-clock work beginning Saturday, June 18, and continuing through July 3, means that the Stadium-Armory and Potomac Avenue stations are closed entirely. There will be shuttle buses between Eastern Market, Potomac Avenue, Stadium-Armory and Minnesota Avenue or Benning Road, but they are expected to be very crowded.
On the Virginia side, there will essentially be no Blue Line service. Blue Line shuttle trains will run between Franconia-Springfield and Arlington Cemetery, but there will be no trains in either direction between Arlington Cemetery and Rosslyn during the work period.
Metro does plan to run additional Yellow Line trains only during off-peak hours between Franconia-Springfield and D.C. During rush hour, the same number of Yellow Line trains as usual will face the burden of any Blue Line riders who want to reach any station across the Potomac, which could contribute to increased crowding at L’Enfant Plaza, where the Yellow Line enters D.C.
Even outside the track work zones, passengers who ride between any two stations served by the Orange and Silver lines will face significantly longer waits than usual. Scheduled rush-hour train service along the Orange and Silver lines will be cut back anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent from regular schedules.
Metro has urged riders to “consider alternate travel options and avoid traveling during rush hour if possible; expect rush hour trains to be very crowded.”
The work begins Saturday, so that it does not affect students during the regular D.C. school year. Summer school begins June 27.
The workarounds from Maryland
While it’s possible to take Metro starting from New Carrollton or Largo Town Center in to Minnesota Avenue or Benning Road, transfer to a free shuttle bus, and then get back on the train at Eastern Market, that will add significant time to all trips.
For riders who usually use the New Carrollton station, MARC’s Penn Line trains stop at a separate platform there. The fare from New Carrollton to Union Station is $5 for riders who purchase tickets before boarding. Depending on how shuttle bus and other services hold up, commuters may even consider taking an outbound Metro train to New Carrollton to connect to MARC service into D.C.
Another option is Prince George’s County’s TheBus 15X route between the New Carrollton and Greenbelt Metro stations. Rides on the 15X are free during this track work period, and the Green Line is scheduled to operate as usual. (Riders may even get to ride a shiny new train.) From Greenbelt, College Park or Riverdale, MARC’s Camden Line is an option. The fare to Union Station from those stations also is $5.
MARC will not add any additional trains on either line, but does plan to add one or two additional cars to Camden Line trains during work that has significant impacts in Prince George’s County. Maryland commuters who typically drive to Blue, Orange or Silver Line stations should consider driving to a MARC station, or a Metro stop with parking on the Green or Red line.
Metro plans extra buses on the T18 route between New Carrollton, Landover Hills, Bladensburg, Brentwood, Mt. Rainier and the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station on the Red Line. Other options include the F6 Metrobus to College Park, the G12 and G14 Metrobuses to Greenbelt and the T14 Metrobus to Rhode Island Avenue.
Metro suggests riders from Landover, Cheverly and other stations closely look at bus options to make it in and out of D.C.
From the Addison Road Metro, TheBus’s Route 18 connects to Prince George’s Plaza and Langley Park, giving riders a way to connect to the Green Line.
Like many other parts of the region, Prince George’s County plans to monitor and adjust traffic signals to deal with what’s expected to be an influx of cars on the roads.
Regional leaders are urging people to telework, shift schedules or carpool if at all possible. Prince George’s County has asked for increased HOV enforcement along Route 50 during the surge.
The workarounds in D.C.
Once riders who stick with Metro or who can get a ride into D.C. make it to stations such as Minnesota Avenue or Benning Road, additional buses on regular routes will be available in addition to shuttle buses for rail riders.
Metro says all rail riders should tap out with their SmarTrip cards and then back in after taking a shuttle bus. Metro plans to charge users as if that is one continuous trip, which would include the entire rail stretch, but keep riders from being charged the base fare twice.
Metro warns that shuttle buses may be “extremely crowded,” and riders planning to use them may “need to wait for multiple buses due to long lines.”
Metro plans to add extra rush-hour buses on the 97 route between Capitol Heights, Capitol Hill and Union Station (riders can use the 96 as well), in addition to the extra T18 service. The limited-stop X9 route between Capitol Heights, Minnesota Avenue, H Street NE, Gallery Place and Metro Center will also run all day.
From Minnesota Avenue, the X1 and X2 may also work for riders looking for an X9. Other alternatives depending on destinations include buses in the U and V series.
If the buses are too crowded, riders could transfer to the D.C. streetcar, but the end of the line at Oklahoma Avenue is likely too far from the Minnesota Avenue Metro or Benning Road Metro stations for most people to choose to walk.
Around Eastern Market and Potomac Avenue, any Metrobus route in the 30s will provide service up and down Pennsylvania Avenue for riders looking to avoid the rails entirely.
Depending on the weather and other considerations, Capital Bikeshare or other bike commuting may be the simplest way to avoid much of the impact across the region.
Bikeshare launched a $2 single-ride option with the start of rush-hour track work earlier this month, but even semiregular users may benefit from a longer-term membership.
With additional traffic expected, D.C. has extended rush-hour parking restrictions along key corridors and is suspending construction permits along high priority bus corridors beginning June 18.
The District Department of Transportation projects the service cuts and shutdowns will impact more than 230,000 riders each day.
The workarounds from Northern Virginia
Independent analysts looking at the entire region, and the Virginia Department of Transportation, observed an increase in traffic congestion and delays on some major routes during the first around-the-clock work zone June 3-16, and this second phase of work is expected to have an even wider impact.
