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Communication is everything on "Blue Line Realignment," a.k.a. the "Yellow and Orange Line Service Increase"

Metro plans a relatively minor service change that will significantly increase overall system capacity. The way it's framed will either help the change see widespread adoption or else derail the idea, cause enormous customer confusion, or force changes to the Metro map that cause other confusion.

Metro has often called this the "Blue Line Split" or "Blue Line Realignment." It would be better to call it the "Yellow Line Split" or, better yet, the "Yellow and Orange Line Service Increase."

Left: What the Metro map could turn into without restraint.
Right: How Metro could communicate planned changes.

What Metro actually wants to do is to add a few rush hour Yellow and Orange Line trains and remove some Blue Line trains. Riders at Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, and Benning Road through Largo won't have fewer trains; the new Yellow Line trains will go to Franconia-Springfield (and Greenbelt, actually adding service north of Mt. Vernon Square rush hours), and the new Orange Line trains will go to Largo.

Riders from Franconia and Van Dorn who go to Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom, and Farragut West, or transfer to the Orange Line, might have to wait longer for a train. However, it will give Franconia and Van Dorn riders a one-seat ride to Yellow Line stations, and provide more trains overall for everyone on the Orange Line in Virginia and the Yellow Line in DC and Maryland. Once the Silver Line opens, some of the Orange trains, including the new ones, will become Silver Line trains.

If approved, the change will go into effect next summer. Feel free to debate the merits. But Metro has decided this makes sense overall, and I agree. The bigger issue is communication.

When staff presented this to the WMATA Board on Thursday, members rightly focused on communication. They asked Jim Hughes, Director of Operations Planning and Scheduling, if Metro had a communications plan for this change? Hughes said no. The Board urged staff to develop one right away.

Peter Benjamin pointed out that a service change years ago had been scrapped simply because riders were confused. Anyone know the details? It seems hard to believe it could have been more confusing than this wacky map from 1980-1983, but maybe the sensitivity level changed.

As with the earlier change, the way Metro talks about the change will be critical. In particular, the issue is what color the trains will be. Right now, all presentations talk about "rerouting Blue Line trains." Operationally, this fits how Metro thinks about it, because the trains are leaving Franconia-Springfield, and right now trains leaving Franconia-Springfield are Blue.

Therefore, tables in the presentation to the Board list numbers of "Blue Line to Greenbelt" and "Blue/Yellow to DC through L'Enfant." Having a Blue Line train go over the bridge and up 7th Street would create massive confusion.

I'm almost certain Metro doesn't really expect to call these trains Blue Line trains, but by referring to them in that way in presentations, it confuses observers and journalists, leading to maps like this:

Image by the Washington Post.

Compared to this, a separate color seems to make a lot of sense. That's the reaction some riders gave in a focus group, and it was the reaction from Jim Graham at the Board meeting. "There are lots of colors left in the rainbow," he said, and suggested pink. And the presentations have encouraged this view by including maps showing the new service as a separate line:

Image from WMATA.

However, creating a new color would be a bad idea. I listed a large number of reasons almost two years ago. Among them is that this new color would only run rush hours, and then only three trains per hour. That would likely lead some riders to wait around for a certain line which isn't coming for hours or until the next day.

It would also make the Metro map much more complex for a service that's only different from the Yellow Line for riders at four stations, which represent only 3% of total riders. Those stations also get few tourists, and tourists are most likely to become confused while regular riders will quickly get used to any change.

Plus, as Peter Benjamin noted, it's not quite right to create a new color for one split service pattern, Yellow Line trains that go to Franconia instead of Huntington, but not for the other one, Orange Line trains that go to Largo. Should that get its own color, too? How about ... burgundy?

And some Red Line trains only go from Grosvenor to Silver Spring. Should they be another color? Couple that with the future Silver Line, and the Metro map might end up looking like this insanity:

There's a much easier way. Just call the trains Yellow Line trains. For almost all their length, they match the Yellow Line. Almost everyone riding them will see no difference. In fact, since the occasional Yellow Line train already goes to Greenbelt, showing the Yellow Line there will clarify these trains as well.

New York used to have a different color for each route, and the ensuing spaghetti map looks not that unlike the crazy rainbow map above. Their biggest innovation was to combine routes that share the same path through the central business district.

DC could easily do the same. A train on the 7th Street subway is either Green or Yellow depending on whether it goes over the Potomac or under the Anacostia. A train on the Foggy Bottom-Capitol Hill line is Orange if it goes to northern Arlington and Fairfax and Blue if it hooks around to the south. That's a straightforward scheme that has the advantage of being the way things already work.

