The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


WMATA considers 6-week Red Line closure

WMATA is considering closing the Red Line's western branch for 6 weeks to repair significant leaking. If it happens, riders will absolutely need good alternatives for getting around. One solution may be enhanced bus service between different parts of the Red Line.

Photo by Bryan Mills on Flickr.

The section of the Red Line between Friendship Heights and Medical Center opened in 1984 and runs under Wisconsin Avenue. Portions of the subway tunnel are leaking, harming equipment like switch components, track circuits, and rails. The water damage means Metro must replace them more frequently, creating more disruptions for riders.

Metro has tried for years to address the leaks, but they require a more durable fix that can't be done in a long weekend. As a result, Metro is thinking about a long-term closure and is doing engineering studies to see what work is needed. According to spokesperson Dan Stessel, it's too early to know how long the closure would last, which stations would close, or if it's even necessary. Stessel says any closure would be over a year away.

Repairs could impact thousands of riders

While Metro has yet to decide on the exact scope of the project, they have announced that the leaking is the worst at Friendship Heights and Medical Center stations. Bethesda station, currently slated for a major renovation, sits in between. A long term closure would likely mean a gap in the Red Line between Tenleytown and Grosvenor.

According to WMATA's May 2012 ridership data, on weekdays over 97,000 riders travel through the area that would be closed by this work. Around 34,000 people travel through the area during each of the afternoon and evening peaks. A closure like this would negatively impact most of these commuters. It would likely increase traffic congestion in the corridor as well, affecting other residents and businesses.

However, there may be no other option. We'll know more when Metro has completed its engineering studies. But other systems have dealt with long-term closures. Right now, the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line is closed south of downtown for a major rebuilding.

Bus lanes and enhanced service could give riders options

The idea of a long-term closure is still in its early phase. Metro has not announced for sure that there will be a closure, which stations the agency would close, or how they would approach shuttle service.

However, here are some ways Metro could mitigate a closure between Tenleytown and Grosvenor.

Map by the author.

Temporary bus lanes could minimize delays for shuttle riders. A shuttle bus ride on Wisconsin Avenue from Grosvenor to Tenleytown would be significantly slower than the Red Line subway. Repurposing one lane of Wisconsin Avenue for buses could speed riders through the gap. It could also demonstrate the effectiveness of bus lanes, which the county is considering for its BRT network.

Beltway shoulder lanes for buses could quickly shuttle riders to the eastern branch of the Red Line. The two Montgomery branches of the Red Line are actually fairly close to each other. It may be faster for riders headed toward downtown Washington to go over to Forest Glen, on the Glenmont side of the Red Line.

However, the Beltway can get very congested during peak hours. One way to make this connection more reliable could be rebuilding the shoulders on the Beltway so buses could use them.

Enhanced bus service on Veirs Mill Road and East-West Highway would help connect riders to the other side of the Red Line. Metro will need an exclusive bus bridge to get riders around the gap in the Red Line, but it is also important to provide other options for riders.

The Q Line runs between Rockville and Wheaton on Veirs Mill Road. It is already one of the busiest bus lines in Maryland, and a Red Line closure might increase ridership. Introducing a limited-stop service would create a faster link between Rockville and Wheaton. It might even be possible for a new limited-stop service in this corridor to continue beyond the Red Line closure, as a lasting positive impact.

The J4 line is a limited-stop service between Bethesda, Silver Spring, and College Park. It currently runs only during rush hour. During the closure, Metro could run buses more frequently and throughout the day, giving riders bound for Bethesda an additional alternative to the Red Line. Many other routes connect the western and eastern arms of the Red Line, and they could benefit from increased or modified service as well.

Transit signal priority and queue jumping lanes on Wisconsin or other streets handling additional bus riders would be another way to make shuttles more effective. Signal priority extends green lights for buses or delays the light from changing to red long enough for the bus to get through. Queue jumping lanes allow the bus to skip to the front of the line at red lights.

Increased MARC service would be a very difficult option. CSX Railroad owns the tracks, and so far has been very resistant to additional commuter trains. If Metro persuaded them to allow a temporary service increase, riders could have a quick way to get from Rockville to downtown.

Even without additional trains, it may be possible for MARC to run longer trains. New coaches are currently being built, and that could free up some equipment if it arrives in time.

Station improvements, especially at Grosvenor could be helpful. The mezzanine at Grosvenor has an opening intended for a future staircase or escalator to the platform. With a shuttle operation starting there, it would be helpful to increase the capacity of the station by adding a staircase (even a temporary one) at that location.

The mezzanine at Tenleytown is similarly hamstrung, with just one set of escalators connecting to the platform. Metro should also look at adding a set of stairs on the south side of the mezzanine kiosk to increase capacity.


