WMATA noncommittal about changing holiday plans after riders fume

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Photo - Riders on Metro's Orange Line (Examiner file photo)
Riders on Metro's Orange Line (Examiner file photo)
Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro riders who rode the rail system Monday fumed about the lengthy delays between trains, crowded platforms and track work on a federal holiday when many had to work.

But the transit agency was noncommittal Tuesday about whether it would change any track work and scheduling plans for "lesser" federal holidays such as Veterans and Columbus days in the future.

"We always review ridership, track work and customer feedback to help inform future decisions," said Metro spokesman Philip Stewart. "We understand that track work can be an inconvenience for customers. However, three-day work windows provide a unique opportunity to advance critical safety work on a system that is going through a rebuilding process."

Angered Metro riders turn to Twitter to vent
"It's unanimous. The people of red line car 3100 hate today's#wmata schedule. These people are PISSED." - @ListenUpWMATA
"Had to RUSH out of the office to catch the bus or else it would have been a 50 minute wait. Still plenty of people working today" - @LeaderoftheNew
"The stream of acid-coated invective that floated up from the bilious depths of my liver re:#wmataI held back...my mom is on Twitter/FB" - @lefthandrob

Metro opened the system at 5 a.m. Veterans Day, as it would on a regular weekday, but ran trains on a Saturday schedule. It forced trains to share a single track on the Red, Orange and Green lines. Additionally, a section of the Orange Line was entirely closed, forcing riders to take free shuttle buses.

Metro had said it expected ridership would be at a least a third lower on Veterans Day than usual because the federal government was closed. The agency said ridership Tuesday was 365,870, which is about half the typical 744,000 trips of a normal weekday.

But riders noted that a Saturday schedule may not be suitable for a day when many workers have to commute to their jobs. On a weekend day, riders use the system more evenly throughout the day. But those commuting to jobs are more likely to cluster their trips in the mornings and evenings, leading to the massive crowding that riders experienced Monday.

Many riders were left waiting on platforms longer than 20 minutes or more, far more than the three to four minutes on a normal workday. And fewer trains meant they were more crowded when the rail cars did arrive.

"DC's metro system is a complete joke. We may have a lot of govt workers, but to think the entire city shuts down is just plain stupid," tweeted Sarah Schultz via @sknightschultz.

Montgomery County's Action Committee for Transit also said Metro failed its riders. "Metro must stop using maintenance as an excuse for failure to provide needed transit on weekends," said ACT Vice President Ben Ross.

Ross said he saw people giving up and leaving the Bethesda station due to the crowds, while other riders reported having to wait for multiple packed trains to pass by to find a space to fit. Some took out laptops on station platforms to work while waiting.

The transit agency angered riders when it ran similar service on Columbus Day albeit with less track work.

The one silver lining was that riders paid off-peak rates all day and could park for free in Metro lots.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kytja Weir

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner