Experts weigh in on impact of Metro maintenance surge

WASHINGTON — While the first Metro maintenance surge will undoubtedly affect riders, experts say the overall impact may not be that severe.

Beginning Saturday, the Orange and Silver lines will be impacted by overall service cuts and single tracking between the East Falls Church and Ballston stations. Metro has warned riders to expect crowded trains along with significantly longer wait times at 10 Virginia stations.

“The first event, it doesn’t involve a major shutdown,” said Lei Zhang, Director of the National Transportation Center at University of Maryland. “The impact is likely to be smaller,” he said.

Zhang estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 Metro riders may choose an alternate form of transportation as a result of the first surge project.

He and others are working to collect data and make projections, so that moving forward riders can make more informed decisions about getting around.

During future surge projects on busy lines, riders may choose to get on at an earlier station just to get a seat.

“What is going to happen to the later stops, when those cars are completely full? What are those people that are standing in those metro stations going to do?” said JJ Biel-Goebel, with the ‎University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory. “We’re going to start to look at that,” to figure out potential solutions, he said.

Still, he says the Metro issues will not lead to a meltdown of the region’s transportation system. “The data tells us that the system is rather resilient,” he said. But as a result of Metro’s maintenance push, he does expect travel times to go up on the rails and for the roads to become more congested.

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