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Blue Line Diversion Proposed

The transit authority is considering a plan to send some Blue Line trains across the Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac, rather than through the Rosslyn tunnel, and will present its proposal to a Metro board committee this week.

How the line's riders will react to the idea probably will depend on whether they work on the eastern or western sides of downtown Washington. If the board were to adopt the proposal -- something that would not occur for many months -- then fewer Blue Line trains would travel up from the Pentagon and through the Rosslyn tunnel to the stops at Foggy Bottom, Farragut West, Metro Center and Federal Triangle during the morning rush. (Or along the reverse path during the afternoon rush.)

But for riders who board at Springfield to reach stations on the eastern side of downtown, such as L'Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place or the Navy Yard, there would be extra service along the shorter route across the Potomac.

[See Lena Sun's story in Tuesday's Post, which has a map of the line change.]

The other advantage, as far as the transit authority is concerned, is that the plan would ease congestion at the Rosslyn tunnel, where the Blue Line trains must share tracks with Orange Line trains.

While the transit authority staff points out in a report to the board that ridership is growing more quickly at the stations on the eastern side of downtown, this proposal is almost certain to be controversial among riders. The concept has been discussed before as a way of creating more room in the Rosslyn tunnel. It factors into planning for the Metrorail line to Dulles, which would send even more trains through the tunnel.

Whenever the idea comes up it sets off a civil war between Blue Line riders to the south and Orange Line riders to the north. Each side sees itself as a victim of the transit authority: The Blue Line has a smaller ridership, but its passengers have to put up with four-car trains. But Orange Line riders, who find their inbound trains full after the first two morning stops, don't see that they have any advantage. The Metrorail system just doesn't have enough cars and tracks to meet the growing demand.

The transit authority staff is scheduled to present its proposal to the board's Customer Services, Operations and Safety Committee on Thursday. This is not at the stage where the committee needs to take any action. Rather, the Metro staff wants to spend the next few months discussing the plan with the public before returning to the board by June with a recommendation.

Let's start the discussion now. Please comment below, and it would be interesting to know which line you ride, if any. You can also drop me a line at drgridlock@washpost.com. If you write to me there, please include your name, home community and a contact phone number. I select among those letters for the Sunday and Thursday Dr. Gridlock columns.


By Robert Thomson  |  February 11, 2008; 9:02 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Comments

This proposal would likely add at least 10 or 15 minutes to my commute. I travel Ballston to King Street in the morning and the reverse in the evening. Fewer blue lines connecting to orange at Rosslyn would be a very bad thing for me. I suppose I could connect at L'Enfant instead but that will still add a lot of time and aggravation to my commute.

Posted by: Glenn | February 11, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

People who ride the Blue Line through Rosslyn and on to eastern DC are just too damn lazy to change trains and save themselves 10-15 minutes by taking the pre-existing Yellow Line service straight into DC.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

So what does this do to all the people who are on the blue line because of the Pentagon-Rosslyn connection? Do members of the "transit authority" even ride the trains before coming up with stuff like this? As Glenn points out above, this will add a lot of time and aggravation, but can those stations and lines even handle the extra thousands of passengers that normally bypass them?

Posted by: WTF? | February 11, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Interesting points about the transfers. This proposal doesn't eliminate the option of transfering between Orange and Blue at Rosslyn, but it does widen the gap between Blue Line trains there. Meanwhile, there would be more transfering at L'Enfant Plaza, which already is pretty crowded.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | February 11, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

(Or along the reserve path during the afternoon rush.) -- this is confusing, do you mean "reverse" path?

in addition, how would this be mapped? this could be really confusing, with two branches of the blue line. maybe they should just flip the southern ends of the blue and yellow lines, so trips from springfield will always go up to gallery place, etc.

Posted by: IMGoph | February 11, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I also think this would be incredibly confusing. Why not just reduce the number of Blue Line trains as planned, and have some of the yellow line trains terminate (or originate) at Franconia? That would seem to be a lot more intelligible.

That doesn't address the larger issue of the problem here, but it would at least make a lot more sense.

Posted by: Alex B. | February 11, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Alex B.'s point about running the Yellow Line to Franconia-Springfield is interesting because that was the original plan for the Metro system: the Yellow Line was to run from Franconia-Springfield to Greenbelt and the Blue Line was to run from Huntington to Addison Road. But when the Blue Line was completed to Huntington a decision was made to run Yellow Line trains on that route as a temporary measure; the reason was that they wanted a reason to operate the Yellow Line at all. (The Blue Line ended at Reagan Airport at the time.) Then when the Van Dorn Street stop opened in 1991 they decided just to swap the two lines for good under the theory that it would just confuse people if they changed it back to the original plan.