I think the riders south of King Street and east of Stadium-Armory will have little trouble with this scheme. But if Metro thinks it'll be confusing, they could introduce route numbers or letters. That could also encompass the way half the Red Line trains don't run the full length.

Board members criticized the framing of this issue as a "reroute" or "realignment." The latter, in particular, makes it sound like the tracks are moving.

This is an improvement in service. It's going to mean more trains across the Potomac to carry more people. A few people lose out, but there's more capacity. This is a good thing. Metro should talk about this as the service improvement it is.

Since Metro has no communications plan yet, I've created one for them. Here's the flyer I'd recommend posting:

Update: Added a note that this change is planned for summer 2011.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Any idea on when the extra orange line trains will come? Does the board/staff have a timetable for the changes?

by When on Jul 12, 2010 10:37 am • linkreport


this last map wins the day. simplicity is your friend in graphic design. and ESPECIALLY in wayfinding cartography.

by IMGoph on Jul 12, 2010 10:41 am • linkreport

Your flyer is good. No need to make this sound more drastic or difficult than it is. "Some rush hour trains from Franconia are now Yellow" is an easy message to understand.

by db on Jul 12, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

David: I agree with your assertion that either calling the new blue line route that goes over the bridge the yellow line OR switching to a letter or number system is the way to go. Communication will be key.

However, I must admit that I cringed when I read the phrase "derail the idea" in the first paragraph of this rail story. I'm a little sensitive.

by Penny Everline on Jul 12, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

It's not the communication, it's the plan.

You're looking at this from a DC centric viewpoint.

The real blowback to this plan it it makes it harder for Arlington (and NW orange line riders) to to seldom used destinations such as:

1. Pentagon
2. National Airport
3. Pentagon City Mall
4. King St. Alexandria

The answer to the orange line congestion is not to cut of the blue line. It is to run more 8 car orange line trains, run them quicker, or possibly convert a few car-pairs into standing room only. Or bring some bus service to run along 66 to alleviate rush hour orange line pressure.

Granted, this is a rush hour proposal. But it based on the model of "get in and out of the city" rather than suburban point to point.

And of course, to beat a dead horse, the Silver Line will make things worse -- and make it substantially more difficult for orange line riders to get to National by rail. Thanks!

by charlie on Jul 12, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

@David - thanks for this post; I agree completely. We really need to make sure they get this message and don't clutter up the map with a new color that will simply confuse people. Honestly, blue line trains on BOTH levels of L'Enfant, traveling on all four tracks?! That is ridiculous to say, at least. How can we make sure they do it this way you've proposed?

by Matt Glazewski on Jul 12, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

As much as I like the groovy 70s-era color combo of burgundy, orange, and silver, simplicity is *definitely* the key, which is what makes the last map a viable suggestion. Even better if Metro could just add stickers to existing rail maps to save the money of having to reprint all of them!

It is often confusing to out of town visitors, especially, when you tell them that certain trains terminate at certain stations during rush, or that only every other (fill in the color)-line train goes to the very end of the line. Therefore, the concern that people would "wait around for a certain line which isn't coming for hours or until the next day" is a very real one. Just another reason that sticking with the current color schematic makes sense. Riders will just need to pay closer attention to what's on the side of the cars (Ft. Totten vs. Greenbelt, e.g.) and on the arrival boards.

by Emilyhaha on Jul 12, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

I think it was originally thought of as a Blue Line modification because people often forget about the Yellow Line. It only has 2 unique stations.

Framing it as Yellow Line increase is clearer.

Of course, there will be the stubborn contingent who feign confusion just to play up the controversy.

by Lou on Jul 12, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

Good piece, David. I hope that WMATA is reading.

by Cavan on Jul 12, 2010 11:01 am • linkreport

even the current design can cause confusion, though. just this morning, i was on the lower platform at gallery place, and a large tourist family was confused regarding where to go to get to l'enfant plaza. a green line train arrived heading south, but they initially didn't board because they believed they had to wait for a yellow line train.

i learned that, because the map shows the green line on the right at that station, and the yellow line on the left, they believed that yellow line trains ran south and green line trains ran north. when they saw a green line train heading south, they were confused.

by IMGoph on Jul 12, 2010 11:04 am • linkreport

BRAVO. That last map is 50,000x better than anything else being proposed. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.

