Monday, July 25, 2011

Saturday Night Special: Metro Quietly Announces Red Line Trains Will be 30 Minutes Apart This Saturday Night

Metro quietly announced Monday afternoon that it would be providing less service during a single tracking operation than it previously had when single tracking the exact same section of track. As a result, trains on the entire red line will be 30 minutes apart this Saturday evening, beginning at 9pm.

All weekend, trains will be single tracking between Van Ness and Friendship Heights, as well as between Takoma and Forest Glen. No surprise. But Metro's plan is:
Red Line trains will depart endpoint terminals about every 30 minutes. On Saturday and Sunday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., additional Red Line trains will operate between Van Ness and Fort Totten, resulting in service about every 10 minutes between these stations.
That's a new system. On the weekend of June 17, Metro single tracked those same sections -- yet provided 24 minute headways for the outer section of the lines, and for the entire line after 9pm (with 12 minutes on the inner section, until 9pm). And Metro has done that arrangement other times the Takoma-Forest Glen stretch was single tracked, too. (Takoma-Forest Glen is longer, and thus harder to single track, than Van Ness to Friendship Heights).

This time, it will be 30 minutes, not 24.

There was a time when far fewer people rode the metro on the weekend. Today, Saturday nights are bustling. This weekend, Metro will ask us to walk up to a station, and perhaps see an empty arrival board -- leaving us not knowing if our train is coming in 21 minutes, 30 minutes, or more.

Metro could continue to operate some of the core-segment trains after 9pm, and provide a 15 minute service, with alternate trains going the full length of the line. In fact, 15 minutes is what the regular schedule calls for. Metro is choosing not to do it.

A lot of us have tried hard to give Metro the benefit of the doubt. Weekend construction is a necessary evil; semi-permanent manual operation of trains has led to horrible spacing messes. These problems are somewhat beyond Metro's control. Having trains 30 minutes apart, when they used to be 24 -- and then not providing 15 minute service in the core segment -- are not issues beyond Metro's control, though.

Metro is making it awfully hard for us to want to give it a chance on the weekend anymore.


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