It sure seems as though Franconia-Springfield is the busiest of the stops along those two spurs of the system beyond King Street. Perhaps swapping the Yellow and Blue Line terminals might make sense after all.

Posted by: Rich | February 11, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Another thought--how would the change affect the Green Line? Theoretically the number of Yellow Line trains would remain the same because you're running the same number of Blue Line trains and simply diverting some of them to a different route. But the capacity on the tracks from L'Enfant Plaza to Mt Vernon Square is limited, and if you add more trains to the mix you have to cut service somewhere else to accommodate. In this case, that would mean reducing Green Line service.

Posted by: Rich | February 11, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The Green Line tunnel has enough space for more trains, but they need to come up with a better way to switch them, or they just need ot send all of the train up to Greenbelt as the turn around can take forever and it really throws off the timing of the nothbound trains past Mt. Vernon.

Rerouting the trains to free up space in the single track tunel is pretty much the omly way to accomodate any growth in the system at this point, Dulles rail or no.

Posted by: EricS | February 11, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: IMGoph, thank you. Yes, I did mean to write "reverse" and have fixed that now.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | February 11, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't Metro just spend the $5 billion on improving what they already offer (more/larger trains, additional Potomac crossing, and more parking) instead of expandind? That money would go a long way at fixing the existing system which is far from perfect.

Posted by: Die Dulles Rail Die | February 11, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Can the rerouted blue line connect to the existing blue line east of L'enfant plaza? Why not just route all blue line trains that way and install a shuttle train that runs from Pentagon to Rosslyn? Then don't have two separate blue line runs.

Posted by: ah | February 11, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"Can the rerouted blue line connect to the existing blue line east of L'enfant plaza? Why not just route all blue line trains that way and install a shuttle train that runs from Pentagon to Rosslyn? Then don't have two separate blue line runs."

No. There is no track connection between the two levels there. There is a connection between the Orange and Blue Lines and the Red Line located just to the west of McPherson Square as you head outbound, connecting to the outbound Red Line just south of Farragut North. There's a connection between the Red Line and the Green Line at Fort Totten; you may recall this track being used for the "Green Line Commuter Shortcut" for a few years in the 1990s. But that's it in terms of connections.

Posted by: Rich | February 11, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

There is not a "single track tunnel," EricS between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom. It's one track in each direction just like the rest of the Metro system.

And, ah, there is no connection between the orange/blue and yellow/green at L'Enfant.

Posted by: logan | February 11, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"Why doesn't Metro just spend the $5 billion on improving what they already offer (more/larger trains, additional Potomac crossing, and more parking) instead of expandind?"

Because that's not WMATA's money, that money is from the state of VA.

I'd fully support another Metro trunk line through downtown in order to relieve the Rosslyn tunnel's congestion. However, that project won't be easily funded by a nice toll road, and if the feds are balking at the Dulles $5b project, you can bet that they'll balk at another downtown subway. IIRC, the initial cost estimate for the M street subway was $6b in 2003.

Posted by: Alex B. | February 11, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Is an additional Potomac crossing even being discussed? That's the #1 problem here and at the rate that governments move, it would still be decades away if planned immediately.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm confused. Would trains being sent over the Yellow Line Bridge then terminate at L'Enfant Plaza (or Gallery Place even) and turn around there? Wouldn't this greatly reduce the number of blue line trains servicing PG county, not just servicing the stations between Rosslyn and Metro center? Maybe I'm missing something though.

Posted by: Laura | February 11, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Terrible idea. I commute from Franconia to McPherson Square and a lot of people I know in the area do something similar. This could really be a problem on the weekends.

Posted by: Andre Roussimoff | February 11, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

"I'm confused. Would trains being sent over the Yellow Line Bridge then terminate at L'Enfant Plaza (or Gallery Place even) and turn around there?"

Mount Vernon Square, most likely, same as the Yellow Line, because that's where there's a pocket track to allow for reversing direction whilst minimizing delays to other trains.

Posted by: Rich | February 11, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

So blue line service through DC and Maryland would be cut in half.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Since they're removing four blue line trains to Largo and adding four more orange lines trains, four orange trains would go to Largo so service would not be cut. And I don't think this is planned for the weekends, only rush hours.

Posted by: logan | February 11, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"So blue line service through DC and Maryland would be cut in half."

First, this would only take place during rush hours.

