Update at 2:20 p.m. — Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has written a letter to customers in which he warns of more single-tracking delays during the evening rush hour and a total shut down of a portion of the Silver, Orange and Blue lines in D.C. starting at 9 p.m.
Dear Metrorail Customer,
I know that it was a tough commute this morning for our Blue, Orange and Silver line customers. I want to provide you with an update so that you can plan for the commute home.
About 4:30 a.m., the Rail Operations Control Center received a report of a fire in the tunnel outside McPherson Square Station. Buses were called in to substitute for trains through downtown until the fire department cleared in the 6 a.m. hour. Metro restored limited rail service using a single track between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle stations.
I know that many of you experienced delays of 30 to 60 minutes on Blue and Orange line trains this morning. Silver Line trains were turned back at Ballston Station to reduce congestion downtown, and some trains bypassed stations to ease delays for the greatest number of customers.
Hopefully you received timely notification of the disruption through our communication channels: wmata.com, MetroAlerts email and text messages or the news media. (If you are not signed up for MetroAlerts, please take a moment to sign up at wmata.com/metroalerts.)
Unfortunately, the fire damaged several cables that will need to be replaced tonight in order to restore full service for tomorrow. Single tracking will continue throughout the day and will affect the evening commute. If you have the ability to consider alternate travel options today, I encourage you to do so.
I have directed that repairs start at 9 p.m. tonight when ridership is lower. At that time, rail service will be suspended on both tracks between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle.
Rail service plans for the rest of today are as follows:
- Blue and Orange line trains will continue to share a single track between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle during the afternoon and evening hours. This will result in delays in both directions. You should consider travel alternates if possible, such as the Yellow Line between DC and Virginia or Metrobus options if available.
- Silver Line trains will continue operating between Wiehle-Reston East and Ballston only. Customers should use Orange Line trains to complete their trip between Virginia and DC.
- During the evening rush hour, Blue and Orange eastbound trains will skip Farragut West and McPherson Square to reduce delays. Listen for station announcements, check platform signs or sign up for MetroAlerts for details.
- Starting at 9 p.m., all rail service will be suspended in both directions between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle to allow for repairs. Metro will provide shuttle bus service between the affected stations. Please allow additional travel time.
We are working closely and cooperatively with the NTSB, FTA and DC Fire Department to determine the cause of this incident, and I will remain personally engaged in our response.
I apologize for the delay, inconvenience and crowding you experienced this morning — and that you may experience again later today. Be assured that as we respond to these matters as they arise, we continue to advance plans to improve safety and service reliability to reduce recurrences in the future.
Paul J. Wiedefeld
General Manager and Chief Executive Officer
Earlier: There are major delays on the Blue and Orange lines today due to the closure of one of the two tracks near the McPherson Square station in D.C.
An earlier cable fire caused damage to the track. Repairs are underway.
As a result of the single-tracking in D.C., there are major delays on the Blue and Orange Lines in Arlington. The inbound Silver Line, meanwhile, is turning around at Ballston.
(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Arlington Cemetery station was temporarily closed — and Blue Line service suspended — due to a reported fire on the track this afternoon.
Two separate fires were put out with a fire extinguisher, according to scanner traffic. Metro is advising riders to expect delays.
Blue Line: Train service RESTORED between Rosslyn and Pentagon stations with residual delays following earlier fire dept investigation.
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) March 8, 2016
Blue Line: Service temporarily suspended btwn Rosslyn & Pentagon due to FD activity at Arl Cem. Use Yellow Line as alternate btwn DC & VA.
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) March 8, 2016
Blue Line: Arlington Cemetery station is temporarily closed due to fire department activity. Shuttle bus service requested.
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) March 8, 2016
Blue Line: Expect delays in both directions due to fire department activity at Arlington Cemetery.
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) March 8, 2016
Starting Sunday at 7 a.m., Metro will stop accepting paper farecards at turnstiles and will only accept SmarTrip cards.
It’s one of the final steps in Metro’s phasing out of paper farecards, which the agency stopped selling Dec. 31. The very last step will happen this summer, when Metro stops accepting paper cards as trade-ins.
“If you still have a paper farecard or a Metrochek after June 30, 2016, congratulations, you have a Metro souvenir,” Metro said on its website.
In addition to online reminders, signs have been placed in local Metro stations informing riders of the changes.
