Service would double at three more Red Line stations
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is proposing to increase rail service, expand the rush hour promise, and reduce weekend rail fares to a flat rate of $2, although he says regional support will be required.
The proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget would both increase service and leave fare rates unchanged during the week. But it would lower the rail fare rates on weekends, when Metro frequently schedules track work.
“The past year has been about demonstrating to customers that we are getting Metro ‘back to good,’” Wiedefeld said. “Now, we have to get better than good, as we work to attract and retain customers. While there are a number of improvements such as pass discounts and automatic train operations that we can do within the new cap on subsidy growth, the service improvements I am including in this budget will need the region’s support and the Board’s approval.”
Under Wiedefeld’s proposed budget, trains would operate at rush-hour frequencies throughout the system an additional half-hour in the morning and an additional 90 minutes in the evening, or through 10 a.m. and through 8:30 p.m. If the Board approves these service changes, riders would continue to pay the off-peak fare for those additional hours, despite increasing service, according to a Metro news release.
Another proposal is to have all trains be eight-car trains, which would reduce crowding on platforms during rush hour and simplify railyard and railcar maintenance operations, which involves adding and removing railcars from trains. Under Wiedefeld’s proposed budget, weekend rail fares would change to a flat $2 rate per trip – a decrease for many riders – except for the shortest-distance trips.
“Thanks to regional leadership that created a dedicated source of funding for safety and reliability capital investments, the Board can now turn to the question of what additional Metro service the region can afford to operate,” Board Chairman D.C. Council member Jack Evans (Ward 2) said. “There is no question that we need to improve service levels to rebuild ridership, and we need to consider how to do it without raising fares, which has the effect of discouraging people from riding.”
Currently, weekday riders who registered their SmarTrip cards online can be reimbursed the cost of a fare if their rush hour, or peak period, trip takes at least 15 minutes longer than scheduled – a relatively new arrangement that Metro management calls the “rush hour promise.” Wiedefeld proposed to extend rush hour promise to trips that are 10 minutes late, for FY ‘20.
Although the Board approved ending the Grosvenor turn-backs, or having every few rush-hour, Red Line trains turn back at Grosvenor-Strathmore Station, Wiedefeld is proposing to take that service increase a step further. His proposed budget would include funding an end to the turn-backs on the opposite end of the Red Line, at Silver Spring Station rather than at Glenmont Station.
The proposed move would double the service at Glenmont, Wheaton and Forest Glen stations. Ending the Grosvenor turn-back is included in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, scheduled to begin Dec. 17.
Running all trains from Shady Grove to Glenmont would increase service to a total of seven stations compared to current service levels.
The proposed budget also includes extending the Yellow Line Service to Greenbelt Station. Right now, the trains turn back at Mt. Vernon Square Station during rush hour and at Fort Totten Station at all other times. The proposal would double service during rush hours and reduce crowding at nine stations north of Mt. Vernon Square. During off-peak times, four stations north of Fort Totten would see a service increase.