Second, this would be offset by additional orange line trains. Thus, going through DC (where the tracks are shared), there would be the same number of trains. There only would be fewer trains going to Largo in the AM (which is a lightly traveled reverse commute right now).

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

So I just skimmed through the proposal, and I really don't understand how this would free up space in the Rosslyn tunnel. According to the proposal, 4 extra orange line trains would run in place of the 4 blue line trains that would be shifted to the Yellow Line Bridge crossing. So you still have a total of 26 trains passing through the Rosslyn tunnel per hour (20 from orange, 6 from blue vs. 16 orange, 10 blue). Seems like a lame argument to me, but maybe the time it takes to switch the two lines is so great that this would help prevent backups in the tunnel.

4 extra trains on the Orange line though I think would be a good thing for the crowding there.

I also like that the blue line service would be sent all the way to Greenbelt. The Orange line already connects the Eastern and Western sides of the city. A line connecting the Northen and Southern sides just makes sense to me (though this could also be accomplished by extending the yellow line service up to Greenbelt).

Posted by: Laura | February 11, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Even if the numbers don't work out precisely, it's nice to see WMATA management thinking ever so slightly outside the box here. If they could get the track situation worked out, perhaps by installing a crossover just south of Rosslyn on what is now the Blue Line, I think a permanent shuttle train there would be a win-win, with reasonably quick transfer service even on weekends, and a quicker trip downtown for folks down south.
My question, admittedly a selfish one, would be if they could use that transfer track between the blue/orange and red lines at McPherson square to run, once or twice an hour at rush hour, a Silver Spring-Vienna or Silver Spring-Franconia-Springfield train. I don't know the exact numbers, but if half of each train gets off at Metro Center to change, might it be worth looking into doing this for every fifth train or so?

Posted by: Joe in SS | February 11, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Laura, the point of this change is to provide for more orange line trains from the west to head downtown. They're not trying to free up space and leave it free. They still plan to run 26 tph between Rosslyn and downtown, but 20 trains will be orange instead of 16. The orange line needs the extra capacity.

Posted by: logan | February 11, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Anything so that the trains (both orange and blue) move through the Rosslyn tunnel smoothly. Every morning the train jolts to a stop in the dark tunnel and I mouth quietly, "blue line train crossing in front" or "train servicing the platform at Rosslyn."

The orange line is crowded enough, but I'd happily crowd in more closely if the damn thing could make it through the tunnel without the stop-and-go nonsense. Sometimes the jolt is so severe and the stopped position at such a weird angle that it hurts your back or arm to catch yourself.

Posted by: Ben | February 11, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Joe in SS, the connection between the red line and blue/orange is in the direction of Farragut North to McPherson Square and not Farragut North to Farragut West. They'd have to run red line trains onto the orange/blue into Mcpherson Square and then reverse direction to the west. There wouldn't be enough time to do this during rush hour without backing up the orange/blue line.

Posted by: logan | February 11, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Joe in SS,
Sorry I see that you said Silver Spring to Vienna, but this still wouldn't work since there is no connection from the Mtero Center to Farragut North direction to the orange/blue line. There is only one connection and it's on the westbound orange/blue track to the northbound red line track. For example you could run a train from Stadium-Armory to Grovesnor, or similar.

Posted by: logan | February 11, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

The reason the orange line trains are usually filled after the first stop or two is largely because trains sit at the first stop - Vienna - for so long that it's at least half filled. And sometimes it's completely filled with one or two people even standing. And sometimes there are TWO trains at Vienna for people to get on. They don't even bother to hurry towards the open door like the rest of the stops because they know they have plenty of time. If they would stop at Vienna for only as long as they do at every other stop, people in other stations would have a better chance of getting a seat in the morning rush hour.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | February 11, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

swissmiss150 -

I do not mean to be rude but your logic is faulty. It doesnt matter how long the train stays in Vienna, the same amount of people will ride metro from there. They'll just wait on the platform instead of sitting comfortably on the train.

Posted by: mcpherson | February 11, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

This morning a blue line train was stopped outside of Rosslyn because a "yellow" train was passing in front of us. What the hell?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

logan, I thought part of this proposal was to prevent the having to stop in the tunnel as Ben describes above. And also to "free up space" in the tunnel if the Silver Line ever goes through.

Part of the reason there are so many delays on the orange line is because of these waits. The platforms at stations the train has yet to approach fill up more because no train has arrived. Then when the train does finally come, it gets packed to capacity and doors barely close, etc. Often resulting in the dreaded train being taken out of service and "everyone must leave this train".

