SafeTrack projects on Red Line scheduled to slow down summer commuting
With the first Red Line SafeTrack project less than a month away, riders have just weeks left to “rethink their commute,” as Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld requested.
According to Wiedefeld, repair works on three Metro Red Line SafeTrack projects will reduce capacity while trains single-track and stations shut down altogether.
That means crowded trains and 15- to 20- minute waits for rides, even during rush hour, he said.
Wiedefeld is planning to suggest alternate routes and means of transportation for each “safety surge” a few days before the start of the project, said Metro spokesperson Richard Jordan.
However, Metro staff said during riders should research alternatives ahead of time so they are ready in time for the start of the project.
- Safety Surge No. 6: Single tracking between Takoma and Silver Spring Aug. 1 to Aug. 7 (five week days, seven days total).
Though single-tracking occurs between Takoma and Silver Spring, Metro staff says Metro riders who use any portion of the Red Line should consider transportation alternatives and avoid traveling during rush hour if they can during this project.
Metro officials said travelers heading from Fort Totten to downtown Washington, D.C. can use the Green Line instead.
Trains between NoMa-Gallaudet and Takoma stations will have 75 percent fewer passenger trips during peak times. Shady Grove to Grosvenor will have no disruption to service either direction.
Ride On will offer a free shuttle every 10 minutes during peak periods from Silver Spring to Fort Totten stations (connect to Metro’s Green Line), with service at Takoma Station; and Grosvenor to Friendship Heights with stops at Medical Center and Bethesda
- Safety Surge No. 7: Single tracking from Shady Grove to Twinbrook Aug. 9 to Aug. 18 (eight week days, 10 days total).
Wiedefeld encouraged riders to avoid boarding the Metro at either Shady Grove Station or Rockville Station because trains will service them every 18 minutes, or about three trains per hour.
Ride On Director Al Roshdieh said the County buses will run from Shady Grove to Grosvenor via Interstate 270 for free but it cannot accommodate all riders
The remaining stations are slated to have “near-normal” service. Metro staff said riders should try to board the trains at Twinbrook, White Flint or Grosvenor instead, if possible.
Of the three, Grosvenor has the most parking spaces available. Jordan said Metro riders may also wish to park at Glenmont station, instead of parking at Shady Grove or Rockville.
Riders can take a bus from Shady Grove to Rockville and a catch a second bus from Rockville to Twinbrook, but this could add as much as an hour additional commute time.
Ride On will offer a free shuttle during peak periods every 10 minutes between Grosvenor and Shady Grove stations via Interstate 270. Ride On will also add enough buses on line 46 to operate every 10 minutes. Riders can take the line for standard fare from Grosvenor to Rockville.
The bus stops at White Flint and Twinbrook as well.
- Safety Surge No. 10: line segment shutdown from Fort Totten to NoMa- Gallaudet Oct. 10 to Nov. 1 (three full work weeks plus one day, total of 23 days).
Brookland-CUA and Rhode Island Avenue stations will be closed. Red Line riders should expect crowding on all trains due to reduced service.
Nearly every station will have longer waits due to reduced service.
From Fort Totten to Silver Spring, just beyond the segment shutdown, there will be 70 percent fewer weekday passenger trips, while most of the remaining stations have 40 percent fewer weekday passenger trips
Red Line riders who need to cross from Gallery Place to Fort Totten can switch to the Green line at those stations.
Metro Executive Managing Officer Jack Requa encouraged Montgomery County residents to seek other alternates because there will not be enough passenger trips to transport everyone who normally takes the Red Line through those stations.
Metro shuttle buses will replace trains between NoMa and Fort Totten while Ride On will offer a free shuttle during peak periods between Silver Spring Transit Center and Fort Totten Station via Takoma Station along Blair Road.
Ride On will also supplement WMATA’s bus bridge between Fort Totten and NoMa-Gallaudet University Station.
Ride On President Al Roshdieh told a County Council committee the Ride On shuttles for Red Line SafeTrack projects will cost the County between $350,000 and $1 million.
State Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) is asking Governor Larry Hogan to cover the cost of the additional buses because Maryland, not Montgomery County, is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact (also signed by Virginia and the District).
“There’s no reason Montgomery County should have to foot the bill where Metro is the states’ responsibility,” said Kagan.
While Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said in a letter Maryland would cover the cost of additional cars on the Maryland Area Regional Commuter Train Service (about $450 million), Kagan said Hogan needs to cover the County-provided shuttle buses as well.
“MARC Train does not do the job,” said Kagan.
She said she thought the amount of funding available would determine how many shuttles are offered. She said she was concerned that if there is insufficient funding, residents won’t reach their destinations in a reasonable amount of time during SafeTrack. Consequently, many Metrorail riders might resort to commute by car, increasing traffic on the highways.
The senator gathered the support from local chambers of commerce, such as the Rockville Chamber of Commerce, the Bethesda Chamber of Commerce and the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce.
Marilyn Balcombe, the GGCC’s president, said she supports Wiedefeld’s plan for much-needed repairs.
“I don’t begrudge this plan at all,” said Balcombe, later adding she supports “Montgomery County in being proactive to make sure their resources are in place to move people. But I also support Senator Kagan’s view that the cost should be covered by the state.”
Balcombe said WMATA is a necessary part of the County’s economy which in turn stimulates Maryland’s economy. She said Maryland should fund the additional buses for this reason.
“It’s critical for the county to provide services to employees and employers to get people to and from work to make sure that our economy continues to thrive during the time when (part of) the Red Line (shuts down),” said Balcombe.