WASHINGTON — A planned shutdown of the Blue and Yellow lines Wednesday night led to confusion for Metro riders, many of whom had not gotten the message.
Metro planned the shutdown from 9 p.m. through closing to move out the heavy equipment that had been in a round-the-clock work zone since early March, and to restore third-rail power so train service could return to normal for Thursday morning’s commute.
Metro spokesman Richard Jordan pointed out that the plan was first announced in March when the work zone was extended, and that the shutdown was included in rider email alerts, Metro social media posts and media coverage. But a number of riders either did not get the message or experienced the disruption despite reaching the work zone just before the announced shutdown time of 9 p.m.
“If the trains were going to stop at 9 o’clock, let’s say that did not seem apparent; otherwise, I would have tried to do an alternative method of transportation,” commuter Kevin Newak told WTOP.
He got on a Blue Line train at Farragut West that reached Reagan National Airport around 8:45.
“There was never any indication that the line was going to shut down for them to move the equipment off the tracks after the end of the surge,” he said. “The train said Franconia-Springfield, so, of course, the indication was it was going there at some point once it got past the single-track area.”
.@dcmetrosucks @wmata @unsuckdcmetro @dcmetrosucks pic.twitter.com/29TatWYuJE
— Nick (@GuardianNJL) April 13, 2017
Eventually, he said, train operators announced that the Blue Line train and a Yellow Line train the riders had been directed to across the platform were out of service.
“So, by that time, many passengers were very angry, irate about what was happening. The staff tried to organize and help us figure out what was going on. … I think they didn’t have a lot of information themselves,” Newak said.
While riders who reached the station later in the evening said they had to wait for shuttle buses, Newak said there were buses waiting for the first group of riders.
The kind of nonsense we have to deal with b/c @wmata can’t get it together pic.twitter.com/AYOUl8c3cC
— Roman (@romanscorner) April 13, 2017
“But, again, there was little to no communication as to which buses to get on or if they were going directly to the endpoints like Huntington or Franconia-Springfield or they’re going to stop at each station. We had to keep asking the staff that were present and the drivers where they were going,” he said.
“Finally, once we sorted ourselves out and got on our bus, it was quickly apparent to us that the bus driver wasn’t sure where to go. One of the passengers literally had to tell the driver ‘turn here, go here’ to proceed toward Braddock Road station,” he said.
Newak eventually made it home, but hopes communication improves in the future.
“I empathize with the drivers and the operators; I think that they were doing the best they could,” he said.
Metro leaders have expressed concerns before about confusion for riders when there are changes that are not clearly communicated, and about Metro’s issues in communicating with riders generally.
Blue and Yellow Line service returned to normal schedules as planned Thursday and Friday.
“I will give Metro credit: The trains have been running great the last two days,” Newak said.
The next round-the-clock work zone begins this weekend with a shutdown of the Greenbelt and College Park stations. During the work, no “Rush Plus” Yellow Line trains are scheduled, which reduces service again for riders between Franconia-Springfield, L’Enfant Plaza and Prince George’s Plaza.
The new work zone also cuts off Metro’s large Greenbelt Rail Yard from the rail system, Jordan said. In addition to regular railcar maintenance and repairs, that yard is where new 7000 Series railcars are delivered for testing. Metro has other rail yards that will remain connected to the mainline tracks during the work.