Posted by: Laura | February 11, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

So will every other orange line train run to Largo?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

During the evening rush hours, it is maddening to stand on the platform at McPherson Square and watch Franconia-Springfield trains pull into and out of the station with empty seats on each car knowing that we'll have to squeeze into the next Vienna train that will already be made up of standing room only cars.

Posted by: rm1 | February 11, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Well the stopping in the tunnel I think is mostly due to bad timing as to when the orange and blue lines merge together. Theoretically one should come through every three minutes and there would be no problem, but if the two trains arrive at Rosslyn at the same time, one of them has to wait. That will happen a bit less because there are four less blue trains for the orange line to have to merge with. There are still going to be 26 trains through the tunnel per hour, but there will be four fewer merges.

Posted by: logan | February 11, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

rearranging deck chairs on the titanic

Posted by: useless | February 11, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Does Metro even have an idea of where Springfield customers go? Have they even looked at their own data to see if more end up on the eastern side of town? I think Metro hasn't bothered to do this; this is just another half-baked idea. And I take the orange line and would certain stand (or sit!) to benefit from such a switch!

Posted by: Arlington, VA | February 11, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"it is maddening to stand on the platform at McPherson Square and watch Franconia-Springfield trains pull into and out of the station with empty seats on each car"

That's interesting, since those trains are full at Foggy Bottom.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

"Arlington, VA" is on the right track. That should be the most basic and available information Metro can get - so they probably don't have it.

Posted by: W | February 11, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Arlington, I'm sure Metro has looked at the data. However, the data doesn't change the options they have.

Metro has two Potomac crossings. The Rosslyn tunnel is crowded, the Yellow line bridge is not. In the absence of a capital-intensive upgrade, this is a good attempt to solve the problem with existing resources.

Posted by: Alex B. | February 11, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Logan - thanks for the info. I tried! The lack of more "pocket tracks" in the system gives us another reason that the system has to close for 4-6 hours every night. It would take that long just to move a few train cars from line to line!

I wonder how much it would cost to build a few deep-cut (i.e, don't tear up the street above) pocket tracks (rather than an entirely new line) to allow for trains from one node to reach all of the others. That would be complicated (a la NYC), but incredibly convenient.

Posted by: Joe in SS | February 11, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Great - Just what we need on the Yellow Line is another train blocking access from the northbound tunnel into L'Enfant Plaza during the morning rush. We already get stuck behind Green Line trains servicing the L'Enfant Plaza platform, and now Metro wants to put Blue Line trains into that mix as well?

And where will those Blue Line trains go from L'Enfant Plaza? Will they turn around and go back to Springfield, or will they continue north and further jam the Green/Yellow tracks?

Once again, Metro leaves itself with of explaining to do.

Posted by: Darrell C | February 11, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Joe in SS, it's ok, it's good that people are thinking outside of the traditional lines. If you want more info, there are track schematics online that show all the connectors between lines and pocket tracks, but apparently at one point in the past Metro asked the guy who made them to take them down for "security reason." You just have to search a bit harder for them than you used to have to.

Posted by: logan | February 11, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

The data effect what options they should be looking at. Metro needs to get their heads out of the 1950s.

Posted by: W | February 11, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Darrel C, if you would look at the presentation that Dr. Gridlock linked to, you would see that the blue line trains would go to Greenbelt before turning around. Also since you're already sharing the track with the blue line train northbound, you won't be waitnig for it blocking the tunnel because the merge happens way down before King Street. After that point, they're already zippered together on the track towards downtown.

Posted by: logan | February 11, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Magic "zippering" doesn't help. If yellow trains are getting stuck behind green trains now, they'll be stuck behind blue and green trains in the future.

Posted by: umm | February 11, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

This is not a good idea. Just about every blue-line train during the morning commute is loaded to capacity. From my observations, the vast majority of those riders exit at Farragut West. Blue-line riders going to the Eastern part of the line already have the option of switching to the Yellow. But those of us who are coming from Alexandria, the Pentagon or Springfield, and need to get off at Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom, Farragut West or McPherson Square, would have our already lengthy morning commutes get worse.

Posted by: Farragut West | February 11, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

The number of green trains and blue trains are not changing. The yellow is already going to behind the blue train at the pentagon. The people that are getting affected are green line riders. They'll have 4 more trains competing at the merge point.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

logan, have you ever even been on a train? they're always backed up behind trains on the same line. It's a combination of incompetence and a-hole passengers trying to cram themselves onto trains.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I commute from Springfield to Rossylyn every day. I have to switch trains in DC and ride back to Rossylyn, I wouldn't bother. I would just be one more car on 395.

