Rush Plus still feeling like Rush Minus to Blue Line riders

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Photo - Two weeks into Metro's new Rush Plus shift, riders on Blue Line are upset by the reduction in service during peak hours. (Examiner file photo)
Two weeks into Metro's new Rush Plus shift, riders on Blue Line are upset by the reduction in service during peak hours. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro's Rush Plus service change is still irking Blue Line riders two weeks after the switch.

They complain that the new service pattern has only shifted the crowded conditions of the Orange Line to the Blue, making what was once known as the Orange Crush into the Blue Crush. And they have up to 12-minute waits during rush periods.

Under the change, Metro rerouted three Blue Line trains per hour onto Yellow Line tracks during a two-and-a-half-hour period each morning and evening to make room for the coming Silver Line. That caused more service and less crowding on portions of the Green, Yellow and Orange lines. Red Line riders aren't affected at all. Many riders elsewhere on the system haven't noticed a change.

Local transit fares climb
Metro raised fares Sunday, but riders may only notice it during Monday's commutes.
The transit agency boosted fares by a dime on buses, 25 cents at parking lots and an average 5 percent for Metrorail.
But the rail rates vary substantially, with some fares dropping because of the end of the 20-cent "peak-of-the-peak" surcharge and others rising by 28 percent. MetroAccess riders will also see increases as they pay twice bus and rail fares, up to $7 per trip.
Separately, riders using paper farecards will pay $1 extra on each rail trip.
Montgomery County's Ride On, Fairfax Connector and Fairfax City's CUE local bus services also raised their fares. Arlington's ART bus did not raise fares but is charging 10 cents for transfers to Metrobus. Virginia Railway Express raised its rates 3 percent.

Still, there are growing pains. Train operators stumble over their destination announcements, and signs don't always show where trains are headed.

The biggest gripe is on the Blue Line. Metro had said that 6 percent of riders would see less service with the adjustment, with some waits for Blue Line trains as long as 12 minutes. The rough spot hits Northern Virginia Blue Line riders traveling between the Pentagon and L'Enfant Plaza. But the worsened service wasn't focused on much in the agency's $400,000 information campaign.

"A lot of people in my neighborhood are griping about this," said Austin Lasseter, a regular Blue Line rider. "I think we understand that some changes have to be made, but the glitzy PR spin really adds insult to injury: 'Let's celebrate the fact that you now have fewer trains on the Blue Line!' Their fancy brochures and posters don't acknowledge that Rush Plus is only an improvement for some riders, at the expense of others."

He and others are especially incensed that they are paying peak fares for less-than-peak service. Making matters worse: Those same riders are paying even more starting Monday when Rush Plus meets the new fare increases.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles acknowledged last week that the first week of service was "uneven." While he said he heard positive feedback about Orange, Yellow and Green line service, he added that some Blue Line trains have been more crowded than Orange ones.

The agency printed special fliers to try to convince Blue Line riders to consider taking the Yellow Line instead.

Now, Metro has added one eight-car train to the otherwise six-car fleet on that line to help ease crowding during the rush, said Deputy General Manager Dave Kubicek.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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