Repurposing travel lanes on Wisconsin and constructing shoulder bus lanes on the Beltway is an attractive option, but it would not be easy. The same can be said for signal priority. On these roads, the Maryland State Highway Administration has the final say. It may be difficult to convince them of the necessity. Additionally, it's likely that commuters in the corridor will push back against taking road space away from cars.

The size of Metro's bus fleet may limit the agency's ability to improve bus service. Right now, most buses are already deployed for peak hour service. With enough notice, it might be possible for WMATA to borrow buses from other agencies, but it's not as simple as merely saying "go." The agency would probably need some lead time in order to prepare for a long-term shuttle operation on weekdays.

Closing the Red Line is a drastic step for Metro and could be very disruptive for all commuters, not just transit riders. But this is also an opportunity for Metro, MARC, SHA and Montgomery County to experiment with different ways to improve transit service. If all parties involved are willing to think big, this closure might be an opportunity to create a template for future improvements.

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. Heís a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 


Add a comment »

I agree that closing the line for a while is an opportunity to show that the system/WMATA can provide workable alternatives in the face of massive closures. Entire portions of the system probably need to be closed for weeks or months for major repairs, and this could prove that doing so, while disruptive, is possible. It's something people in lots of big cities have to deal with. We've been trying band-aid solutions for years on Metro and the results haven't been great. I say shut it down for the repair.

by MJ on Aug 26, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

Can WMATA even turn around trains after Tenleytown?

I thought the only pocket tracks on that part of the Red line are north of Grosvenor-Strathmore and between Farragut North and Dupont. Wouldn't that then mean they'd have to single track between Dupont and Tenleytown?

by Gray on Aug 26, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

WMATA can also turn trains at crossovers.

There is no crossover at Tenleytown, but there is one at Van Ness.

WMATA might not be able to run every train to Tenleytown. Or they might have to start the bus bridge at Van Ness instead.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 26, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Gray: they can turn trains wherever there is an interlocking. The reason they need a pocket track to turn trains during peak hours is to avoid clogging the inbound track. However, in this case, since the entire segment would be closed, there are no inbound trains to worry about.

There are interlockings at Van Ness and at Freindship Heights.

by Alex B. on Aug 26, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

No, trains can not turn around immediately after Tenleytown.
There's an interlocking on the south side of Van Ness and the north side of Friendship Heights - these are the closest.

In an ideal world Metro would be able to keep Friendship Heights open and turn trains there. If not, Van Ness might become the logical end point.

by Mainland on Aug 26, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

@Matt and Alex: Thanks for the information. It seems unlikely that they would be able to pull off something as complex as running every other train to Tenleytown. Do you have thoughts on that?

Also @Matt, I just realized the portion of the Beltway you're talking about. I'm not really sure that there are even shoulders that you could build up on that stretch, what with the 270 connector merge and the eastbound GA Ave exit lane splitting off.

by Gray on Aug 26, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

Also - Massive Capital Bikeshare Stations at Bethesda and Silver Spring.

by David C on Aug 26, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

Two comments:

First, according to this link Metro changed their construction methods to include a waterproof membrane in the tunnels after 1983. So, thankfully, the Glenmont end of the red line and the green line should be in much better shape against water intrusion.

Second, regarding bus service...

I would add potentially having Ride On extend/enhance the 46 route down to Bethesda and perhaps to Friendship Heights to give a one seat ride option down Rockville Pike.

by Rob K on Aug 26, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

Before we take the Chicago analogy too far, keep in mind that south of the loop, the Red Line has another line (the Green Line) running in parallel with it just a few blocks to the east.

Yes, the two lines eventually diverge again, and they do not all stop at the same areas, but a significant number of people can respond to that shutdown by just walking an additional 4 blocks each day. Not so if the WMATA Red Line goes down.

by Hadur on Aug 26, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

There are shoulders along the Beltway between 355 and Georgia Avenue except for where there are decel and accel lanes, although i'd imagine WMATA's timeline for doing their tunnel work would come years before SHA could structurally improve the shoulders of the Beltway. During the morning rush, traffic generally moved at or only slightly below speed on the inner loop between 355 and Georgia, and likewise in the afternoon the traffic moved at or only slightly below speed on the outerloop between Georgia and 355, so the need for those Bus shoulders may be mute anyway, with Beltway buses (the J5 does this already actually). Maybe what is needed is an express J5 that only stops at Grosvenor and either Forest Glen or Silver Spring, leaving every 3 - 5 minutes, plus express routes that stay along 355.

by Gull on Aug 26, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

mute != moot

by Matt Johnson on Aug 26, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

Ideally, the best time to do this would be in Summer when ridership is somewhat softer, and the bus system has some additional resources due to the lack of school trippers.