Posted by: Maureen | February 11, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

But how about at Farragut West where there's already 3 orange trains for everyone 1 blue train? And often enough to be annoying, they have 4-car trains during rush hour! So I don't want to hear anymore whining about squeezing onto Vienna-bound trains. Everyone knows blue is the ugly-stepchild to the orange line.

Posted by: not bluto | February 11, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

If I'm not mistaken, if you ride a Green Line train southward towards Branch Avenue or a Yellow Line train southward towards Huntington, isn't there a pocket track that veers to the right just before the L'Enfant Plaza station? I'm not talking about the Green/Yellow Line split after the station, but this is between Archives-Navy Memorial Station and L'Enfant Plaza. Doesn't this connect to the Blue/Orange Line somewhere?

Posted by: L'Enfant Plaza Pocket Track??? | February 11, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Herein lies one of my main objections to running Metro out to Dulles. There simply isn't enough capacity in the Rosslyn tunnel. That tunnel clearly needs to be enlarged, or else they're going to run out of room. Getting rid of blue line trains through Rosslyn will simply delay that, not stop it.

And to the second commenter: people aren't simply lazy & taking the blue line train. People have to take the blue line train up to connect to the orange line train over into northern Arlington. Forgive me for not living on a direct line to my office.

If they go through with this plan, there's a good chance I'm going to give up taking metro entirely. My commute is already nearing 45 minutes on average. If I have to go through the city, that'll push it to close to an hour. I hate this plan!

Posted by: Liz | February 11, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"If I'm not mistaken, if you ride a Green Line train southward towards Branch Avenue or a Yellow Line train southward towards Huntington, isn't there a pocket track that veers to the right just before the L'Enfant Plaza station? I'm not talking about the Green/Yellow Line split after the station, but this is between Archives-Navy Memorial Station and L'Enfant Plaza. Doesn't this connect to the Blue/Orange Line somewhere?"

No, there is no such track. There's an interlocking just north of L'Enfant Plaza, but all that does is to allow trains to move from the northbound track to the southbound or vice versa. The only pocket track in that area is just to the north of Mount Vernon Square and it's used by Yellow Line trains terminating at that stop.

You can find a Metrorail track schematic (including the proposed Dulles extension) if you look at the Wikipedia article on Metrorail--there's a link to a map done by a fellow named John Cambron (or you could just Google his name and it would probably show up).

Posted by: Rich | February 11, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

This screws me. I ride from the Pentagon to Rosslyn and transfer to Orange towards Vienna, and back again in the evening. I already endure a wait at both the Pentagon and Rosslyn. This will create a much longer wait in the Pentagon/Rosslyn commute.

Posted by: Ron | February 11, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Rich, Logan, and Joe in SS for your interesting comments and discussion.

Judging by the link that Dr. G provided, it looks as if Metro plans to conduct interviews with Blue Line riders to learn more about riding habits, experiences, and the potential impact.

I'm not convinced this proposal will lead to a civil war. I think most Metro riders realize that the system was designed for an earlier time. And that commuting patterns have played out differently than was anticipated. There just are not many good trade offs or reasonable options available to fix the problems.

Either Orange Line riders will have wait at the Rosslyn chokepoint sometimes, as now, or Blue Line riders will have to wait to catch a train to Largo rather than Greenbelt. The latter would be similar to people on the Red Line who during the evening rush hour now have to wait for a train to Shady Grove while others can catch the one that runs only as far as Grosvenor. (During the p.m. rush hour, doesn't every other outbound Red Line train run only to Grosvenor?)

Posted by: Longtime Metro Rider | February 11, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

One other benefit that has not been discussed at all... Might this get a few more folks to ride the underutilized Green Line out of Greenbelt if they had a direct connection at rush hour to the Pentagon, National Airport and Springfield?

No one has mentioned this so far.

I know this might be wishful thinking, but what if WMATA was to put this in on a trial basis after a sufficient education period, say, enact it for two months in the summer...

Metro riders are a resilient bunch. They handle the July 4 map, and the Yellow line sometimes going to Fort Totten just fine.

For the record, the reason I'd dearly love to see a Silver Spring to Vienna train - I currently take metro two days a week to break up my commute to Reston. Some days, I have a FOUR seat commute each way... Life would be great if I could grab one seat and read the paper for 40 minutes!