More Cars on Local Streets Due to I-66 Plans? — Will plans to toll I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hour send cars spilling onto local streets in Arlington? Not exactly. Traffic studies suggest the opposite will happen: more cars will use the highway rather than seek alternate routes through Arlington. [Washington Post]
Metro Begins Installation of Cable for Cell Service — Metro has begun the process of installing 100 miles of cable in Metrorail tunnels in order to allow mobile phone and better emergency radio coverage. [WMATA]
Optimism from Arlington’s New Metro Board Member — Freshman Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey is serving as the county’s representative on the WMATA board. Though he says the agency is facing “a fair number of problems,” he says Metro expects “to see some significant improvements” in 2016. [InsideNova]
Potholes on GW Parkway — The northbound lanes of the GW Parkway had to be closed from Spout Run to the Beltway for pothole repair last night. This morning, crews were dispatched to fill potholes in the southbound lanes. [Twitter]
County Combines Budget Hearings — In previous years, Arlington held separate budget hearings to discuss proposed expenditures and the tax rate. This year, those topics are being combined and members of the public can weigh in on either at two budget hearings: one on Tuesday, March 29 and another on Thursday, March 31. The county is also accepting online budget feedback. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
As of 9:45 a.m., the northbound I-395 HOV lanes are jammed starting around Army Navy Country Club, while mainline I-395 slows near the Pentagon.
Memorial Bridge and Washington Blvd around the Pentagon is jammed. Traffic on eastbound I-66, approaching the Roosevelt Bridge slows near Rosslyn. N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn and the Key Bridge are also crawling.
Federal employees are to report to work on a three hour delay today, with an option for unscheduled leave or telework, the Office of Personnel Management announced last night.
Arlington County offices opened on time today, though certain community centers are closed or operating under modified hours. Arlington parking meters are being enforced today for the first time since the blizzard, but only in commercial districts. While Arlington Public Schools are closed, APS offices are opening at 10 a.m.
There’s some good news for commuters: full Metrorail service has returned to all lines, though some delays were reported on the Red and Green lines this morning. Also, the Custis Trail is clear for cyclists, though only one lane is cleared in places and some connecting trails are still snow-covered.
— Joel Holland (@joelkentholland) January 27, 2016
— Gina Gil (@gmazul) January 27, 2016
Traffic volume on I-395, I-66 and Route 50 was relatively light this morning. Some delays were reported on I-395 at King Street earlier, possibly the result of snow clearing operations.
Every Metrorail line is running every 12 minutes except the Silver Line, which remains closed. WMATA was unable to open aboveground service on the Orange Line between East Falls Church and Vienna this morning, so Ballston is the Virginia end of the line.
Metrobuses are operating on a “severe snow plan” with half hour delays, while Arlington Transit service is operating on a Sunday schedule between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. with “severe service” detours. Only the ART 41, 42, 45, 51, 55 and 87 lines are running.
Arlington County snow removal crews, meanwhile, are making slow but steady progress on clearing neighborhood streets. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services said this morning that 30 percent of residential streets had been plowed.
Metro today announced it will reopen its stations for limited — but free — Metrorail and Metrobus service tomorrow.
Red, Orange and Green line trains only will run between 7 a.m. tomorrow and midnight.
Service on these lines will be limited to underground stops and trains will run every 20-25 minutes, Metro said.
Orange Line trains will run between Ballston and Eastern Market, Red Line trains will run between Medical Center and Union Station and Green Line trains will run between Fort Totten and Anacostia.
Buses will operate every 30 minutes on just 22 routes between 12 and 5 p.m. tomorrow. According to Metro, “many of these routes will operate on snow emergency routes only to keep vehicles off hilly terrain, narrow side streets and other problem areas.”
The following bus routes will have service tomorrow:
- D.C.: 32, 33, 36, 53, 70, 90, A6, A8, P12, S4, U8, X2
- Maryland: C4, D12, K6, Q2, V4, Y2, Z8
- Virginia: 16A, 16E, 28A
A piece of maintenance equipment — like the one pictured, left — broke down just outside the National Airport station this afternoon, leading to single-tracking. While the equipment was eventually moved to allow normal rail operations, delays lingered into the evening rush.
Via Twitter, riders reported various problems, from long delays to trains being offloaded at already-crowded station.
— SavetheBlueLine (@savetheblueline) January 11, 2016
@unsuckdcmetro Been sitting at Crystal City for over 30mins. 3 trains passed heading towards pentagon. What a mess!
— Keith P. (@Keith_Alan1) January 11, 2016
— mdoodly (@mdoodly) January 11, 2016
— ChristopherStevenson (@IrishElCucuy) January 11, 2016
@unsuckdcmetro Yellow Line to Huntington was just offloaded at Pentagon.
— Ian Platz (@Ian_Platz) January 11, 2016
— Liz Sourlemon (@lizsourlemon) January 11, 2016
As of publication time, even more issues and delays were being reported on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines in D.C.
Gates open to the public at 8 a.m. Saturday and an opening ceremony is planned at 9. The wreath laying is expected to begin at 10 a.m., followed by a closing ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at noon.