Two other potentially helpful routes to connect the different sides of the Red are the Ride On 5 and Metrobus J5, and to some degree, the Ride On 1 and 11 as well.

If possible, it may be worthwhile to see where some bus routes that currently feed the western leg could be rerouted to feed the eastern leg, such as the 70 as well as the J7/9.

by A. P. on Aug 26, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

@Gull: I agree that in the heaviest direction of travel for traffic on these buses, the flow on the Beltway shouldn't be too bad. But how do you propose getting those buses back for more runs?

by Gray on Aug 26, 2013 3:35 pm • linkreport

It is possible for a Metro train to switch directions without switching tracks, correct? If so, why not run trains to run on the "wrong" track north of the Van Ness interlocking (i.e. at Van Ness and Tenleytown)? For example, a northbound train could run on the east (right) track, then switch directions at Tenleytown while continuing on the east (now left) track until the Van Ness interlocking when it can switch to the west track as it should. Or, if the eastern track is already occupied at VN or Tenley, it could switch to the west track while going north, and then switch directions and continue south on the same track.

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 3:35 pm • linkreport

The issue is the time it takes to clear. The travel time from Van Ness to Tenleytown is 2 minutes.

So, here's an example:

4:00:00 - NB train #100 arrives at Van Ness.
4:00:30 - NB train #100 continues to Tenleytown.
4:02:30 - NB train #100 arrives at Tenleytown.
4:03:30 - Train #100 departs Tenleytown SB on NB track.
4:05:30 - Train #100 arrives at Van Ness on NB track.
4:06:00 - Train #100 departs Van Ness and crosses over to SB track.

Red Line trains come every 3 minutes during peak hours, so at the same time as that is happening, this could happen:

4:03:00 - Train #102 arrives at Van Ness NB on *SB* track.
4:03:30 - Train #102 departs Van Ness NB on SB track.
4:05:30 - Train #102 arrives Tenleytown on SB track.
4:06:30 - Train #102 departs Tenleytown on SB track.
4:08:30 - Train #102 arrives at Van Ness on SB track.
4:09:00 - Train #102 departs Van Ness on SB track.

It's possible that it could work, but it would be extremely tight. There's no margin for delay.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 26, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

Sounds like a logistics nightmare but potentially doable for 2 months. I would think they would want to run at least as much express service between Tenley and Grosvenor as local service as it could add 10 to 20 minutes to the trip for people going the whole way via local. A full train carries what 1000 people? Where would they get enough buses (50?) to run a bridge service at peak?

by BTA on Aug 26, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport


You are correct, Metro could do such an operation at Tenleytown. Even still, for capacity sake they might not send *every* train to Tenleytown since it will take about 5-6 minutes round trip to get one train back onto the right direction. They could turn the trains around at Van Ness quicker.

When Metro short turns trains during major weekend track work they pretty much, if not always, terminate trains at stations next to an interlocking. (Red line only going to Rhode Island Ave. this weekend as example) This doesn't mean that Tenleytown can't be the terminus in this shut down scenario, it's just less than ideal.

by Rob K on Aug 26, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

If they have to do this it's going to be a revenue and ridership killer for Metro. Nightmare scenario.

by MLD on Aug 26, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

Mindboggling that they would even consider it.

by Crickey7 on Aug 26, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson:
That's what I was expecting. It is, as BTA says, a "logistics nightmare," but honestly it might be less nightmarish than some other things (I assume we don't just have 50 or so buses and drivers just sitting around. Some will have to have their routes reassigned. That's not good). You've got, what, 30 seconds or a minute of leeway? Shouldn't be too difficult, if it's managed correctly and boarding protocol works as intended (people, *stand clear of the closing doors*. How much clearer could it be!?).

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

@A.P., the slowest month for total ridership is December. July & August are among the busiest months for the system, presumably with heavy tourist and visitor use. If there is a long lead time to plan the shutdown, there would be be tradeoff arguments for a 4 to 6 week closure period from mid July to late August when school is out & people are on vacation versus late November through early January when there are fewer tourists and visitors & holiday breaks.

As for station improvements, the long time it takes to study, design, & build even modest station access changes makes me question whether anything would be feasible in that area. The severity of the shutdown should get close to full cooperation from MD DOT. CSX on the Brunswick line might be willing to add another train or two, but that won't be a big dent in the number of passengers to be moved.

by AlanF on Aug 26, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

@ImThat1Guy: I don't follow what you're saying. Running trains on single tracks one stop beyond Van Ness won't really reduce the need for bus bridges.

by Gray on Aug 26, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

The map shows termination at Tenley, which is logistically difficult. People questioned the logistics, so I did my best to explain on possibility. I'm not trying to defend a position, as terminating at Tenley or Van Ness makes no objective net difference.

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

^ excuse me, *one* possibility.