Posted by: Joe in SS | February 11, 2008 11:17 PM | Report abuse

WMATA seems like they care only about traffic that is to/from downtown DC. I'd be happier if the Dulles rail line were NOT run by WMATA.

One other thing that I'd like to see is for the Dulles line to serve as a true express line from Dulles to DC. Have it make stops in Herndon and Reston. But skip the Tysons detour and have it continue directly down 267 (have one stop at the Western end of Tysons on Route 7 and another stop at 123). Use the Metro rail through Falls Church and the stop at East Falls Church. But instead of making all of the Arlington Orange line stops, build track down the center of I-66 and under Spout Run so that you can have an express line to DC with stops at the Georgetown campus, East Georgetown, Farragut North (for a transfer point), and the DC Convention Center.

The Tysons landowners can build their own light rail (down the middle of Rt 7 from the Dulles Toll Road metro station on the west end going eventually all the way to Old Town and down 123 from CIA to GMU). If the traffic lights were built to pre-empt the lights and give 2nd preference to light rail trains (with emergency vehicles getting first priority), you'd have a commuter system that would serve the Tysons area well.

Posted by: Tysons | February 12, 2008 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Amazingly, the mass transit advocates here will push for Rail to Dulles, while making getting to National Airport HARDER for anyone who lives in Northern Virginia / Western DC. Moving four blue line trains to a new routing isn't going to help.

Maybe we should be investing in better traffic control in Rosslyn -- or pushing for a new tunnel.

Posted by: Charlie | February 12, 2008 2:01 AM | Report abuse

How would Orange line riders get to National Airport. Now we transfer to the Blue at Rosslyn???

Posted by: Phil | February 12, 2008 6:44 AM | Report abuse

> I'm confused. Would trains being sent over the
> Yellow Line Bridge then terminate at L'Enfant
> Plaza (or Gallery Place even) and turn around

A map of the proposed route was posted with this morning's article:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2008/02/12/GR2008021200203.html


By my quick count, trains following the new route will share about 9 of the 27 stations that are on the current Blue line. Whatever else one might say about the proposal, it really seems like they shouldn't try to call both the old and the new routes by the same name....

Posted by: N | February 12, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

swissmiss - you are perfectly correct about trains sitting too long at Vienna. I get on there and it drives me nuts, but maybe that's because I'm usually running late. Never does seem fair to riders at other orange line stops, though.

Anyway, I'm confused about how this will affect my commute. I get on at Vienna, get off at Metro Center, take the red line to Union Station, then reverse it in the evening. Anyone care to interpret the impact of the proposal on my travel routes?

Posted by: Shannon | February 12, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

"Anyway, I'm confused about how this will affect my commute. I get on at Vienna, get off at Metro Center, take the red line to Union Station, then reverse it in the evening. Anyone care to interpret the impact of the proposal on my travel routes?"

In theory, you'd benefit. Reducing the number of Blue Line trains going through Rosslyn allows for more Orange Line trains and also reduces the number of times they have to operate the switch just south of Rosslyn.

It's funny to look at the map "N" linked. The Blue Line route shown there is the original Yellow Line route as the system was originally planned.

Posted by: Rich | February 12, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Liz, since when is Arlington in eastern DC?

Posted by: please read | February 12, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Someone asked "How would Orange line riders get to National Airport. Now we transfer to the Blue at Rosslyn???"

Presumably this person hasn't checked all the details of the plan. Going by the report, there would still be six Blue trains per hour in each direction following the current route during peak times . I don't think Blue line trains from Rosslyn towards National Airport coming every ten minutes on average versus every six minutes on average now is going to make very many people miss flights. If Metro can make a convincing case that the benefits of their plan to others will outweigh the costs to some, good for them. As it is, there are only two places Metro trains can cross the Potomac and only the Rosslyn tunnel is operating at capacity - it would be idiotic of Metro managers not to try to come up with some way to use the bridge the Yellow line crosses on more effectively.

Posted by: Jon | February 12, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I say ELIMINATE the Blue line all together. Bare with me for a second. The Silver line would go from West Falls Church to Largo following the Orange line to Stadium Armory. Ok that problem is solved. Now The Yellow line would serve Springfield and have two options: Stop at Arlington Cemetery or stop at Rossyln, lets say it stops at Rossyln. So going from DC to Virginia you would see Yellow line to Springfield or Huntington. From Virginia to DC you would see Yellow line to Fort Totten or Rossyln. This makes the most sense, because it solves the tunnel problem and Virginians get to keep their short cut.

