Metro's track delays amount to more than expected

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Photo - A metro train arriving at McPherson Square Metro station, Monday, October 10, 2012
A metro train arriving at McPherson Square Metro station, Monday, October 10, 2012
Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir,Metro,Metro and Traffic

Metro warned its riders that it would have delays on all five rail lines this past weekend for track work.

But riders suffered through more than the planned delays. The agency also had at least seven major failures that caused even longer waits on the system.

Many riders attending Washington Nationals games, the annual Pride gay rights parade and other summer events had planned for trains that were supposed to run about 24 minutes apart. "Customers should not experience additional delays once their train departs the station," the agency said.

Expect Metro delays this weekend
Metro has more work planned this coming weekend, with no service on the Red Line at four stations and service changes on all other lines.
Brookland, Takoma, Silver Spring and Fort Totten will have no Red Line trains, though the Green Line will offer service at Fort Totten.
The transit agency will instead run free shuttle buses, a "bustitution," for riders traveling between Rhode Island Avenue and Forest Glen stops on the Red Line.
Metro also will be running trains along a single track in spots, which translates to delays, in the following areas:
Blue Line: between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road
Orange Line: between Cheverly and New Carrollton
Green Line: between Fort Totten and Prince George's Plaza
Yellow Line service will extend only as far north as Mount Vernon Square. Riders will need to switch to the Green Line for stops farther north.
All the work begins at 10 p.m. Friday and runs through the weekend until service resumes at 5 a.m. Monday.

Yet riders experienced two problems on Saturday that caused additional delays when trains malfunctioned at Fort Totten on the Green Line and at King Street on the Blue Line.

On Sunday, it was even worse when five problems caused additional delays, hitting each line. A track problem occurred at Pentagon City. A train malfunctioned at Farragut North. Other trains failed at Fort Totten, Gallery Place and McPherson Square, according to Metro's alerts that report delays of more than 10 minutes.

Those failures don't include the additional delays on the Green Line due to two Nationals games. Other problems were also reported on Metrobus.

"While railcar reliability has improved nearly 70 percent over last year, there were a handful of trains that experienced mechanical issueson SaturdayandSunday," said Metro spokeswoman Morgan Dye. "We remain focused on improving the reliability of our rail fleet to minimize delays to customers. Specifically, in less than a year, we will begin retiring the oldest cars in our fleet with new 7000-series cars."

For Matt Johnson, the unexpected delays meant that a 40-minute trip took 95 minutes.

Johnson, who has written about Metro track work for the blog Greater Greater Washington, expected the planned track work would mean delays. He said he checked the agency's trip planner for how long it would take to get from Greenbelt to the airport to catch a 12:40 p.m. flight out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. He budgeted two hours and 40 minutes before his flight, assuming a 40-minute Metro ride. However, he had 43-minute wait at Mount Vernon Square for a Yellow Line train, plus other delays. Fortunately, he said, his flight was delayed.

Other riders sounded off on Twitter. "Thanks for making me miss a good friend's bachelorette brunch," wrote @alsoannabanana. "I shouldn't have to leave two hours early for 35min trip!"

Chris Barnes, who runs the FixWMATA blog and Twitter account, sent a letter to Metro's board of directors Sunday about the problems. But he said the failures weren't unusual.

"It was the same problem, a different crowd," Barnes told The Washington Examiner. "It's the same comments every weekend."

Barnes said he understands the work is necessary for rebuilding the system. "My complaint is this: you're not communicating well with riders," he wrote to the board.

He also added that riders shouldn't have to pay peak fares during scheduled track work that causes major delays.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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