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Metro needs a ‘significant amount of riders’ to avoid the system during major shutdown

Orange Line trains share tracks past a work zone near Ballston in Virginia during Metro's maintenance initiative. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — With a major two-week 24/7 Metrorail shutdown beginning Saturday, Metro is urging riders to find other transit options to avoid a traffic mess.

“Please be prepared, please figure out how you’re going to get to work,” said Metro Director of Government Relations Regina Sullivan.

“We need a significant amount of riders to not use Metrorail and it pains me to say that but we need them to divert from Metrorail and, as they have, look at other options,” she told the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board.

Metro is shutting down the Stadium-Armory and Potomac Avenue stations, and suspending Blue Line service in and out of D.C. from Virginia from Saturday, June 18 to Sunday, July 3.

It is the 130th time Metro has shut down a station or stations entirely for planned track work, and the fourth time since January the tracks between Eastern Market and Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road are shut down, Metro’s Director of Metrobus Planning, Scheduling and Customer Service Jim Hamre said.

But all of those shutdowns have been over weekends.

“We will do the best we can, but we just can’t replace the railroad on a weekday peak-direction rush hour,” Hamre said.

Even if up to 30 percent of regular riders find a way to adjust their trips to get beyond the workzone as has happened so far in the first round-the-clock track work zone west of Ballston, the shuttle buses will only be able to carry half of the remaining riders at the peak of rush hour.

“You’re going to have to be patient, it’s going to take more time, and if you can move your travel time either earlier or later, we’ve got plenty of capacity for early mornings, midday and evenings. It’s just that peak period,” Hamre said.

The busiest times are expected to be between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and between about 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

In addition to the actual stations shut down, rail service is cut back significantly from normally scheduled service at all stations served by the Orange and Silver lines. The Blue Line will only be running between Franconia-Springfield and Arlington Cemetery, so the Yellow Line will be the only Metrorail route for Virginians boarding at the Pentagon and south to get into D.C.

Other options include buses into the District or to other rail lines, and MARC and VRE trains.

Metro will have more workers on hand at impacted stations than the agency did on the first day of 24/7 work last week, after confusion arose about which platform riders should go to for trains.

Hamre expects three managers and five members of the bus customer service staff around the bus areas at Eastern Market, in addition to rail workers and Metro Transit Police in stations.

“Washingtonians like to talk to somebody. They’ll look straight at a sign and ignore it, but they want to talk to somebody to know that it applies to them, and that’s what we have to reinforce,” he said.

Sullivan said Metro may limit the number of people going into or out of stations if platforms get too crowded.

At Eastern Market, the limited escalator capacity could also play a role in that decision.

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