Posted by: Sivad | February 12, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"I don't think Blue line trains from Rosslyn towards National Airport coming every ten minutes on average versus every six minutes on average now is going to make very many people miss flights."

They might if they are twice as full (they're mostly full already) and nobody can get on.

Posted by: Not Jon | February 12, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The tunnel problem won't be solved by rerouting trains. It seems that the tunnel is running beyond current capacity and is full of trains that are also crowded beyond capacity. That means there are more people trying to go between those two points than the system can currently handle. Now Metro wants to give them a choice between (1) waiting longer for a train that will be even more crowded or (2) taking an extensive detour through downtown DC. It's lose-lose.

Actual solutions would be things like (1) larger trains, (2) technology capable of having more than one train every 3 minutes, (3) doors actually closing when they are supposed to close so that self-absorbed metro riders don't grind the system to a hault, and/or (4) more river crossings or routes.

Posted by: overstretched | February 12, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

""I don't think Blue line trains from Rosslyn towards National Airport coming every ten minutes on average versus every six minutes on average now is going to make very many people miss flights."

They might if they are twice as full (they're mostly full already) and nobody can get on."

That's certainly possible but it seems safe to assume some of the people filling those trains under the current regime would adjust to the proposed new regime by heading to L'Enfant Plaza and catching a Blue or Yellow line train south from there rather than going by way of Rosslyn. Metro may have good enough ridership data to make a good prediction of how that would shake out but I doubt if either of us do at the moment. I'll be interested to see them justify the proposal in more detail.

I must admit that it probably will be quite frustrating for people travelling between the southern parts of the Blue and Yellow lines and the other side of the Potomac facing an even more complicated and uncertain decision as to which way they ought to try to cross the river to get where they want to go quickest and/or with the best chance of getting on the train/getting a seat. I don't envy them the constant wondering whether they made the right decision on any given day.

Posted by: Jon | February 12, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't this require more trains? Where are they going to get them from? It took them a year to deploy 6-car trains on the blue line after they were promised, will those be diverted to orange now?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 12, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Hate this idea! I commute from Braddock Road to Farragut West.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 12, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"Doesn't this require more trains?"

I'm not absolutely sure since it looks to me as though the Blue line (or whatever they end up calling them) trains going to Greenbelt will have a shorter trip end to end than they would on the current Blue line route but I suspect the net effect given the additional four Orange line trains will be that more trains are required during rush hour.

Which, by the way, makes me wonder why the briefing's list of pros and cons on the page titled "Impact on the Customer" touts more reliable Orange line service among the pros but omits to mention the increased amount of Orange line service.

Posted by: Jon | February 12, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Please No! This absolutely screws me around when I try to goto Foggy Bottom on the blue line from Alexandria. Please don't change this!!!

Posted by: PleaseNO! | February 12, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

If nothing else, it'll confuse the living daylights out of any tourists trying to catch the Blue line at L'Enfant Plaza.

Posted by: DrBubbles | February 12, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

So they want to screw over thousands of commuters to barely improve commutes for others? The trains are still going to be delayed, they just won't have an easy excuse any more. (Or they'll have more of those yellow line trains in the Rosslyn tunnel)

Posted by: idiots | February 12, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I love this idea. For me, I go from Franconia-Springfield to College Park (reverse in evenings) a few times a week, and usually use the yellow line timesaving trick. One train between both stations would cut up to half an hour off my commute (mostly during those times at the edges of rush hour, like if I leave College Park after 5pm). And I wouldn't have to wait in the cold (or hot) for the switches, or swear at the long time between yellow and blue on the way home (after 6:30pm at King St., it seems to go to non-rush hour timing, or is often impacted by Orange area delay.).

However, I doubt I'm a good representative sample of metro riders.

Posted by: Meg | February 12, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

theoretically, i am one of the commuters who would benefit from this. but i don't think i would ever be able to figure it out! one of the only things dc metro has going for it is its simplicity -- you don't need a map or a decoder to figure out how to get where you're going. the idea of running two different "blue" lines sounds like a mess -- and having waited nearly 20 minutes for a blue OR orange train just today, i don't have much faith in metro's ability to pull it off.

Posted by: candace | February 12, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Why don't they just decouple ALL of the lines and have them run like spokes on a wheel, from a southwestern point to a northeastern terminus, a western to eastern, a northwestern to southeastern, etc...? One color the whole line. For splits like Largo/New Carrollton, the Orange line (supposing it was kept as the east/west line) would have every other train go to one or the other, like Grosvenor/Shady Grove does now. You'd have four core transfer stations where people could switch to a line in a different direction. L'Enfant, Metro Center, China Town and maybe Pentagon or Federal Triangle. Renovate and enlarge these stations to give each color passing through its own set of tracks or a pocket track, minimizing delays and allowing more trains to run more frequently on each line.

