Metro passengers scramble for Plan B after East Falls Church derailment

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — The derailment of a six-car Metro train Friday morning caused a major disruption for passengers at the East Falls Church station.

More than 70 passengers were safely offloaded to the platform after an outbound Silver Line train derailed east of the station.

Within minutes, as it does after many service disruptions, Metro established shuttle buses to carry displaced rail passengers to the next place they could continue their rail rides.

A woman with two rolling suitcases was surprised to see the station’s metal gates close, but within seconds of speaking with the station manager, she was heading toward a shuttle bus destined for Ballston.

She wasn’t aware a train had detailed within yards of the station.

“He told me ‘take the shuttle,'” she said. “He didn’t say explain more, because I said I know the shuttle routine, because I normally commute this on a daily basis.”

Another passenger and her boyfriend, who had planned on taking Metro from East Falls Church to Reagan National Airport, were left standing at the shuttle bus stop.

“We are so late, and we cannot do anything now,” she said, looking at her watch. “Maybe we’re going to take an Uber.”

An ample number of Metro employees in yellow vests directed confused passengers toward the bus heading to Ballston as well as the outbound shuttle en route to West Falls Church.

Some non-English-speaking passengers had more difficulty understanding how to avail themselves of the workaround resources, but employees and other rerouted commuters offered assistance.

A couple with three young children, who had planned on taking Metrorail downtown decided to continue their journey on the shuttle bus, and settled into the bus shelter to wait for the next ride to Ballston.

By the end of morning rush hour, the combination of Metro’s announcement that the station would remain closed all day with the typical lower midday passenger volume, resulted in more yellow-vested employees than passengers.

In general, passengers seemed relieved the derailment was relatively minor, with no serious injuries, and made phone calls to alert bosses and family members that they’d be running a little late.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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