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

@ A. P.

How would you reroute the 70, J7/9 you would create a massive backup, Eastwest Hwy (the only logical route unless you plan to backtrack up to 495 or cut the part of the line that serves Medical Center, Bethesda but would piss anyone off that travels to stations along the western side of the Red line) would be clogged with buses with the J1, J2, J3, J4, J7, J9 & 70


They wont have enough buses; I would look around to notice if any buses routes get discontinued to the times they operate cut.

If they do this a fare discount is in order unless they have a plan inwhich all delays are minimized to the extreme.


Suggesting buses travel to Silver Spring is bad unless they will be stopping along Colesville RD near the fence. People are not going to walk up that hill to where the majority of the buses are located.

Why not mention of adding a bus route from Friendship heights or Teneleytown or buses travel to Takoma.


Marc is only a solution if you are not transfering between Metrorail lines or traveling to Union Station, or Silver Spring areas. Plus Marc maybe more expensive for some trips if the person also takes Metrobus, Ride On

by kk on Aug 26, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

A few thoughts.

(1) Stockholm, Sweden's regional transit authority Storstockholms Lokaltrafik AB (SL) has managed total shut-downs and long-term closures of several of its suburban tunnelbana (subway) lines in recent years for heavy reconstruction, and has done so with relatively little pain by doing the work in the spring and summer, with plenty of advance notice to its customers. Because SL runs nearly all transit in the region (or, more-accurately, contractors run transit for SL, since all service is actually by the private sector for SL - Hong Kong's MTR currently has the contract to run the tunnelbana), it has been relatively easy to coordinate substitute bus service (and in a few instances, substitute regional rail service).

(2) It was suggested to me in another forum, and I concur with the suggestion, that patrons from Shady Grove can be reasonably easily and quickly shuttled by bus from that end of the Red Line to the Glenmont station via Md. 200 (InterCounty Connector) and either Md. 97 (Georgia Avenue) or my personal preference, Md. 182 (Layhill Road). If the Red Line peak period turn-backs at Silver Spring are eliminated while the work is being done, then more riders can be accommodated at Glenmont.

by C. P. Zilliacus on Aug 26, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

There should be express buses from Tenleytown straight to Grosvenor. This would separate the local travelers from the long-distance ones. I would also recommend a mixed express that goes from Tenleytown to Bethesda to Grosvenor.

by Jasper on Aug 26, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

Any chance of thinking really BIG here and adding an express track? A train that makes no stops between Tenleytown (or Friendship Heights) and Grosvenor would be popular. Even if this adds months to the delay, commuters would at least end up with a daily benefit.

by tour guide on Aug 26, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

Mightn't it make more sense just to run buses from Wheaton to Rockville via Viers Mill Road, and then continuing up Route 355 to Shady Grove, rather than sending buses all the way up to the ICC? According to Google Maps, the Viers Mill/355 routing is actually faster by 3 minutes, and it allows service to Rockville as well. I do like your idea of eliminating turnbacks; the main reason for turnbacks is the lack of trains (with ridership being another factor), but with several miles of track closed, freeing up trains and forcing riders to seek other routes for their commute, those problems would be fixed.

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

@tour guide

LOL - this is WMATA we're talking about.

In all seriousness though, I would almost prefer Metro to just shut down part or all of a line for an extended period of time, fix everything, and then open it back up. Yes, it would suck, but I'm getting really tired of all this weekend track work with no end in sight.

by Rebecca on Aug 26, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

And who would they borrow them from, do any local agencies have spare buses? I think the lead time to buy new buses is several years with most major manufacturers due to order backlogs. I doubt they will find many that are willing and able to help. Maybe they could use school buses if it's during the Summer...

by BTA on Aug 26, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

@ tour guide

Adding an express track underground between Tenleytown and Grosvenor would add atleast a year to any work.

1 Block off parts of Wisonsin Ave, Rockville Pike or side streets
2 Build a new tunnel from the current one to new tunnel.
3 Build a new tunnel.
4 Build a new opening for tunnel to connect with current tracks above or below ground.

If they are going to build a new tunnel might as well build one between the sections of the Red Line at the closest points.

Also where is the current tunnel is it directly under Wisonsin Ave, Rockville Pike or to the side ? If its to the side meaning you will have to have the new tunnel further from the Wisconsin or Rockville will lead to the new tunnel under more property creating more problems.

by kk on Aug 26, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

Even if July and August are peak times for the system, that does not mean they are for the Red Line.

by Crickey7 on Aug 26, 2013 4:54 pm • linkreport

@Tour Guide, the chances of building an express track are zero. Would take 5 to 8 years, cost a lot of money, and would realistically offer minimal operational benefit afterwards.

