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Metro turns to commuters for improvement tips

Wednesday - 2/13/2013, 12:04pm  ET

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - As Metro works to improve service, commuters are weighing in on what they would like to see.

"There have been a couple times that I've been waiting on the platforms during rush hour and it's so crowded that you feel like you're going to fall off into the tracks," says Dan Reed of Silver Spring, Md. "It's really dangerous."

He says the Metro 2025 proposal of operating eight-car trains completely during rush hours is a great idea.

"Especially at Gallery Place, having every train going all the way to the back will make an extraordinary difference," says Ben Ross, with the Action Committee for Transit in Montgomery County.

Shyam Kannan, managing director of planning for Metro, says the trains are one part of a strategy to identify and ease overcrowding across the board.

"Fixing stations like Rosslyn, fixing stations like L'Efant Plaza, Metro Center and Gallery Place, so that they can handle more people," says Kannan.

Kannan and Metro held two meetings on Tuesday for customers, including one at Metro headquarters and another in Silver Spring for the Action Committee for Transit.

Another concern that came up at both meetings is expanding and improving Metrobus service, such as buses that are overcapacity.

"As a daily rider, I see people over the line, standing next to the driver, people who are holding babies and children to save room," says Chancee Lundy, who lives in the District.

"I don't think it's a problem of frequency of buses because I'll see two back-to-back buses showing up at the same time and both are filled up."

Lundy says the X2 Line needs a solution, but points to other friends with similar problems in Ward 7.

"They're crowded, they're slow," says Tracey Johnstone of Bethesda-Chevy Chase. "I ride on the J2 and I'm always standing. They're stuck in the same traffic we all are."

Metro hopes the Priority Corridor Network, which aims to improve service by providing bus-only lanes, hybrid technology and signal priorities, will help solve the problem.

The transit agency is also considering adding to its fleet, but acknowledges that without dedicated lanes, buses are subject to the same traffic slowing down cars.

About 76 percent of Metrobuses arrived on time last year, short of their goal of 78 percent, according to a report released Monday.

Despite missing the mark, Metrobus on time performance has gone up 3 percent since 2010, the agency says.

Finally, some riders spoke to up talk about how aging baby boomers will increase the need for MetroAccess and other special accommodations.

"We are getting older. We are getting larger. We do have disabilities," says Phil Posner of the District. "It's important for them to make sure the existing system is up to the best standards possible."

"I need to know what is the future of MetroAccess," says Denise Rush, of Suitland, who is visually impaired and has been MetroAccess commuter for 12 years.

Kannan says that while Metro recently unveiled over 600 new MetroAccess buses, the system will get more attention in the Metro 2025 plan.

"We have to continue to have more quality paratransit vehicles to the system, making more access opportunities available," says Kannan.

The final public meeting will be held Thursday at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church.

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