Just include a legend to show that "shaded" lines are "Rush Hour Only," and you're set. (The current legend indicates that shaded lines are for "Future" stations, which is silly, given that there aren't any on the map)

by andrew on Jul 12, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

I think, without doubt, the new trains should be marked as yellow and maps should show that. But using phrasing like "Yellow and Orange Line Service Increase" just rubs riders like myself, who take Blue between King St and Rosslyn/Foggy Bottom (depending on my mood), the wrong way. Since all I see 95% of the time is fewer trains that I'm used to.

I don't know if it's possible to have language that's clear, accurate, not overly negative, but doesn't sound like PR-speak papering over a service reduction for some riders. Blue line riders already feel like Metro ignores us in favor of Orange and Yellow.

by Byron on Jul 12, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport

David, if you come up with no other ideas this year, you've earned your keep for 2010. Great idea, great messaging and a plan that I hope WMATA follows. They need to begin to see the operations and messaging differently. Come up with a plan for service, and then come up with a plan from scratch for how to talk about it, even if it means changing the terminology or overall direction that the operations folks have used.

Thinking of it as an expanded yellow line service, no matter what trains they're using or where they are originating from is the best way to deliver the message.

And WMATA has a great chance to deliver this message publicly as a benefit or net positive for people. We can disagree about the merits, but why they'd neglect an opportunity to say "we're improving things!" is beyond me.

Listen up WMATA! This is a good messaging plan! You're improving service!

by Steve Davis on Jul 12, 2010 11:14 am • linkreport

Communication is one thing.

The underlying reality is that the Metro system as a whole is probably on the verge of being too complex for the simple color-based naming system.

If Metro builds more interline connectors, that will enable even more services that would require even more colors. At some point, the system will have to go down the route of most other complex systems and switch to a letter/number based system with color as a secondary indicator.

by Alex B. on Jul 12, 2010 11:19 am • linkreport

I'm assuming there would be no change to existing Yellow Line service under this plan...i.e. no increase or reduction in the number of trains going to/from Huntington.

by Froggie on Jul 12, 2010 11:22 am • linkreport

Froggie: That's my understanding.

by David Alpert on Jul 12, 2010 11:23 am • linkreport

Does anyone else remember seeing WMATA maps on trains in the early 1990s that actually showed the yellow line split?

Maybe I'm making it up, but I really think that I recall seeing dashed yellow lines going to *both* Springfield and Huntington at some point before they opened, and thinking to my 10-year-old self "that's dumb, why not just call one of them the blue line".

by BeyondDC on Jul 12, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

As one of those "few" riders that on a daily basis squeeze themselves in an overfilled blue line train at Foggy-Bottom/Rosslyn to Franconia-Springfield and vv, I disagree on both counts.

1) The blue line is heavily used between the Pentagon and Foggy-Bottom (probably to Metro Center). I think Matt has present the numbers a few times. Come ride the blue line in rush hour if you think it can use less trains.

2) I like the multicolored map. It provides clarity without much text. Text is a killer on maps because people tend to not be able to read it. It's easier to make people remember that the pink link only rides at rush hour than to freak tourists and casual riders out with yellow and orange lines that have different endings end stations - something you don't se on the map, but o see on the train.

Especially tourists live by those end stations. I have gotten very confused both in London and New York while getting on same colored lines but needing to be on a specific branch of them.

3) You could get rid of the burgundy/brown line by extending some of the silver line trains to Largo. It would give travelers from Dulles more options.

by Jasper on Jul 12, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

It's already a major PITA to get from north arlington to pentagon city/airport/alexandria. with even longer wait times for blue line trains at rosslyn, it will basically eliminate rail transportation as a viable option for many trips in favor of much faster car rides.

by RD on Jul 12, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

Will there still be Yellows that end at Mt Vernon, too? Assuming you're using dashed lines to show occasional service, the red line should have dashes at both ends, and the yellow dashes should extend to Mt Vernon.

It's kind of amazing how complex Metro is making their 5 line system.

by jcm on Jul 12, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

@BeyondDC - yes! I've seen it too. Then, also on the Original Map that was referenced you can clearly see the Yellow line going to Franconia anyway. Who decided to change that?

by Matt Glazewski on Jul 12, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport

When: It's planned for next summer, summer 2011. I've added something to the article to note that. Thanks.