By the time a shutdown might happen, the Phase 1 Silver Line will be open. An alternate bus route to take some of the pressure off of the Glenmont end of the Red Line would be to run buses from Grosvenor to the McLean Metro station. Those going to Tysons already, the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, or Foggy Bottom could take the bus to the McLean metro station.

by AlanF on Aug 26, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

Shady Grove to Glenmont via Md. 200 is 12.7 miles in 19 minutes (via Md. 200 and Md. 182 (Layhill Road) (according to Google)). Because of the nature of Md. 200, the travel time for that trip will not be subject to much traffic congestion delay.

Shady Grove to Wheaton (via Rockville) is 9.8 miles in 25 minutes (also Google).

The difference in travel time is probably greater during the A.M. peak commute period.

But another way to avoid some of the peak-period congestion might be to run buses in an inverted "U" shape from the Rockville Station north to Shady Grove, then to Glenmont via Md. 200 and Md. 182 (total travel time is 28 minutes).

I am not especially enthused about putting more patrons through Wheaton if there is an alternate route available, with its very long escalators.

by C. P. Zilliacus on Aug 26, 2013 5:05 pm • linkreport

Let's say they shut the red line down between Van Ness/Tenlytown and Grosvenor for six weeks. I'm curious, how valuable is the trackage between Grosvenor and Shady Grove. Who would use this isolated segment?

I ask, because I wonder if this might be a chance to accelerate trackwork on this line of the track all the way to Shady Grove. Would it be possible for Metro to get a lot of work done by straight shutting down the Grosvenor-Shady Grove on weekends, even more aggressively while the Tenlytown-Grosvenor section is down.

Could this be an opportunity to make serious progress on the red line backlog, at least past tenlytown?

by Jared Christian on Aug 26, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

Well, isn't this just like WMATA? I spent five years working for the New York transit system, whose oldest tunnels date to 1904, and which has various water problems of its own. We never, ever even considered closing down service, even on the Nostrand Avenue line in Brooklyn where a rising water table caused the tunnel invert (the floor) to collapse. We shored it up, hired a contractor to dewater it and replace the invert, and kept running with a 10 MPH slow order. One of these days, WMATA will figure out how to run a railroad. I'm not holding my breath, though.

by USDOT guy on Aug 26, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

For bus bridge purposes, I think you have to run the system to Tenleytown, rather than Van Ness. Matt Johnson lays out the scenario that I would hope WMATA would select.

by Andrew on Aug 26, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

With response to the question of where Metro would get the buses. I think Metro is currently buying a bunch of new buses. While the old ones were going to be retired (or sold to somewhere outside WMATA), could those older buses be temporarily used for this track closure work before they are removed permanently from the system? One other random idea, if this was the summer. Could school bus drivers be trained to drive Metrobuses for shuttle service purposes? Just a random idea.

by GP Steve on Aug 26, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

I think I'm going to telecommute while this is going on. I don't even want to think about how bad the traffic will be on 270 if all the normal Metro riders hop in their cars.

by Chris S. on Aug 26, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

If they wait till the Purple Line is open . . .

by Crickey7 on Aug 26, 2013 5:26 pm • linkreport

As somebody who rode this part of the red line daily for the last 6 years, this makes a lot of sense. I have previously speculated that the drastic amount of weekend closures and single tracking that has taken place in this section of the red line could only be explained by some hushed-up safety issue. Yet every time maintenance was done, it was to 'replace ties'! LOL, as if replacing ties is something that has to be done every couple of months!

This could offer an amazing window of opportunity to try dedicated BRT lanes on Rockville Pike / Wisconsin. Local resistance could be overcome justified by the absence of the red line, and it would show local communities that the world does not end when you put in bus lanes.

I think a short closure could be useful to remind the community of the value of transit. 'War on cars' generals might be astonished to realize that the only reason they are able to get to work in anything like a reasonable timeframe is because thousands of commuters choose the red line.

by renegade09 on Aug 26, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7 - Won't help, since the Purple Line will terminate at Bethesda.

by Distantantennas on Aug 26, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

I agree that this closure is an opportunity to put BRT in place from Tenley to Grosvenor (or beyond). Even if the BRT lanes have to be in a semi-temporarily installed infrastructure, this would seem to make sense. As BRT has been discussed for MoCo, let's make this segment a priority. While I imagine the BRT would not permanently run south of Friendship (or Bethesda), it would continue to Tenley during this period.

The offload of Shady Grove passengers to the eastern side of the Red Line with the ICC would seem to put less strain on points south as I imagine Shady Grove places a good amount of the load on the Red Line.

by GP Steve on Aug 26, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

@GP Steve
Shady Grove is the most-used station other than those in DC and Arlington, though it just barely beats out Vienna and Silver Spring.

