Arlington, VA

(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Changes approved by a Metro committee yesterday will provide some much-needed relief to the “Orange Crush” — the overcrowding of passengers on the Orange Line around rush hour.

Starting mid-2012, six additional Orange Line trains will be put in service each peak hour, three in each direction. Those trains will run from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center, which is normally a Blue Line station. To allow that to happen — the Orange Line tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom operates at capacity during peak hours — six Blue Line trains will be diverted over the Yellow Line Bridge.

Those “former Blue Line trains” will operate between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt, a Green Line station. The trains — three in each direction during peak hours — will be identified as Yellow Line trains.

The so-called “Blue Line split” will serve to relieve passenger congestion between Rosslyn and Courthouse, identified as the most crowded section of the entire Metro system. It will also free up some capacity for the future Silver Line to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport.

From a Metro press release:

During peak periods, more than 46,000 Orange Line customers will benefit from six additional trains per hour — three in each direction — resulting in 18 percent more capacity on the line, or approximately 2,600 seats per hour. The new trains will operate between West Falls Church and Largo Town Center.

The Orange Line is Metro’s second busiest, carrying approximately 180,000 passenger trips on a typical weekday. In a phenomenon known as Orange Crush, peak trains on the Orange Line between Courthouse and Rosslyn carry more passengers per car than anywhere else on the system.

During peak periods, the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom is at capacity, with 26 trains per hour in each direction. The additional “slots” in the schedule will be made possible by routing three Blue Line trains in each direction over the Yellow Line bridge each peak hour. Trains following this service pattern will travel between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt and will be considered Yellow Line trains.

For 33,500 Blue and Yellow Line customers in Virginia, the realignment will mean more trains providing faster access to downtown via the Yellow Line bridge. A smaller number (about 16,000) weekday peak-period customers who travel on Blue Line trains via Arlington Cemetery will experience a maximum of six-minutes additional waiting time for a train.

In addition, stations on the northern segments of the Green/Yellow lines will see additional trains during weekday peak periods. Stations from Shaw-Howard to Greenbelt will benefit from six additional Yellow Line trains each peak hour — three in each direction — between Greenbelt and Franconia-Springfield. For the first time, a customer can travel from Greenbelt to Franconia-Springfield without transferring. More than 28,000 customers will benefit from the change.

Members of the Metro board gave the plan “preliminary approval” at a meeting yesterday. They also approved a new Metro system map (above). The service changes are expected to take effect in June.

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