As we approach the third month of METRO’s SafeTrack initiative, the
visions of gloom and doom – that the region would be thrown into complete and
utter gridlock – do not seem to be taking hold.  Kudos and credit go out to our local and regional transit and transportation demand managers, who have been attempting to take up the “slack” during the roving shut/slow downs that have occurred during Surges 1-4.  Credit should also be given to our region’s commuters and employers who have adapted some new commuting patterns and are proving to be pretty saavy users of our transportation network.

Now, there have been some significant bumps along the way, particularly on July 29th when an Orange line train derailed at the East Falls Church station, creating havoc on both the Orange and Silver line commutes for three days.  Even the most patient commuters on those two lines had a tough time navigating around the closed lines.

So, what has been the impact on commuting during these first four SafeTrack surges?  The regional transportation providers provided a glimpse of the situation on July 20th in a report to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.  Highlights of the Northern Virginia provider’s approaches and lessons learned are below.  Long and short of the situation – communication, communication, and more communication!

Regionally the local providers discuss and coordinate strategies on a weekly basis through the coordination of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.  This communication among providers is critical with the
“roving” nature of the Surges.

 

City of Alexandria – As previously mentioned, the main lessoned learned is to be in constant communication with the public.  In addition, the City also included:

  • Free service on the DASH’s AT3 and AT4 bus lines;
  • Added Capital Bikeshare capacity at Braddock Road METRO;
  • Added variable IMG_4123messaging signs to alert drivers; and
  • Increased staff and used a flat taxi fare of $15 from King Street in Old Town to the National Airport.

Arlington County – 

  • Added transit capacity to bus routes around affected closures;
  • Installed temporary Bikeshare station at East Falls Church METRO
  • (Capital Bikeshare trips increased by about 32%, Bikeshare annual memberships purchased in Arlington were up 45% from last year, Bike ridership was up 40 to 90% at counters across the County);
  • Arlington County Commuter Services icreased outreach to employers urging telework options and Libraries offered work stations;
  • Provided ambassadors at affected stations to help travelers and enhanced  wayfinding signage;
  • Ambassador teams assisted 450 in Surge 1 and 150 in the first week of Surge 2; and
  • Handed out about 10,000 brochures at Metro rail stations.

 

Fairfax County – 

  • Provided express shuttle between the I-66 Corridor and the core and supplemental Rt. 599 express service between the Dulles Corridor and the core;
  • Peak period bi-directional express shuttle service between Franconia-Springfield and Pentagon;
  • Supplemental I-95/395 express service between Saratoga Park & Ride and Pentagon; and
  • Promote park and ride lots and Metro/VRE stations with available parking capacity and promote other bus wwand VRE alternatives.

 

Loudoun County – 

  • Diverting service for the Potomac Falls bus line to Ballston-MU from West Falls Church during
  • these surges;
  • Increasing the number of buses in high use areas;
  • Providing bus schedules that highlight trips that match reduced train service arrivals; and
  • Promoting Van pools, Car pools, telework and other commuting alternatives.

 

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation
Commission (PRTC) – 

  • Delayed departures (additional 15 minutes) on last trips for buses serving Metro stations (Tysons or Franconia/ Springfield) to accommodate longer rail commutes depending on which line was affected by the surge;
  • Promoted OmniMatch for carpool/vanpool services;
  • Suggested possible alternate OmniRide services, such as taking bus to Pentagon or Mark Center and transferring to other PRTC buses or other regional providers to bypass single tracking/segment closures; and
  • Promoted VRE during Blue/Yellow line surges.
  • All of the affected Virginia localities  sought reimburse-ment from Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) an extra $1 million for additional services provided during this phase of SafeTrack. The CTB approved this
  • request in June.

For up-to-date information on the SafeTrack initiative, go to www.http://wmata.com/rail/safetrack.cfm.