“Commuters are strongly urged to rideshare, telework, adjust work schedules and use other alternate options. For those who must drive, allow additional time for trips and plan for extended rush hours, and remain alert to increased congestion as commuters adjust routes and travel methods during each surge,” the agency said in an advisory.
Virginia Blue Line riders
While Metro is not providing shuttle buses for riders between Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery, Arlington County is adding midday, evening and weekend service to the ART 43 bus between Crystal City, Rosslyn and Courthouse.
At rush hour, ART also plans to run larger buses than usual on the route.
Arlington County is urging people who live and work in the county to make use of flexible schedules or telework if possible. If teleworking from home is not an option, Arlington suggests, libraries may provide the resources needed.
Capital Bikeshare stations around the Rosslyn Metro station got extra support during the first trackwork phase, and Arlington plans to add capacity at Bikeshare stations near Crystal City during this track work.
Automated bike counters between Ballston and Rosslyn show an increase of 70 to 90 percent over the same period last year, Arlington County said Wednesday.
Capital Bikeshare use in Arlington was up 20 to 50 percent during the first week of Metro’s 24/7 track work which impacted the Orange and Silver Lines.
Bike counts increased most significantly between Ballston and the D.C. line.
Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is another option for riders who usually take Metro from Franconia-Springfield in toward Alexandria or D.C. Fredericksburg Line trains from Franconia-Springfield stop at King Street, Crystal City, L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station.
The one-way fare between Franconia-Springfield and either of the D.C. stations is $7.40; however, commuters who commit to a five-day pass can get a discount — $58.80 for that trip. To and from the Alexandria stations, the fare would be $6.75 one-way or $53.20 for the week.
Commuters new to VRE should note that tickets must be validated before boarding the train. Check schedules closely, because the last trains depart D.C. before 7 p.m.
Virginia Orange and Silver lines’ riders
The Orange Line trains that are running are scheduled to be all eight-car trains, but they are only scheduled to run every 10 minutes. Silver Line trains also are scheduled to run every 10 minutes at stations that are open, and will be a mix of six- and eight-car trains.
Fairfax Connector will offer similar express bus service to the Pentagon during this surge as the last one.
That includes express buses between the Vienna Metro station and the Pentagon, and additional service on Route 599 between Reston North Park & Ride and the Pentagon. The fare for those routes is $4.
Overall in Fairfax County, there are typically more than 4,000 open spaces at park and rides for carpooling or slugging.
Since service will be significantly reduced on the Orange and Silver lines, riders may also consider using the Burke Centre VRE station. Manassas Line trains through Burke Centre stop at Rolling Road, Backlick Road, Alexandria, Crystal City, L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station. The fares from Backlick Road are the same as fares from Franconia-Springfield (see above), while fares from Rolling Road and Burke Centre to D.C. are $8.15 one-way or $64.30 for a five-day pass.
Existing Metrobus, Fairfax Connector or other bus routes may also be more convenient during this track work period. Regular bus routes cost $1.75; express routes cost $4, while the 5A route between Dulles Airport, Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, Rosslyn and L’Enfant Plaza costs $7 each way.
From Prince William, Loudoun and points south or west
Commuters from western Loudoun County who drive or take a bus to Metro may consider crossing the Potomac at Point of Rocks or Harpers Ferry to use MARC’s Brunswick Line. Other options to avoid the projected increases in traffic include Loudoun commuter buses.
From Prince William County, PRTC buses, VRE and slugging or carpooling are among the options.
Through July 3, PRTC will delay the last evening trip from Franconia-Springfield on the Prince William Metro Direct Route by 15 minutes to provide more time to make the connection.
Riders who take buses to the Pentagon to reach Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom or Farragut West should remember that there is no Blue Line service between Arlington Cemetery and Rosslyn, so the best option from there will likely be transferring to a Metrobus into the District.
Impact on other riders
While the work only directly impacts the Orange, Blue and Silver lines, Yellow and Green lines’ riders could see significant increases in the number of people on their trains if commuters shift from the affected lines to the others.
D.C. United has one match scheduled at RFK Stadium during the shutdown of the Stadium-Armory Station — a June 25 matchup with the New England Revolution — and other events are planned on the RFK grounds, including The Great Inflatable Race and Race 4ever.
In addition to bus options, fans or runners may want to consider taking the Red Line to Union Station, then the D.C. streetcar to the end of the line at Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue in Northeast.
The next work hits Virginia and Reagan National Airport
After this work zone, there is a one-day break on July 4 for Independence Day events before a complete shutdown of the Blue and Yellow lines between Braddock Road and Reagan National Airport from the evening of July 5 through July 11. From July 12 to July 18, the Blue and Yellow lines will be shut down between Reagan National Airport and Pentagon City.
During both surges, there will be free express shuttle buses between the Braddock Road and Pentagon City Metro stations, in addition to shuttle buses stopping at the closed stations. The City of Alexandria said Metroway buses between Braddock Road and Pentagon City will run more often and be free of charge, and DASH bus service will be free on the AT3 and AT4 routes.
Metro also plans to add extra buses on the 11Y route between Mount Vernon and Potomac Park, and the 10A route between Huntington and Pentagon. Those routes will charge normal fares.
Alexandria will organize “bike trains,” similar to those arranged by Arlington during the first track work surge, to guide people trying out bike commutes between Braddock Road, Crystal City and Pentagon City.