Byron: I've added some text to the top and an additional callout box pointing to the Blue Line in Arlington that says that service on the Pentagon-Rosslyn segment will be reduced. You're right that the communication, while it should be positive about the change, should also not seem to be sweeping that under the rug.

by David Alpert on Jul 12, 2010 11:47 am • linkreport

Seems to me Metro tried something similar in the late 80s-early 90s where they ran Orange Line trains on the Blue Line and Blue Line trains on the Orange Line. That didn't work out, what makes them think this will?

by Carmen Turner on Jul 12, 2010 11:47 am • linkreport

Carmen: That's this service from 1980-1982, and they stopped it because it was a temporary measure until the Yellow Line opened. It wasn't stopped because it failed. I think it was pretty wacky, though.

by David Alpert on Jul 12, 2010 11:49 am • linkreport

@Matt Glazewski:
The Yellow Line was originally supposed to run from Greenbelt to Franconia and Backlick Road. The Blue Line was supposed to run from Addison Road to Huntington.

In 1983, when the section of the C Route from National Airport to Huntington opened (along with the Yellow Line Bridge and the track from L'Enfant Plaza to Gallery Place), the Yellow Line was introduced. Because it was so short, it required fewer railcars to run the Yellow Line from Huntington to Gallery Place and the Blue Line from Addison Road to National Airport. And Metro didn't have enough railcars to spare.

In the end, the Huntington/Franconia split was kept the same. When Van Dorn Street opened in 1991, Huntington had been on the Yellow Line for 8 years. Metro decided not to change things.

The other changes included consolidating the separate Franconia and Backlick Road stations into one stop, Franconia-Springfield and the truncation of the Yellow Line to Mount Vernon Square.

by Matt Johnson on Jul 12, 2010 11:51 am • linkreport

I think that "overlapping" of Blue and Orange was handled well, because of the way Matt Johnson explained it a few weeks ago. Orange line trains always went to New Carrollton, and to Ballston (at that time). It was not as important where you boarded. The key was training riders into associating the terminal station with the color. I think that was an effective solution.

I'm not sure that concept can be maintained with this current reconfiguration.

by Lou on Jul 12, 2010 11:54 am • linkreport

@Carmen Turner:
You're not the real Carmen Turner - Metro GM from 1983-1990, I assume.

Anyway, the reason the trains ran the way they did on the map David linked to was for two reasons:

  1. Ridership would be balanced on the branches (which saved the amount of rollingstock needed)
  2. Riders would get used to boarding a train to the appropriate terminal.

What this meant was that trains ran two service patterns:

  • New Carrollton to National Airport
  • Addison Road to Ballston

But the trains were called by different colors based on their direction. Despite the fact that all trains starting at New Carrollton were going to National Airport and vice versa, trains starting at New Carrollton were called Blue, so that passengers headed for National Airport would get used to the idea of boarding a Blue Line train to go there. And get used to boarding an Orange Line train to head for New Carrollton.

The alternative would have been to have the Orange Line run from National Airport to New Carrollton and then the Blue Line run from Ballston to Addison Road. But then the risk would have been that people would have gotten used to that setup and either (a) been confused when it was changed or (b) the change would have become permanent, as was the case with the Yellow/Blue flop flop on the south side.

by Matt Johnson on Jul 12, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

This is a good move, even for people who commute from the orange line in Arlington to the Pentagon or south. More orange line trains through the Rosslyn tunnel means easier afternoon rush transfers back from blue to orange.

I commute from the orange line in Arlington to the Pentagon, and this change can't happen soon enough for me. Sure, I will have a longer connection in the morning at Rosslyn, but this is more than made up for by the fact that under the current service on my way back home if I arrive at Rosslyn durring the afternoon rush, I wait on the crowded platform as train after train passes with no room for more passengers.

by Aguirre on Jul 12, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

If only there was regular bus service between N. Arlington and DCA. I understand the 13G/A runs a few times on the weekend from DC, but that's it.

As a Ballston resident I usually take a cab to the airport, unless I have lots of time and then I take the Metro. I could take the 23A/C but that only gets me "almost there."

For residents in N. Arlington, increased bus service could lessen the impact.

by Ballston_Resident on Jul 12, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

Well...Metro ought to couple this graphical change with the preview of the Silver Line, as a dashed line. I remember for many years before the Green Line opened, they had it shown as "Future" on the maps. It's time for them to really look into this once and for all. Also, have they even settled on naming it the Silver Line for sure. That was originally just supposed to be temporary, as were the station names. I sure hope we don't have all 4 Tysons stations with the current names.

by xtr657 on Jul 12, 2010 12:37 pm • linkreport

@Aguirre; look, I feel you pain; but the proposed alignment means during rush hour you will be standing at Pentagon waiting for a blue line train -- that will be more crowded that today's train -- rather than waiting at Rosslyn.