Seems too simple, which is probably why I'm not seeing the flaws in this. Anyone?

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 12, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

"Why don't they just decouple ALL of the lines and have them run like spokes on a wheel...

...Seems too simple, which is probably why I'm not seeing the flaws in this. Anyone?"


I assume the problem is in the need to "renovate and enlarge ... stations" to which you refer. If Metro were allowed to consider changes that would involve major construction that would shut down stations, sections of lines, or whole lines for months, if not years, they could no doubt come up with much better proposals that this one.

Personally, I've wondered why they couldn't reconfigure the current system so that all lines run on their own track without sharing, i.e. the Red line runs as it does now, the Yellow line runs between Huntington and Greenbelt, the Orange Line runs between Vienna and Addison Road, and the Blue line runs between Largo and the first common station with the Orange line, between Franconia-Springfield and King Street, and as a shuttle going back and forth between Rosslyn and Pentagon, the Green line runs a shuttle from Branch Avenue to wherever it is it meets the Orange and/or Blue lines, and so on if I've left something out. I assume the answer is that the existing tracks and stations aren't set up to turn around the trains and accomodate the passengers moving between trains this would require and major construction and system downtime would therefore be involved.

Posted by: Jon | February 12, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I suppose there would also be an equity problem with my proposal in that some people living at or near the ends of lines would always face the need to switch trains while people coming in from the ends of the lines the others would be switching to would always have a continuous ride downtown (and first claim on the seats). So there is some attraction to alternating which end of the line trains go to, though I don't know whether it would be worth doubling the wait between trains at the end of the line.

Posted by: Jon | February 12, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Six trains an hour (both directions) translates into 3 trains an hour for orange line riders GOING to National, and 3 an hour for arrivals at National trying to get to Rosslyn.

That is a 20 minute wait people.

And no, people with suitcases don't like to transfer to much -- there are things called staircases that are hard to handle with a bag -- and that is airport travelers.

I might point out that it is 8 minutes by car from Rosslyn to National -- so with one stroke you've basically removed the incentive to take the Metro.

Yes, the Orange line is overcrowded. The problem isn't the Blue line - it is that metro can't figure out how to switch the trains before the tunnel.

Also, I'm suspicious of the numbers. 26 trains an hour max capacity. It seems as if other subways can run trains a LOT more dense than that.

Posted by: Charlie | February 13, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Meg, you are lazy. Besides the fact that the Metro system doesn't exist to move people to completely opposite sides of the metropolitan area, you could save 20 minutes by transferring trains instead of taking up space out of fear that you'd have to wait 4 minutes for a train

Posted by: grow up | February 13, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Charlie, they should be able to run trains more like 1 a minute if they would just get organized and close the doors on time

Posted by: Anonymous | February 13, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"Six trains an hour (both directions) translates into 3 trains an hour for orange line riders GOING to National, and 3 an hour for arrivals at National trying to get to Rosslyn."

No Charlie, it would be 6 trains per hour in each direction (thus max 10 minutes between trains). But why don't you just cab it if you are so concerned with time and you say it's such a short ride?

This plan would also increase trains going to National airport from the center of the city.

Posted by: Laura | February 14, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

They haven't explained where the trains are going to magically appear from, but if you want to increase service from DC to the airport, just add some yellow trains.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 14, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

If the do this the will need to make it a new color. It the only way to keep Metrorail "simple"

It would be the brown (or whatever color) from Springfield to Greenbelt.

Posted by: Will | February 14, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

"They haven't explained where the trains are going to magically appear from, but if you want to increase service from DC to the airport, just add some yellow trains."

That's not really the purpose of this. The purpose is to shorten commute routes for those that take the blue line from Springfield into the city (and to the easter side of the city), and to improve service between the southern points of the D.C. and downtown. According to their data, these trips are common and increasing. The other purpose to cut down on the amount of congestion is the Rosslyn tunnel (due to track switching with the Blue and Orange line)

I was just pointing out that another benefit of this proposal is an increased number of trains to the airport (since some people are concerned about this aspect).

Posted by: Laura | February 14, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

They're just moving conjestion around, not fixing anything.

Posted by: worthless | February 14, 2008 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Tonight the Blue Line ran to Huntington.

It was a beautiful thing.

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