Late Night Workers Seek Help Getting to Jobs During SafeTrack

SafeTrack under way with 13 straight days of single-tracking on OR, SV Lines

What to Know

  • The Children National Health Systems in Northwest Washington is trying to guide its 6,500 employees.
  • United Here Local 25 wants Metro to provide more stopgap bus routes in place of trains.
  • Clyde’s is trying to manage employees’ commutes by shifting schedules, consolidating hours and handing out an app.

Thousands of hotel, restaurant and hospital workers are scrambling to find new ways to get to work because of Metro's SafeTrack program. The Greater Washington Board of Trade told business leaders not to ignore the potential disruption to their workers from the repairs.

“They should be worried. People haven't really planned,” said Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the board. “But boy, I’ll tell you, if companies and individuals don't have a plan and rely on everybody else to have a plan, this won't work.”

With staggered shutdowns of Metro rail lines ahead, the Children National Health Systems in Northwest Washington is trying to guide its 6,500 employees. The hospital said it will shuffle its many employee shuttle buses. But plan ahead is the message to every employee involved.

"It’s going to have an impact on our employees, as well as our patients and families,” said Vanessa Tyson, with the hospital’s human resources department.

John Boardman runs United Here Local 25, representing 7,000 hotel workers. He said the impact really affects his workers.

"Extra difficult for people who arrive at work early in the morning and leave late at night. We're not 9-to-5," Boardman said. "Lyft, Uber, car transportation, parking, those are not economic options available to most of our members."

Boardman said he wants Metro to provide more stopgap bus routes in place of trains. Metro said it will consider it.

One big restaurant group, Clyde’s, is trying hard to make it easier on its 2,400 employees. The group runs 14 restaurants spanning from Georgetown to downtown D.C to the suburbs.

CFO Jeff Owens said Metro trains and buses are critical, not just for customers, but to bring in workers to the restaurants. He said there's an urgent need for employers to help their workers commute during Metro's SafeTrack.

“Most of which are hourly employees, working shifts, you know, from very early in the morning to late at night,” Owens said. “So many of our employees rely on Metro.”

With SafeTrack underway, Clyde’s is trying to manage employees’ commutes by shifting schedules, consolidating hours and handing out an app to follow.

“It's called D.C. MetroHero," Owens said. “You can bring up real time information about where trains are.”

Clyde’s restaurants and many other restaurants stay open past midnight on weekends. With no late night rail service to match bar and restaurant hours, employees are feeling the pinch of time and work.

Ellen Barr is a Clyde’s host in Georgetown and lives in Northeast D.C. She and her friends already are seeing disruptions and delays.

"A lot of my friends all live in the same neighborhood so we'll all Metro together at night going home,” Barr said. "But now that we can't do that as much, we're Ubering, walking."

Big Changes on Orange, Silver Lines

The first of Metro's 15 "safety surges" began Saturday, with 13 straight days of single-tracking on the Orange and Silver lines between Ballston and East Falls Church -- yes, even during rush hour -- through June 16. That means reduced service on those lines, and a severe impact at and west of Ballston. (View map of impact.)

On weekdays: 

  • Orange Line: before 10 p.m., trains run every 18 minutes between Vienna and New Carrollton, with more frequent trains between Ballston and New Carrollton:
    • every six minutes during rush hours
    • every 10 minutes during midday and evening
  • Silver Line: before 10 p.m., trains run every 18 minutes between Wiehle and Largo Town Center
  • Both Orange and Silver lines: from 10 p.m. to midnight, trains run every 20 minutes

On weekends, trains run every 18 minutes before 10 p.m., and every 20 minutes from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Tens of thousands of Prince George’s County residents use Metro every day. And some are concerned the county isn’t prepared for the impact of SafeTrack. But as bureau chief Tracee Wilkins reports, the county says it does have a plan to help you get to work.

Riders should expect significantly longer wait times at multiple stations, WMATA said. The affected stations are:

  • Wiehle-Reston East (Silver Line)
  • Spring Hill (Silver Line)
  • Greensboro (Silver Line)
  • Tysons Corner (Silver Line)
  • McLean (Silver Line)
  • Vienna (Orange Line)
  • Dunn Loring (Orange Line)
  • West Falls Church (Orange Line)
  • East Falls Church (Orange/Silver lines)
  • Ballston (Orange/Silver lines) -- Trains headed east through Ballston may be especially crowded, WMATA said. Riders arriving Ballston should consider using the extra train service that originates at Ballston and will board on the opposite platform. This may make your trip longer, but will likely provide riders with less-crowded trains.

Limited shuttle bus service is available between Ballston and East Falls Church, and Ballston and West Falls Church.

WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld holds press conference before SafeTrack begins this weekend, which is expected to cause major disruptions for commuters on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines.

Another 14 safety surges will have major impacts around the region for an entire year. See the entire SafeTrack schedule here.

Metrobus & Fairfax Connector Enhance Service

WMATA 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

Metrobus is offering extra rush hour service in areas affected by the first safety surge (stay tuned for info on the next surge):

Regular Metrobus fares are $1.75, and 85 cents for seniors and people with disabilities. Express bus fares and airport express routes cost more. Bus-to-bus transfers are free if you're using your SmarTrip card.

Fairfax County's Fairfax Connector bus is also beefing up its rush hour service.

  • Herndon to/from Pentagon: Route 599 (PDF) will have extra trips between Herndon and the Pentagon.
  • Vienna to/from Pentagon: A new route will be created between Vienna and Pentagon; see the schedule here.

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 Fairfax County's bike map 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: Fairfax County recommends commuters call or visit Commuter Connections to find potential carpool riders in their areas. 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 if you're interested in slugging ("casual" carpooling to meet HOV requirements).
  • Circulator: D.C.'s Circulator buses run every 10 minutes during these hours; most routes start at 7 a.m. on weekdays, although some start at 6 a.m. In addition, D.C. Muriel Bowser said the District is considering extending the Circulator's service hours. See the current schedule here, and click or tap the name of any of the bus routes to see exact pickup spots.
  • Driving: Drivers should expect increased traffic. If you must drive, leave yourself plenty of extra time to get around. Try to carpool if possible (see Commuter Connections info above). In addition, D.C. is beefing up parking restrictions during SafeTrack (see the map here), and will have more traffic control officers on the streets.
  • Lyft and/or Uber: You might want to download a ride-hailing app like Lyft or Uber now. 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. 
  • Other regional buses: Check the schedules for Arlington County's ART bus, Alexandria's DASH bus or Prince George's County's The Bus.
  • Streetcar: The new D.C. Streetcar system runs from Union Station along H Street NE. Fares are currently free. Streetcars run about every 10-15 minutes. Learn more on how to ride here, or see the system map here.
  • Taxi: You can, of course, hail a cab on the street, but you can also order one online or by phone. has a list of District taxi companies online here. Arlington County has seven authorized taxi companies; find them here. In Fairfax County, five cab companies are authorized to operate; find their contact info here.

Emmanuel Ayisi, Ellie Hartleb, Dystany Muse and Brooke Wivagg contributed to this report.

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