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 6:17 pm • linkreport

@USDOT Guy: I don't know when you worked at the NYCTA, but the the Montague Street Tunnel is closed between downtown Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn until October of next year.

by Neil Flanagan on Aug 26, 2013 6:47 pm • linkreport

Chicago is a very inapt comparison. Not only were there parallel lines where the closures took place, but there there also was existing parallelism in the bus lines. Rt. 355/Wisc Ave is a patchwork of lines. NIH could pitch-in and ramp-up its anemic shuttle service to take some pressure off of Metro and Walter reed could do likewise.

by Rich on Aug 26, 2013 8:42 pm • linkreport

I say just shut down the whole system for 6 weeks. Nothing to focus the region on how critical Metro is like a complete shutdown. Blame it on sequester.

by David C on Aug 26, 2013 8:54 pm • linkreport

One suggestion that I think might work would be to convert HOV Lanes on I-270 to BRT Lanes that run all the way the to Tysons Corner, with several stops there. But, that will require cooperation from Virginia and Fairfax County.

by Doug on Aug 26, 2013 9:16 pm • linkreport

@David C:
Yes. Show them that the backbone of this region is not our highways, but our mass transit. No more whining about "why should I pay for Metro, it's stupid and I don't use it."

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 9:18 pm • linkreport

Does the compact allow Maryland to pay a pro-rated share of its scheduled contribution, covering only the service Metro actually provides?

by Turnip on Aug 26, 2013 9:23 pm • linkreport

Is this like in the mid 1900s when the car companies bought the streetcar systems just so they could close them and make everyone car dependent? Between this and the weekend closures, surely the only explanation is that whomever runs Metro is trying to get us all hating and no longer riding the system and buying cars.

by Joe on Aug 26, 2013 10:14 pm • linkreport

@ Neil Flanagan

Yes, the tunnel is closed. All it took was historic flooding from a hurricane - what pansies!

MTA NY, for all its issues, does a much better job maintaining its much larger, 100+ years old, open 24 hours system than WMATA does maintaining ours.

by Eitan on Aug 26, 2013 10:41 pm • linkreport

Joe, I love Who Framed Roger Rabbit as much as the next guy, but the Great American Streetcar Conspiracy is probably less like the lysine price fixing conspiracy and more like Microsoft bundling. One was pretty straightforward illegal, and the other was just aggressive and possibly unethical (and not so much of a conspiracy really).

by David C on Aug 26, 2013 10:42 pm • linkreport

@Joe, to be fair, the circumstances are different. Why not let the city choke on traffic for a few months, then bring back a better Red Line as the lord and savior of Southwestern MoCo and the Upper Northwest. And show them that buses!=evil in the interim.

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 10:51 pm • linkreport

@ImThat1Guy and Matt Johnson

Using the Van Ness double crossover to terminate trains at Tenleytown should not be that big of a deal. Both tracks are bidirectional signaled. WMATA used the Eastern Market double crossover to terminate trains at Stadium-Armory for almost a year and a half from July of 1977 to October of 1978 before the line was extended to New Carrollton.

by Sand Box John on Aug 26, 2013 11:11 pm • linkreport

@Sand Box John:
Good point, and thanks for the info. I used your track diagram ( is by you, correct?) to help myself visualize what I meant. Didn't know what all the numbers meant so I ignored them, though :P. I suppose if I could understand them I would understand for sure whether or not this would work (but as you say, it should).

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 26, 2013 11:33 pm • linkreport

@ ImThat1Guy

What Are Bladwin Drive, Pinefield Street, Wolf Trap Chatham Ford Road, Hunter Mill and Sunset Hill that are listed on the Silver Line in the diagram.

by kk on Aug 27, 2013 1:21 am • linkreport


The number with the + in them are chaining. Chaining is how civil engineers measure things along the path of a project from a defined point, mile posts if will. 1 chain is 100'. Everything to the right of the + is a fraction of a 100'. So 1408+57 = 140,857'. The defined point for zero is where the station arch vaults cross in Metro Center for the A, B, C, D, G, J, K and N routes and Gallery place for the E, F and L routes. 140,857 will be the distance from center of the platform in the Dulles Airport station to the point where arch vaults cross in Metro Center.

The Red background number are turnout frog angles. The number are the same as roof pitch angles. So a #10 turnout diverges 1 unit 10 units of run from where the rails cross in the turnout frog.

The letter number labels are the signal labels. A02 08 is the signal one would see if standing on the north end of the outbound platform at Dupont Circle. A = A route, 02 = Dupont Circle train control room, 08 = signal number. The smaller numbers are the turnout point motor numbers. All signals have even numbers, the corresponding odd numbers a are assigned to the turnout point motor.

by Sand Box John on Aug 27, 2013 8:54 am • linkreport

@ Eitan: And all it took was the near total breakdown of their system, cars whose doors wouldn't close, 40 years of deferred maintenance, catastrophic near failures, and endless waits on weekends when the subway is apparently running. Oh, and they still have massive closures from time to time.

