Greater Greater Washington

Columbus Day transit open thread

For many workers in the Washington area, Columbus Day is just another working Monday. But for federal employees and Red Line operators, it's a holiday. With reduced transit service, what were your experiences getting to work today?


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

The Metro system is operating under a "Saturday Supplemental" schedule, which means the rail network is operating at Saturday headways, but opening and closing times are like Monday-Thursday service. Most Metrobus routes will be operating on Saturday schedules, but some routes will have additional trips to meet demand.

There is also major trackwork on the Red and Orange Lines. Most notably, the Red Line between Judiciary Square and Glenmont is running only every 26 minutes.

My commute takes me on the Green and Red Lines. When I boarded at Greenbelt, I had to wait a good bit longer before the train left. But despite the longer wait, the train was much emptier than usual. Few people boarded at College Park, too.

But at Prince George's Plaza and West Hyattsville, the number of passengers boarding was close to normal levels. I suppose the more working-class demographics in those areas could be playing a role. After all, the service industry doesn't treat Columbus Day as a holiday.

At Fort Totten, where I change to an outbound Red train, I got lucky and only had a wait of 6 minutes. But the platform was very crowded, and when the train arrived, it was standing room only. That's certainly odd. My reverse-commute Red trains generally seem to have less than 10 people per car.

Large crowds were waiting at Takoma and Silver Spring for inbound trains. That mirrors my experience from Saturday, when I had to go into the office. My wait for an inbound train at Silver Spring on Saturday afternoon was 21 minutes (and for the first 12 of those minutes, the PIDS said the next train was coming in 9 minutes).

WMATA certainly needs to do trackwork. But for a holiday like Columbus Day, running trains only every 26 minutes seems to be a bit of a problem. After all, the Red Line is the busiest line (even though the Glenmont side is less busy than the Shady Grove side).

What were your experiences like?

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

Comments

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Being the urbanist that I am: I... um... drove. Granted, that's typical for my Monday AM, and I leave my car in Maryland & take transit the rest of the week. But I'm also planning on eschewing transit tonight thanks to the lovely stories I followed along this morning. Er, as long as Google Maps still shows plenty of green lines on its traffic layer.

by Bossi on Oct 8, 2012 3:29 pm • linkreport

Well, I live in Baltimore and work in DC. There's no MARC service today, as I unexpectedly found out. I was able to work remotely.

When I lived in DC, I cycled to work (it was only 2 miles).

by Weiwen on Oct 8, 2012 3:29 pm • linkreport

Horrible. My normal half-hour commute took an hour and a half. The red line was awful.

by shawndc on Oct 8, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

While a Saturday schedule may have been appropriate for reduced demand the single-tracking added insult to injury for Red and Orange riders. The pain was noticeable on Twitter mostly from 7 AM to 10 AM and mostly on the Red Line.

Credit is due to @WMATA (Brian?) who apparently had today off for the holiday but was around most of the morning commute to respond to riders.

by FixWMATA on Oct 8, 2012 3:32 pm • linkreport

I live on 16th Street and work downtown, so I took the S bus as usual. I used NextBus to see when there was one coming in 5 minutes and went out and caught the S9. Less traffic than usual and fewer people riding/waiting for the bus.

I'm sure any commute on the Red Line was terrible - certainly my coworkers' were. I'm not sure how the single-tracking was set up exactly, but if they could berth 2 trains at Fort Totten on Red they should have run more service (13 min headways) from Glenmont-Fort Totten and then encouraged people to transfer to Green, and increased service a little bit on Green. Then have every other train at Ft Totten turn back north rather than going through the single-track, and get people to switch to green and then back to red if necessary.

by MLD on Oct 8, 2012 3:41 pm • linkreport

I felt terrible hearing about Red Liners commute today (well, their commute every day usually sounds terrible, but even more so today). A friend waiting at Gallery Place said the platform was packed at 8:45am and there was no train in sight for many minutes.

Rather than my normal bus route, I drove into work with the hopes of snagging free parking near my office, which is a rare treat. Of course everyone else had the same idea, so there were no street spots left and I got stuck with a $17 parking garage -- serves me right for eschewing public transit for my car instead!

by Allie on Oct 8, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

Great ride in on the bike today. SO MUCH LESS traffic than normal which meant I didn't have to concentrate so much on not being hit by oblivious drivers. It was a welcome change. Looking forward to the bike home, even if it's raining.

by thump on Oct 8, 2012 3:54 pm • linkreport

I waited for a red line train for 30 minutes. The time for the next train kept getting longer and longer, and sometimes there was no time at all.

I tried to call WMATA customer service to complain, but they were CLOSED FOR COLUMBUS DAY. Seriously?? I can't believe they can get away with charging such a high rate when they make people wait 30 mins for a train.

by Abbey on Oct 8, 2012 3:56 pm • linkreport

The platform PA at Gallery Place said that there was a mechanical problem or power problem between that station and Judiciary Square, in addition to the single-tracking, which I think is the source of the worse-than-expected delays.

