Last weekend WMATA ran trains 30 minutes apart along the entire Orange Line. Although some reduction in service was necessary due to single tracking between Eastern Market and Cheverly, such extremely infrequent trains along the rest of the line was unnecessary and was a disservice to Metro’s customers.
Metro’s job is not merely to run trains. It’s to serve customers who ride trains. Occasionally it is necessary for customers to be inconvenienced for a short while in order to provide long term improvements, but when that happens WMATA must do its best to minimize the inconvenience and provide adequate alternates. Last weekend they failed to do so.
The single tracking between Eastern Market and Cheverly was planned in order for WMATA to perform a range of repairs and reconstruction going on through that segment. Half hour headways may have been necessary to ensure worker safety and maximize efficiency, so that the work could be completed prior to Monday’s rush hour. That’s all perfectly justifiable.
But there was absolutely no reason for riders along the entire length of the Orange Line to be left with such terrible service. Metro’s track schematic clearly shows there are crossover tracks between Federal Center SW and Capitol South stations. Trains coming and going west from Federal Center SW could have used that crossover track to turn around, ensuring regular weekend headways through downtown Washington and in Virginia.
We know trains can turn around using the crossover tracks since they do it every day at Mount Vernon Square and Grosvenor, so why couldn’t they have done so last weekend at Federal Center SW? This simple solution would have prevented thousands of Metro customers from being greatly inconvenienced.
It’s possible that Metro had repairs under way elsewhere along the Orange Line, but the press release didn’t communicate that. In any event, there are crossover tracks every few stations all throughout the system. Trains could have turned around at McPherson Square, Foggy Bottom, or Clarendon, and at least riders west of the turnaround wouldn’t have been faced with 30 minute waits.
Sometimes officials forget that keeping the rail system in proper order is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. If the system isn’t serving customers then it’s not working. The next time Metro has to perform single tracking, they should use one of the system’s many turnarounds to ensure short headways along the rest of the line.
Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.