And most lines have express tracks, are close to the surface, and one line serves more people daily than the entire Metro system does. Plus, the system has dedicated funding. This kind of operation is done elsewhere in the world on systems that are much similar to ours. I don't know why people are always comparing Washington to New York.

by Neil Flanagan on Aug 27, 2013 9:05 am • linkreport


Oh, and Yes the track schematic is my work.

by Sand Box John on Aug 27, 2013 9:30 am • linkreport

Chatam Ford Road and Sunset Hills are interlockings. Hunter Mill and Wolf Trap are apparently road crossings, but I don't know why they're labeled. Wolf Trap is an option for a future station, so that could explain that, but Hunter Mill? You'll have to ask Sand Box John

@Sand Box John:
What about lines that don't go through Metro Center (i.e. the Green and Yellow)? Where's the 0 point for them? I notice that Gallery Place is 00+04, so the 4ft marker in one direction, but which direction? And why isn't it simply 00+00?

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 27, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

I think creating dedicated bus lanes on the beltway, part of 95N/S, and 270 are the way to go--regardless. My only caveat is to do it without reducing the current lane number.

Cops would have a field day pulling over people driving on the bus lanes! Or we could put a light rail on those lanes and let the offenders get stuck and smashed!

by Bobby Fridgerator on Aug 27, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

I've lived in the District since 2003 and I ride the metrorail exclusively, every day. The only true solution is to build a 3rd tunnel, as exists in NY. This would allow for removing broken down trains, bypassing stations under construction, and the addition of express service.

Metro is in a constant state of repair/disrepair and if you think them closing these stations is really going to fix anything then you haven't been riding very long.

More so, if you think busses are the answer, then again you have not been a system rider for long. The busses are always overcrowded, stop every 2 blocks, get caught in traffic on roads that can handle neither their size nor sloth, and private drivers in the area already have a tough enough commute (2nd worst in the country!) - adding more clunky busses to the mix and taking away huge amount of road for them is NOT the answer.

by AU Alum on Aug 27, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

"adding more clunky busses to the mix and taking away huge amount of road for them is NOT the answer."

Buses use less road space per passenger than cars. By a long shot. Plus "express buses," temporary shoulder bus lanes on the Beltway, and reassigning 1 lane of Wisconsin Avenue to buses in the peak direction during rush hour, are not out of the question.

by ImThat1Guy on Aug 27, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

A bus can hold 60-70 people and is three car lengths. A car is one car length and holds maybe 3-4 people if car pooling. I don't think buses are causing congestion.

by BTA on Aug 27, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

While I am a supporter of buses, there is more to it than you state. The stopping of buses at stops does make buses not quite as efficient as they would be if they made no stops (other than traffic lights, etc) as personal cars do. So it's not solely the number of people and size of the vehicle, but also some deficiencies. While buses are probably a net positive on congestion, they do make the flow of traffic less optimal (less constant speed) though in a more optimal manner by packing more people into the vehicle.

by GP Steve on Aug 27, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

Steve, that is true. But even if a bus moves at say half the normal pace of a car and so you say it occupies twice the road space in a practical sense a bus is still going to beat out most cars during peak. And I spend a lot of time watching cars go by as I wait for my morning bus and am quite confident that the average pax count per car is something like 1.5 so really it would be hard for most bus lines not to beat that in terms of efficiency. And we havent even factored in street parking space vs travel lanes.

by BTA on Aug 27, 2013 3:35 pm • linkreport

I agree that buses can be stuck in traffic like everyone else. I just want them to have dedicated lanes to the Metro system.

I wasn't imagining these buses on city streets; I was thinking on the highways (95, 495, 270, 295). You would go to a park-N-ride and go from there. The bus would drop you off at a Metro station. This assume the metro station is open.

by Bobby Fridgerator on Aug 27, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Bobby Fridgerator( Or we could put a light rail on those lanes and let the offenders get stuck and smashed!)

- it would be soo entertaining to see the numerous lawsuits aimed towards the folx putting a light rail on busy roads reducing travel lanes. So to put it basically there is no way in hell that the transportation planners would be soo ignorant to entertain the thaught of adding trains along busy roads just because of temporary subway closures.

by steve on Aug 27, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport


Bladwin Drive, Pinefield Street, Wolf Trap, Chatham Ford Road, Hunter Mill and Sunset Hill are train control rooms between stations, along with Airport East, Airport West, Dulles Yard Lead Junction East and Dulles Yard Lead Junction West. There also is a new train control room between the East and West Falls Church stations next to the Fisher Avenue traction power substation that will govern the movement of trains through double crossover and N route junction turnouts under the Great Falls Street underpass.