The crowd on the platform (going west) wasn't as bad as it usually gets during rush hour red line disruptions, but the trains were as packed. Metro started reversing every other eastbound train at Judiciary Square, which I wish they'd do on non-holidays as well.

I wasn't clear on what the saturday-supplemental schedule meant for the Rush Plus trains -- although IMO the yellow line trains pick their northern terminus based on sheer caprice, rather than an actual plan.

by rusty on Oct 8, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

@Rusty:
There should not have been any Rush Plus trains today.

Do keep in mind, though, that even before Rush Plus started, some Yellow Line trains did run to/from Greenbelt. Those trains would have been running.

And in fact, on Saturday, I caught an inbound Yellow from Greenbelt around 9:15A.

by Matt Johnson on Oct 8, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

Red line was a total mess at Union Station this morning. Waited 20 minutes for a train and when one finally arrived the platform was packed and the train was already 95% filled. I ended up walking to Gallery Place to transfer to Yellow.

by Campy on Oct 8, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

I can't speak to today, but as I recall from years when I had to work on Columbus Day, it was a joke. As long as you were on the train it was fine, and there's plenty of headway between trains. But mis-time things by even a little bit and you'd be left holding the bag. Huntington is my station, and as I'd drive in to park there, that IS a consideration.

by SerAmantiodiNicolao on Oct 8, 2012 5:04 pm • linkreport

It was pretty bad. I was lucky enough to be able to get on the train when it finally showed up at Union station at 8:30, but I'm guessing a lot of people didn't, considering how little room was on the train and how many people were waiting on the platform.

by lou on Oct 8, 2012 5:18 pm • linkreport

My commute takes me from Union Station to Friendship Heights. Sounds like I got to Union Station at the same time @Campy did. The platform was already full (and since it was single tracked, it was full all the way across facing in one direction, which was a pretty striking visual). After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I was not going to let the train go by without me and wait another eternity for the next one when my hopes of getting to work early had already been dashed, so I smooshed myself on to a train more crowded than any I have ever been on, holding my bag over my head to make the space needed to accomplish the feat.

I came home early this afternoon feeling sick. After waiting 11 minutes at Friendship Heights I found myself on a blessedly empty train, which emptied to turn back toward Shady Grove once it reached Judiciary Square. There I waited at least twenty minutes for a through train to Glenmont to take me my last one stop.

by Lucre on Oct 8, 2012 5:50 pm • linkreport

I had to go out to Rockville in the afternoon. Half the trains were being turned back at Grosvenor -- something that is supposed to happen only in rush hour. So beyond Grosvenor Metro was running with 26 minute headways. There is no excuse for this; turning trains back at Grosvenor had nothing to do with the trackwork.

by Ben Ross on Oct 8, 2012 7:02 pm • linkreport

But at Prince George's Plaza and West Hyattsville, the number of passengers boarding was close to normal levels. I suppose the more working-class demographics in those areas could be playing a role. After all, the service industry doesn't treat Columbus Day as a holiday.
I'm not sure why that assumption was necessary after a first sentence that says, "For many workers in the Washington area, Columbus Day is just another working Monday." Also, schools weren't closed throughout the entire region.

by selxic on Oct 8, 2012 7:48 pm • linkreport

Metro's lack of service today was unreasonable. Metro's total strategy for dealing with capacity seems to be to price people out and make the service worthless just often enough that nobody actually wants to be carless or too reliant on the system.

by abc on Oct 8, 2012 9:06 pm • linkreport

26 minutes between trains is absolutely unacceptable at ANY time and all riders should be totally outraged.

by 20011 on Oct 8, 2012 9:56 pm • linkreport

Is half an hour between trains unacceptable? By WMATA's old standards (20 minutes), yes it is. But by new standards, its just fine and dandy.

http://wmata.com/about_metro/board_of_directors/board_docs/071212_3BRailServiceCriteria.pdf

Thresholds: Trains on all lines will be scheduled to depart
from terminal stations no more than:
• 15 minutes apart
during peak times
• 30 minutes apart
during non-peak times

by B.O. on Oct 9, 2012 6:26 am • linkreport

DC is a company town. This shows Metro is totally out of touch with its customer base. MY transit authority ran its normal schedules Monday and we were very busy! Metro needs to wake up and smell the exhaust fumes....of the automobiles that have to take to the roads when they decide to sleep in for the day.

by Steve on Oct 9, 2012 8:26 am • linkreport

I'm sorry, but I have to laugh. I really have no clue why you folks continue to use Metro when you are the same ones complaining about its ineffectivness, expense, unreliability.

