Virginia commuters who take Metro to work were running into confusion and delays on shuttle buses meant to replace six Blue and Yellow line train stations, which are closed until early September.
Commuters line up for a Metro shuttle bus outside the Franconia-Springfield station, one of the six stations shuttered for repair work until early September. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
D.C.-area commuters bound for the Alexandria area are no doubt bracing for the unexpected this afternoon after their first taste of Metro’s summer shutdown on the Blue and Yellow lines Tuesday morning.
Long lines and other glitches plagued the first workday since six stations south of Reagan National Airport were 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.
The complaints Tuesday morning had a similar air about them judging from social media, where the chatter wasn’t flattering.
To be fair, however, there was an apparent sign of hope. …
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.
When Metro opened Tuesday, weekday commuters had braced 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.
Commuters are sure to remain on edge Tuesday, with both the effectiveness of free shuttle buses and the shutdown’s stresses on other transportation modes still unclear. Metro officials will be meeting soon to 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.
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Commuters report packed buses, delays
Metro has been looking into social media reports of drivers getting lost along the shuttle routes, and told WTOP that such delays may be one of the initial challenges the agency will iron out heading forward.
WTOP has reached out to WMATA for comment on such complaints as shuttle bus drivers not using the 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,were detouring at Holmes Run Parkway and North Ripley Street due to a water main break. 8Z buses were resuming their route at North Van Dorn Street.
“So far, so good,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said earlier this 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 Melissa Howell reported from Alexandria, Virginia.
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