The first workday affected by a summer shutdown on Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines ended the way it began Tuesday morning, with many frustrated, confused riders enduring long lines and other glitches.
Six Blue and Yellow line stations south of Reagan National Airport have been closed for platform repairs and other upgrades. The 106 days of closures on the two heavily trafficked lines (scheduled to end on Sept. 8) are unprecedented, even for Metro shutdowns. A fleet of shuttle buses are transporting riders south of Reagan.
And after using a shuttle for the return trip home, one commuter still saw room for improvement. Linda Charest told WTOP that what has been a 30–40 minute commute to L’Enfant Plaza Tuesday morning instead took an hour and 40 minutes. The return trip to the Huntington station Tuesday afternoon took an hour and 20 minutes.
“It hurt. It hurt,” Charest said.
Another rider, Gladys, elaborated on that pain.
“It took me two hours to get in this morning,” she said. “And now, I’m on my way home. And it’s two more hours — not counting that my level of exercise is going to drastically increase, because from where you park your car to get to one of these shuttle buses is going to add an extra 10 minutes each way to your trip.
“So far, it sucks.”
At the Pentagon, the evening rush hour looked particularly bad.
“I think there was maybe probably two, three hundred people waiting in line on the platform just to get the shuttle buses from Pentagon to get back to Huntington, so that was awful,” said one rider, Jordan.
As could probably be assumed, the stoppage of blue/yellow metro lines south of the Pentagon has made the bus bays an absolute zoo. There’s gotta be 500 people walking aimlessly around looking for buses. It’s insane.
— Hillary Jett (@hajett) May 28, 2019
@wmata how will metro address the ongoing delays for those trying to go to Virginia. We’ve been stuck at pentagon city for over 15 minutes due to “shutdown problems.” Other Passengers saying they’re now missing the only VRE trains home. With months to prepare, this is not ok
— Emily Tillett (@EmilyETillett) May 28, 2019
Another rider who’d just returned to Huntington, Robert, commended Metro for having staffers available to help around the lines. Despite the longer commute, he said, he’s willing to give it a few more weeks — “and then maybe I might just start driving.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, NBC Washington reported that many of the shuttle drivers contracted by Metro were unfamiliar with their routes and were from Texas, Florida and Georgia. In response to that report, Metro admitted that there were “some hiccups” but that a “vast majority” of buses ran on schedule (i.e., every 5 minutes or less) and that concerns would be addressed.
Morning commuters’ rude awakening
Earlier on Tuesday, riders recounted the lowlights of the morning commute on social media.
- A Huntington to Pentagon shuttle ended up at the Anacostia Metro station.
- It took one commuter two hours to get from Eisenhower to Crystal City. (“The driver had no clue where she was going. Stops were skipped then backtracked …”)
- One commute from Franconia to the Pentagon took over an hour. (“… not even using express lanes”)
- “One hour to get 2 miles from Del Ray to Crystal City [because] buses aren’t showing up when scheduled and don’t have tracking”
- Full buses and long lines at Huntington (“Waited for 3 buses before I could get on and I was at front of the line.”)
To be fair, however, there was an apparent sign of hope.
- “Just took the Express Shuttle from Franconia-Springfield to Pentagon. From door close to door open it took 22 minutes, 44 seconds.”
When Metro opened Tuesday, weekday commuters were bracing for the unexpected. In Alexandria, WTOP’s Melissa Howell reported some riders already had mixed feelings only an hour after opening.
“There seems to be some glitches, which is disappointing considering they should have gotten that all taken care of this weekend,” said Susan, a Pentagon-bound commuter waiting in line for a shuttle outside the shuttered Franconia-Springfield Metro station.
Howell observed some frustration shortly after opening at Franconia-Springfield, when buses were taking longer than five minutes between pickups. The situation there had improved by dawn, Howell said, but appeared to worsen again during peak commute.
Metro officials planned to meet and assess how the morning went overall and prescribe possible fixes. But some riders know how they’ll adjust come Wednesday morning: Get out the door earlier.
Morning commuters report packed buses, delays
Regarding those reports of drivers getting lost along the shuttle routes, Metro told WTOP that such delays may be one of the initial challenges the agency will iron out heading forward.
WMATA has yet to comment on complaints that shuttle bus drivers didn’t use northbound I-395 express lanes. Shuttle buses dealt with heavy traffic on Interstate 395 and in Old Town Alexandria, where congestion was being exacerbated by morning thunderstorms and a multi-vehicle collision at Virginia Route 420.
Buses on Metro’s 8Z line, one of the routes recommended as alternatives, had to detour at Holmes Run Parkway and North Ripley Street due to a water main break. 8Z buses resumed their route at North Van Dorn Street.
“So far, so good,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said early Tuesday morning, despite emerging reports of issues. “The first day will always have its challenges, but we’ll work through them. I haven’t had a person yet that said ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ but I’m sure we’ll find those as well.”
On Virginia Railway Express’s Fredericksburg Line, trains 302, 304 and 306 were delayed because of freight train congestion.
Where and when are the shuttles running?
For riders heading to or from the Pentagon or destined for points north such as Rosslyn or the District, three express shuttle buses are planned.
Buses will run every five minutes during rush hour and every 10 to 12 minutes at other times.
- Franconia-Springfield to/from Pentagon (starting 15 minutes before the rail system usually opens, ending 30 minutes after the rail system usually closes, seven days a week)
- Huntington to/from Pentagon (starting 15 minutes before the rail system usually opens, ending 30 minutes after the rail system usually closes, seven days a week)
- Landmark Mall to/from Pentagon (Monday through Friday only, 4:45 a.m.–8:15 p.m.; Alexandria leases park-and-ride spaces that will be available)
Trips on the Franconia-Pentagon Express and Huntington-Pentagon Express are projected to take about 30 minutes.
Two free local shuttle bus routes are planned, but each will skip one rail stop.
- Blue Line Shuttle: Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn Street, King Street-Old Town, Reagan National Airport. This route, operated for Metro by Alexandria’s DASH bus service, does not stop at Braddock Road (starting 30 minutes before the rail system usually opens and ending 30 minutes after the rail system usually closes, seven days a week). Besides the stops at Metro stations, DASH also plans a stop for this route at King Street and Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria.
- Yellow Line Shuttle: Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street-Old Town, Braddock Road, Crystal City. This route does not stop at Reagan National Airport (starting 30 minutes before the rail system usually opens and ending 30 minutes after the rail system usually closes, seven days a week).
WTOP’s Michelle Basch and Melissa Howell reported from Alexandria, Virginia.