And the graphics at Pentagon Station are so much more interesting....

by charlie on Jul 12, 2010 12:52 pm • linkreport

@charlie--ever been on a train going to Pentagon/Pentagon City? It's like Exodus when you get there. I'm convinced that a 1/3 of the train empties out at Pentagon City during evening rush and another 1/3 between Braddock Rd and King Street. I'd hardly call those stations seldom used.

by Catherine on Jul 12, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

Another "cheap" idea to deal with the Rosslyn tunnel/switch problem is to build a track that allows travel from Court House to Arlington Cemetery.

That way, the blue line cold run from Vienna to Franconia-Springfield. The Yellow line keeps doing what it does and the Silver line continues to Largo picking up the eastern end of the rerouted blue line.

The great advantage would be that there would be no more need for the switch in the Rosslyn tunnel, because the Silver and Orange lines would all go the same way. This would lead to a real increase in capacity.

And if you want to complain about the cost of constructing that extra stuff in Rosslyn, please consider that the only other serious way of increasing capacity across the Potomac is to build a second tunnel.

IMHO, this whole realignment of the blue and yellow lines is just kicking the elephant in the room further down the road. Let's face it: Both the crossing over and under the Potomac are at max capacity. Creating 5 or 10% extra capacity is not a serious solution to the lack of capacity.

by Jasper on Jul 12, 2010 1:14 pm • linkreport

I am against this solely because my WMATA Map Shower Curtain will become out of date.

by Bossi on Jul 12, 2010 1:14 pm • linkreport

Bossi FTW

by JS on Jul 12, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

I've also wondered if you could run 1 train in 4 during orange line evening rush as a "metro center express". Comes into MetroCenter, but then doesn't pick up passengers again until Rosslyn.

The idea would be to clear out passengers from metro center, and then the other trains that come in would get a normal load of passengers and people in the rest of DC orange line stops could get on.

by charlie on Jul 12, 2010 1:59 pm • linkreport

Is there any reason that we could not go to letters or numbers instead of useless colours.

We have lines right now atleast giving another 10-40 years we could have 10 or 20.

There are 26 letters and a endless amount of numbers whereas with colors after the basic ones people call them whatever they want. We could have Green, Lime, Ember, Teal, Pine etc and they all would be called Green by people.

W could have all branches on the maps separated into 3 or 4 colours and then numbers for each line like other systems The blue and orange lines could be one colour lets say blue on the map whereas the lines would have names of a letter or number.

And what happens to the areas which would get less service going to a specific place (Blue line going to Rosslyn from Alexandria or Blue Lines going to Frac-Springfield from Largo) these people will be effected with nothing good coming out of the deal for them.

by kk on Jul 12, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

We have 5 lines right now atleast(not counting silver, purple, wmata creating routes for the hell of it during events/delays) ; in another 10-40 years we could have 10 or 20.

by kk on Jul 12, 2010 2:48 pm • linkreport

I really don't understand why, for simplicity's sake, they have not thought about terminating the blue line at Stadium-Armory and having the Silver Line continue to Largo. That would increase capacity on the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor, while keeping the same number of trains going to Largo without splitting the orange line.

by Dave Murphy on Jul 12, 2010 2:58 pm • linkreport

We don't know if they haven't thought of it. Metro has never said anything about what the service pattern will be after the Silver Line opens, AFAIK.

by David Alpert on Jul 12, 2010 3:02 pm • linkreport

@ David Murphy

Then your splitting the Blue line and what about people along the route that want to go to Springfield or Alexandria.

Why should they (users who take train from Springfield or Alexandria) get a direct route into DC while others (users east of L'Enfant Plaza) don't get a direct route into Alexandria?

Where is the fairness ? Perhaps it could be acceptable if the others got a discount for that but otherwise you are taking service from one group and giving it to another.

by kk on Jul 12, 2010 3:13 pm • linkreport

kk: He means the Blue Line would go from Franconia-Springfield through Rosslyn, into DC, through L'Enfant, and continue on to Stadium-Armory, but end there. Instead of Blue trains going on to Largo, Silver trains could do it. Based on anticipated future train frequencies, that seems to make sense.

by David Alpert on Jul 12, 2010 3:21 pm • linkreport

I'm just trying to find out how this will change blue line service from king street.
the blue line is packed throughout rush hour and we already deal with less trains than orange and yellow.
how is this going to help?

by Matt on Jul 12, 2010 3:24 pm • linkreport

Charlie -

I'm sure I won't be the first to point out that express trains on Metro don't work since they can't pass other trains. So you're just bypassing stops for no good reason - you're not getting anywhere any faster. The trains afterward would be even more crowded than usual.

