Metro locks out an entire College Park neighborhood
Metro's aggressive rebuilding program sometimes means riders must use bus shuttles to travel to and from closed stations. But when Metro closes Greenbelt station, the work blocks access to the shuttles from an entire neighborhood.
Left: Walking path from Hollywood to Greenbelt on normal days. Right: When the station is closed. Maps by the author.
Greenbelt Metro station sits on the boundary between the cities of Greenbelt and College Park. On the Greenbelt side there's a bus loop and a massive parking lot. But few people live within a reasonable walk. On the College Park side is Hollywood, a neighborhood of single-family homes straddling Rhode Island Avenue. A pedestrian tunnel beneath the tracks links the two.
Right now, Metro is building a test track for new railcars between College Park and Greenbelt. This means construction most weekends, and sometimes Metro closes Greenbelt station for the work. So far in 2014, Greenbelt has been closed on 3 weekends. It will likely close again before the year is out.
As usual when Metro closes stations for weekend work, they provide bus shuttles to the nearest Green Line station that's open.
But there's a problem: When Metro closes Greenbelt station due to work, they lock the station gates. The pedestrian tunnel linking Hollywood is behind these gates. So when the station is closed, the tunnel closes too.
This means people who live in Hollywood can't even walk through the station to get to the shuttle buses substituting for trains. They also can't access regular buses going to places like New Carrollton, the University of Maryland, or Wheaton.
When Greenbelt station is closed, what's usually an easy 4 minute walk through the station becomes a daunting and impractical 1 hour 9 minute walk of 3.5 miles.
College Park station is different
College Park station, the next one down the Green Line, has a similar design, except for one crucial difference: the pedestrian tunnel under the tracks at College Park emerges outside the station gates, and so then tunnel can remain open even when the station is closed.
Greenbelt's tunnel isn't so lucky.
Can Greenbelt change?
Is there any way for WMATA to make sure riders who live in Hollywood still have reasonable access to buses, even when the station is closed? Ideally the agency could leave the station gates open at Greenbelt, and just block off the faregates with a barricade.
That might mean Metro has to have one more staff person at the station on work days, but locking out most of the people who live within walking distance of the station isn't a good option.
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