You need to do what I did nearly 2 years ago. Give up on Metro. The past few years, with the proliferation of social media that was supposed to hold Metro more accountable, has failed. Unsuck Metro, this, PoP and a dozen other widely read DC blogs complain incessantly about Metro, and here we are without the slightest improvement.

My driving commute actually takes less time then did my Metro commute, you aren't subjected to the daily puzzle of whether metro will be functioning normally or not. It is more comfortable, more convenient and I simply paid for the parking with the 9 dollars a day I am not spending on Metro.

Just think of all the frustration you'll do away with in your lives...DO IT!

by Metrodc on Oct 9, 2012 8:44 am • linkreport

I really have no clue why you folks continue to use Metro when you are the same ones complaining about its ineffectivness, expense, unreliability.

Say there's a guy with a bad heart, one that needs surgery. Would you ask him why he continues to use that organ while still complaining about its ineffectiveness, expense, and unreliability?

by Alex B. on Oct 9, 2012 9:12 am • linkreport

One of the problems with the Red line service plan for Columbus Day was the length of the single tracking section: Judiciary Square to Fort Totten. That lengthened the time between trains to the far end of acceptable.

On the western side of the Red line I didn't experience crowding. There were lots of empy seats in bound at Van Ness around 8 a.m. Most people on that end of the line had the day off.

by Steve Strauss on Oct 9, 2012 9:31 am • linkreport

I don't think there's much wrong with running less service on federal holidays - there are clearly way fewer people riding transit and driving to work on those days. But the large single-tracking is just bogus and reduces frequencies to unusable levels. Not to mention the fact that single-tracking makes the PIDS/arrival info completely unreliable, so you can't even plan to get to the station when a train arrival is imminent.

by MLD on Oct 9, 2012 9:45 am • linkreport

This. MLD wrote: I don't think there's much wrong with running less service on federal holidays - there are clearly way fewer people riding transit and driving to work on those days. But the large single-tracking is just bogus and reduces frequencies to unusable levels [and] makes the PIDS/arrival info completely unreliable, so you can't even plan.

by Arl Fan on Oct 9, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

I'm fortunate enough to have a bike commute that does not involve public transit. However, I noticed that the amount of vehicular traffic and pedestrians heading to the Metro yesterday morning was the same as usual. While Government employees do make up a significant portion of DC-area commuters, the volume and pattern of Metro riders certainly follows more of a standard weekday formula on these less celebrated holidays.

by Caroline on Oct 9, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

Yesterday was fantastic day to drive to work.

by Fitz on Oct 9, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

Red line was terrible. Metro Station managers should have been actively encouraging riders to walk between Gallery Place and Metro Center depending on the direction they were going. It was an absolute clusterfudge. This isn't 1995 anymore. You can't put in garbage service on a semi-followed holiday and expect things to meet even minimally acceptable standards. Plenty of people had to work and plenty of people live in the district and rely on Metro to get around. So incompetent...

by NikolasM on Oct 9, 2012 12:11 pm • linkreport

I really have no clue why you folks continue to use Metro when you are the same ones complaining about its ineffectivness, expense, unreliability.

Three points:

1. If everyone gave up Metro and adopted your solution (driving), your commute would again be horrendous. If you're driving to work, it's in your best interest for a significant portion of other commuters to avoid the roads. Rush hour around here is bad enough as it is.

2. My Metro commute costs far less than $9/day, so it doesn't make economic sense for me to drive, especially considering the cost of paying to park in a garage near my downtown office (even on a monthly rate basis).

3. I don't think the route I'd take to bike to work is safe enough, so I don't bike.

Add those together, and you get Metro. It's a lousy choice, but it's the best of several lousy choices. I'm pretty sure that's true for a lot of people, and that's where the frustration sets in.

by Red Liner on Oct 9, 2012 6:56 pm • linkreport

Face it, Metro sucks. The 12 miles it takes to get home I can do faster on a bike than using Metro. If I need to work late, I drive. The parking costs are worth the loss of an extra 45-60minutes it would have taken to use Metro.

by SJE on Oct 9, 2012 10:02 pm • linkreport

I live in Dupont and needed to get to Takoma Community Center for the pool. I was freaking out at first when I remembered the trackwork but then learned about the 52/54 lines and S2/S4 lines. Great little live savers :-)

by Jeff on Oct 10, 2012 12:15 am • linkreport

I was SHOCKED to hear that they did this.

So long as Monty County is charging full parking rates, Metro should be running a regular schedule.

by Capt. Hilts on Oct 10, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

I saved myself the frustration and drove. Plus, on-street parking was free all day long due the holiday. So, win-win for me.

by pisceanhaze on Oct 11, 2012 12:53 pm • linkreport

Where was on-street parking free? It was regular price in Montgomery County.

by Capt. Hilts on Oct 11, 2012 12:55 pm • linkreport

In D.C.

by pisceanhaze on Oct 11, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

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