Also, I don't think you've been paying attention the numerous times that it has been explained here why it is not possible to run Orange line trains any quicker and why it isn't in the cards to run all 8 car trains any time soon. Also, there is already a bus line that mimics much of the Orange line in Virginia (the 38).

To all those complaining about getting from North Arlington to the airport - first of all, this proposal is only about rush hours. The rest of the day, normal Blue line operations. Secondly, the GW Parkway is about as smooth and hassle-free as a car trip could possibly be. You'll be there in no time and it's real pretty, too. Thar said, I agree if this change is put into place, there should be some look at improving existing bus service between north Arlington and the airport/crystal city area.

Overall, I'm strongly in favor of this change and I agree with most here who believe that David's map is the best. It builds on what is already firmly established in riders' minds, i.e. the color line system associated with certain destinations, and simply points out some timing tweaks. I can't imagine station or train maps actually having all seven call-out boxes - but I think you'd really only need the ones at Franconia and Greenbelt anyway.

And a "hear! hear!" to xtr657. Since construction is well underway on the Silver line, let's start showing it on the Metro maps!

by Josh S on Jul 12, 2010 3:28 pm • linkreport

@matt, this will have the same number of trains leaving King Street, they'll just be split differently

before, it's 10 each blue and yellow

after, it'll be 13 yellow and 7 blue.

If your destination is the orange line west, you'll have to wait an additional six minutes maximum for a train, as every third ex-blue train will now be a yellow. If your destination is the Foggy bottom to Smithsonian corridor, change at L'Enfant to Orange, silver or blue. The trains will be very frequent.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 12, 2010 3:45 pm • linkreport

@Josh; the point is not to speed up trains; it is to clear platforms of passengers.

And I'm glad to see a GGW commentary admit driving to DCA is a great idea.

by charlie on Jul 12, 2010 4:25 pm • linkreport


Your proposal would reduce the number of trains servicing the most crowded platforms during the PM rush - McPherson, Farragut, Foggy Bottom.

If anything, you'd want to run your express idea in reverse - have the trains run express from New Carrolton to Metro Center, thus ensuring they are mostly empty and able to take on as many people as possible heading outbound.

by Alex B. on Jul 12, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

@ Michael Perkins

What about people who don't want to have to transfer to other trains?

Why should they suffer because WMATA wants to run trains another way.

Why not keep it the way it is and force people who ride the system in that area to deal with it instead of forcing the changes to effect areas where there is no problem.

Why not just reroute lines period and build switch tracks throughout the system and use the ones we have to create express lines.

One of the benefits of the system is that you can go anywhere along the system with only one transfer. With some of the ideas floating around some trips that are presently no transfer or one transfer could become one, two or three.

If anything should be split it should be the damn red line which has both ends crowded and would have been better as it was in the original plans.

Couldn't the switch tracks be used to create express routes take the Red Line & Blue/Orange switch before Metro Center couldn't that be used sometimes to have a few trains running between from the Red Line to Rosslyn and the same type of express routes for the other switches in the system.

by kk on Jul 12, 2010 5:07 pm • linkreport


How was the red line supposed to be routed? I'm curious. I know there's that one unused connection from that lets westbound Blue/Orange trains switch from Mcpherson Square to Farragut North (to Shady Grove), but it seems rather useless, as it only goes in one direction (unless you wanted to do some acrobatics with the pocket track).

by andrew on Jul 12, 2010 5:26 pm • linkreport

@ andrew

that was my thinking it could be ran in the morning with around 5 or 6 trains at different times in the evening or morning for people who are going from VA to Western Mont/DC.

Then the same could be done on other lines also where there are switches.

They did the Green Line commuter shortcut about 10 years ago and this basically the same thing.

by kk on Jul 12, 2010 5:39 pm • linkreport

Huge fan of the improved rush hour routes. Can't wait!

by Ace in DC on Jul 12, 2010 7:52 pm • linkreport

As long as we're talking other proposed service changes, I still haven't heard a good explanation why the Blue Line doesn't terminate where it was originally designed to terminate: at Huntington. I've read that the Yellow Line was rerouted to Huntington because they needed fewer cars to serve the station when it opened, but now that the full system is open, does that alignment still make sense?