I may not have made it very clear concerning Green and Yellow lines.

The zero chaining point for the E, F and L routes (Green line and Yellow line to just north of the Pentagon station) is where the station arch vaults cross in Gallery Place. The L route chaining ends in the area of the signals that protect the north end of junction turnouts at the north of the Pentagon station. Chaining south of that point is measured from Metro Center.

00+04 in Gallery Place is the center of the lower level platform, 00+00 is where arch vaults cross, 00+04 is 4' north of where arch vaults cross. 00+75 in in Metro Center is the center of the lower level platform, 00+75 is 75' south of where arch vaults cross.

by Sand Box John on Aug 27, 2013 10:42 pm • linkreport

The leaks are in the tunnel between the Medical Center and Friendship Heights stations, where water is infiltrating and can cause corrosion of the tracks and switches, officials said.

As such, I think they're only looking at closing Medical Center, Bethesda and Friendship Heights, not extending the closure to Tenleytown and Grosvenor.

by recyclist on Aug 28, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

If Medical Center station is closed, what happens to the people who leave Grosvenor on southbound trains? They can't get off at Medical Center. They can't continue southbound. Their train can't change tracks.

I suppose they'll just have to stay aboard their train until the line opens again in 6 weeks.

If Medical Center, Bethesda, and Friendship Heights Ste closed, the segments between those stations will be closed. But the segments on both sides will also have to be closed.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 28, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Right, sorry. I think they will only CLOSE Bethesda and close the tunnels BETWEEN Medical Center, Bethesda and Friendship Heights.

by recyclist on Aug 28, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

The NBC story was very clear about closing 3 stations. It also showed footage of the leaks at the interlocking chamber /south/ of Friendship Heights.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 28, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

If CSX could give up the track capacity during rush hours, then maybe, besides the normal Marc traffic, a rush-hour Marc shuttle could be run on the other track between Rockville and Silver Spring. Combined with the normal Marc service, this could provide enough capacity to significantly augment the bus bridges, although maybe the Red Line at Silver Spring wouldn't be able to absorb the extra passengers.

by Steve Dunham on Aug 28, 2013 9:30 pm • linkreport

renegade09 The Council may be drinking Rockefeller Committee Koolaid, but Montgomery county residents don't want their transportation made worse, and traffic congestion deliberately increased, just to make BRT look like a cute option.
As far as fixing the Metro, that's long overdue. Instead of genuine, needed repair the Metro spends its money and efforts on new fare pay boxes and extensions. Bluntly - it's run by politically connected incompetents, and that's why it's so bad off. If it has to close six weeks, yes, we need more buses. But most people will quit using Metro if they can help it during that time.
They already need more Q buses, they are already full and busy. they don't need to make Q buses on Veirs Mill "limited" - that's nonsense. They just need to run them twice as often, longer, and more of them on the busiest routes. And make every stop have a bench at least! (Veirs Mill is starting to improve that way). But anyone who mentions busing on 355 should first plead for stops to have benches and shelters right now for where people wait. Most riders on 355 are coming from Veirs Mill, btw.
BRT is making an exclusive bus that goes just where rich people live (not that they'd use it) at a outrageous cost and life-endangering congestion. Calling a suburb "urban" to excuse making traffic worse - is indecent behavior. People launching gleefully towards causing or exploiting traffic worsening plans are those who want to approve Chris Christie's tactics of endangering others to get support for their political goals the wrong way.

by asffa on Jan 10, 2014 3:09 pm • linkreport

I think what is really needed is to add in some Metro Express options for each line a few times each hour. It be nice to go from say the Shady Grove Metro to Bethesda, Dupont Circle, Metro Center, Union Station, Silver Spring, then Glenmont. Only 5-6 stops not 20+.

How can we make this happen?

by Greg on Jun 2, 2014 2:41 pm • linkreport


Unfortunately without 3rd tracks which only a very few stations have, I don't see it happening. Let's say you could add a few third tracks to allow trains passing other trains, I don't think you could really get that far before you came across another train. Metro used to have very limited express trains for the Nats at RFK: "Two Orange Line trains are designated express service between Metro Center and Stadium-Armory, stopping at only L'Enfant Plaza along the way." However would that service have been much better as that means there were sufficient gaps in service to allow trains to bypass those stations?

by GP Steve on Jun 2, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

Well I think what we have here is solvable problem. How it's solved will take some engineering know how and little ingenuity. I think you have alot of people out in the Germantown, Gaithersburg, and Rockville areas that want to travel to DC in 10-15 minutes not 40+. Today's culture has changed and out transit infrastructure needs to keep pace.

by Greg on Jun 2, 2014 5:55 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us