I guess it would be even more confusing to switch the Blue and Yellow lines and have some of the trains alternate destinations, but traveling a direct route from downtown to Springfield on one line would be nice, just as you drive on only one Interstate to get there. Springfielders would also get a more direct connection to downtown during off-peak times for access to special events, especially at the Verizon Center.

by Omar on Jul 12, 2010 8:53 pm • linkreport

The Barcelona Metro has green, teal, turquoise, and light blue, but the Letter/Number combos help you find your train in the stations. Very well-handled. Similar should be doable here, even with less common colors for lines.

by dcseain on Jul 12, 2010 10:20 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson:
Clarification of your response to 'Carmen Turner'. On 11 28 1978 WMATA opened the D Route from Stadium-Armory to New Carronllton. The reason why trains were colored Orange to New Carronllton and Blue to National Airport is because the sign rolls had no Blue New Carronllton or Orange National Airport destinations on them. That ended a little over a year later on 12 01 1979 when Orange line opened along the K Route from Rosslyn to Ballston.

My thoughts: I say swap the Blue and Yellow terminals back to the pre 1983 plan where the Yellow terminated at Springfield-Franconia and the Blue terminated at Huntington. In order to maintain peak headways on the Blue line south of King Street and still be able to increase the Orange line and future Silver line through put at Rosslyn and not eat into the Green line slots up the mid city route, turn back selected Blue line train at Arlington Cemetery. Blue line passenger wanting a one seat ride to stations west of L'Enfant Plaza would simply wait for a Blue line train displaying a Largo destination sign, otherwise they could transfer to a Yellow line train south of Pentagon and transfer again at L'Enfant Plaza to a train heading west.

by Sand Box John on Jul 12, 2010 11:42 pm • linkreport

@Omar - In case you didn't see it, Matt Johnson provided a reasoning for the non-shifting of the blue terminus at Huntington. Read above, at

I like @Sand Box John's idea of switching them back.

by Matt Glazewski on Jul 13, 2010 8:08 am • linkreport

Hm, the time seems to not have shown up. Must have been an unintentional HTML code on my part. It is -> Jul 12, 2010 11:51 am

by Matt Glazewski on Jul 13, 2010 8:10 am • linkreport

I travel from Rosslyn to Crystal City in the mornings, the reverse in the evenings. I already usually have to wait longer for a Blue line train than the ride itself. Once this change goes into effect, it won't make sense to take Metro to go the <4 miles. My employer will pay either for Metro or for parking. One more one-passenger car on the road (and I'm sure I won't be the only one).

by Charles Smith on Jul 13, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

This is terrible for those of us living in Alexandria and Springfield and working in Rosslyn or Foggy Bottom, which is a lot of us.

by Rosslyn rider on Jul 13, 2010 4:09 pm • linkreport

There are two issues here - one is the actual re-routing decision, the other is about communicating such changes and complexities effectively.

Thus, there are really two discussions - one about transit service, and the other is about communication. This post focuses mostly on communication, and it's important to not conflate the two issues even though they are intertwined.

by Alex B. on Jul 13, 2010 4:13 pm • linkreport

I'm with Jasper. I'd rather have multicolored maps that multiple numbers and letters. It's easier to remember that certain colors run at only a specific time instead of trying to determine which blue or which yellow line etc train that you're on.

by G.B. on Jul 13, 2010 5:44 pm • linkreport

@Matt: Thanks for pointing me to Matt's comment about the Huntington terminus. I'm just wondering why we can't have the Blue Line terminate at Huntington today and bring back the original system design that had the Yellow Line serving Franconia-Springfield. (Reading about the original proposal to have separate stations serving Franconia and Springfield made me lament the expansion possibilities that would have been possible to West Springfield and Burke, but that's another debate Â… the landowners there probably wouldn't have wanted the density.)

If you shorten the Blue Line to end at Huntington, couldn't you use the extra cars for more Yellow Line service through downtown? The four trains per rush hour proposal seems more like an afterthought than a well-thought-out proposal to increase accessibility to downtown from the Springfield area. People I know have been complaining for years that the Blue Line has to go so far out of the way before heading downtown.

I know I'm just talking into the wind here Â… if Metro didn't want to change the Yellow Line designation for Huntington back then, they probably wouldn't want to now. I just think it's a shame that the Metro can't mimic the functionality of I-395 in getting people from one place to another quickly. It makes it harder for them to compete with vehicular traffic, especially on the weekends.

by Omar on Jul 13, 2010 7:17 pm • linkreport

@ Omar: The functionality of I-395 in getting people from one place to another quickly.

That functionality does not exist during rush hour, and many other hours of the day. IMHO, I-395 is not much more than an extended ramp to the Pentagon parking lots.

by Jasper on Jul 14, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

I agree with the previous posts...
Jasper on Jul 12, 2010 11:34 am
Catherine on Jul 12, 2010 12:55 pm
Matt on Jul 12, 2010 3:24 pm
Rosslyn rider on Jul 13, 2010 4:09 pm

Blue line between Pentagon City and Foggy Bottom is a mess during rush hour. If the number of trains on the Blue line is reduced, I WILL be driving to work.

This plan is only a band-aid solution to an issue that requires major surgery and sutures. We need to invest more in our infrastructure. Build a second tunnel and a bridge between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn and do it NOW!

by Brian on Jul 14, 2010 10:36 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: I guess I was referring to off-peak situations, since this service change seems to focus only on peak travel. But even during rush hour, I notice most of the sluggers coming from Springfield are asking to go into downtown central, not west. I wonder how many of those would take Metro with more direct service.

For the people complaining about the Blue Line already being crowded, I suspect that there are a number of people who stay on the line to avoid having to transfer. And you can always take the Yellow and transfer back to Blue/Orange. Are you really going to let a 6-minute (max) delay send you back into a traffic nightmare?

by Omar on Jul 15, 2010 3:33 am • linkreport

Sand Box John's suggestion, to me, appears a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. For starters, you're forcing either a longer route or a transfer for the numerous people (including me) going from Huntington or Eisenhower into downtown...

by Froggie on Jul 15, 2010 7:05 am • linkreport

Yeah, I just have a sentimentality for the original system design. I like that the Yellow line routing to F-S mirrors the functionality of I-395. People in Springfield waste a lot of time on the Blue Line when they head downtown. Because the distance from King Street to F-S is far longer than from there to Huntington, it's more fair if people coming from Eisenhower and Huntington wait a little longer.

by Omar on Jul 18, 2010 7:46 pm • linkreport

Build a second tunnel and a bridge between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn and do it NOW!

Yea, you tell them man.

by MPC on Jul 18, 2010 10:33 pm • linkreport

Today was on a 4:35pm Orange Line train that -- as it whizzed by McPherson Square -- was already COMPLETELY FULL at McPherson Square, way before Farragut West or Foggy Bottom or Rosslyn.

I was one of 3 people who were able to get on at McPherson Square -- no one else could. No more could join us at F. West or F. Bottom. It was that full.

When did it empty? I kept expecting things to get better by Ballston -- nope. Still standing room and packed tightly. West Falls Church -- nope. Still standing room only. By Dunn Loring we were still standing room but could space out a bit. It was full all the way to Vienna.

The train wasn't delayed or anything, it's just that bad on the ORANGE LINE at rush hour.

Meanwhile, the train before us -- a blue line train -- no only was it not standing room only, but seats were empty at McPherson Square.

Sorry Blue Liner's, no sympathy here.

by L. Fairfax on Jul 19, 2010 6:10 pm • linkreport

The public and the press are possibly beginning to realize that "extending the Orange Line" to Tyson's and Dulles is completely unrealistic without a new Potomac River crossing, which will ultimately be funded by the families and business communities of Fairfax, Loudoun and Facquier.

Anyone who did the math 10 years ago knew that the Rosslyn tunnel was at capacity and that an additional river crossing was necessary, but, in the rush through development, the planning documents quietly reduced trains going to and from Vienna/Dunn Loring to accommodate the new trains going to Tyson's/Dulles.

Between the Orange/Blue/Silver dilemma and the transferring to another MetroRail line downtown, I will definitely be checking out parking garage rates in 2012 or 2013.

by Craigie on Jul 25, 2010 11:49 am • linkreport

I blogged elsewhere that calling it Blue was a bad idea, but my proposed solution is not as good as David's.

My bigger gripe, though, is that this exact same proposal was reported on by Lena Sun in February of 2008.  Even then, I don't think it was a new idea.  Now they say they might get it up by summer 2011.
Why does it take 3 1/2 years to get this good idea in place?

I predict this service will not exist by June 30, 2011. I hope I'm wrong.

by Steve O on Jul 26, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

How about "Yellow Special?" I've seen "special" trains on the Orange line before (seem to magically originate at Ballston).
Communicating "Yellow Special trains run only during weekday rush hours" seems pretty clear.

by Steve O on Jul 26, 2010 12:04 pm • linkreport

@Steve O:
"Special" is the destination that appears on the sides of trains when the train is going to terminate at a station for which there is no destination code.

So, if there were trackwork that caused an Orange Line train to terminate at Cheverly, it would be displayed on the signs as "Special" because there's no destination code for Cheverly.

I would think that "special" would be less clear than, say, "Greenbelt", which is the actual destination of these trains, and for which there is certainly a destination code.

by Matt Johnson on Jul 26, 2010 12:07 pm • linkreport

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