Metro says it will be operating on a normal weekend schedule Saturday morning, but all Blue Line trains — which service the Arlington Cemetery station — will be eight cars long in order to accommodate as many riders as possible.
“Arlington Cemetery Station is one of the smallest on the Metrorail system and can be expected to become crowded before and after the event,” Metro said on its website. “During peak crowding times, Arlington Cemetery escalators may be configured as ‘exit only’ before the event and ‘entry only’ after the event. Customers traveling in the reverse direction will be directed to station elevators.”
Metro riders should consider getting off at the Rosslyn station, from which Arlington National Cemetery is “a short walk to the south,” the transit agency suggested. Free shuttle buses will also be provided from the Pentagon Metro station to the cemetery.
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Reardon
If there’s one lesson to take away from Arlington’s Metro Safety Seminar Wednesday night, it’s don’t evacuate a train until told to do so. Even though a woman died after not being able to evacuate a disabled, smoke-filled train outside of the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station earlier this year.
In the case of smoke in a tunnel, Arlington County Fire Department and Metro will work together to figure out the source of the smoke and decide if evacuation is necessary, officials said Wednesday at the seminar in Ballston.
Self-evacuating early often leads to injuries and more trouble, said Robert Joy of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority during a panel on Metro safety hosted by the county’s Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission (EPAC).
There’s also the problem of the third rail, which is a major electrocution hazard, running at more than 700 volts, Joy said.
Joy was joined by ACFD Captain David Santini and ART Director Stephen Yaffee to speak about how to be a safe rider on public transit, including Metrobus, Metro or ART bus. The panel spoke to a small audience, mostly consisting of older Arlington residents, many of whom identified themselves as members of EPAC.
For the most part, audience members were concerned about smoke filling Metro cars, noting the L’Enfant Plaza incident in January.
Smoke in Metro tunnels is not an unusual occurrence, Sanitini said.
“We report to smoke on the Metro several times a month,” he said, adding that most are “minor in nature” usually resulting from trash burning on the rails or small insulator fires.
In the case of smoke filling the cars, passengers should listen to the intercoms, Joy said, as the conductors will tell people when to evacuate.
“Just because the trains stop doesn’t mean it’s an emergency,” he said. “And we’ve had some people self-evacuate a perfectly good train.”
If a train needs to be evacuated, firefighters will come to the train to help passengers evacuate, Santini said. Metro also posts instructions for opening the doors in emergencies and how to evacuate.
Evacuation should be the last resort as walking in the tunnels and jumping from the train can result in injuries, such as broken ankles or legs, he said.
Joy acknowledged that there were problems with understanding the intercoms, which can make emergency situations more stressful. Dust often gets in the speakers, which make them hard to hear.
“We understand that the intercom system isn’t always up to snuff,” Joy said. “I sometimes wonder what they are saying.”
Fixing the intercoms by making sure they are cleaned is an easy step that Metro can do to make riding safer, said John Brown, director of Arlington County Office of Emergency Management.
“I don’t think we can wait for a federal report. There’s low hanging fruit that we know we can fix,” Brown said.
Throughout the discussion, audience members offered suggestions that Metro can implement to improve passenger safety, including more information on car walls. These suggestions will be compiled in a letter and brought before the Arlington County Board, said Board member Libby Garvey.
Garvey and Brown also took a couple of minutes to talk about emergency preparedness in general, telling the audience they should know what to do for everyday emergencies, like weather-related events, or in the case of a decidedly not-everyday emergency: a nuclear attack.
“We really all need to be prepared, not just for these events that happen pretty regularly but also when the unimaginable happens,” Brown said.
In the case of a nuclear attack, people should “shelter in place” and put as much concrete between them and outside, Garvey said.
The last thing people should do is go outside and see what happened, she said. Instead, people should “camp inside” until its safe to go outside.
“We all need to be prepared for camping for three days,” Garvey said.
In 2004, Metro Chief Richard White predicted a “death spiral” for the Metrorail system due to chronic underfunding.
Federal and state budget disputes were preventing Metro from getting the $1.5 billion in maintenance investment it needed, leading White to warn of “a systemic service meltdown.”
Eleven years later, White’s prediction seems to be coming true. And he wasn’t the only one to see it coming.
“Right now, there’s no money for transportation funding in anyone’s budget,” Chris Zimmerman, who at the time served on both the Arlington County Board and the Metro board, told the Washington Post in 2004. “I’ve got a state government that’s happy to let everything fall into the toilet. And we’ve got local governments that have limited means to raise money. We’ve got nothing to work with.”
Zimmerman resigned from the Metro board in 2010, and stepped down from the County Board in 2014. Now serving as Vice President for Economic Development for the group Smart Growth America, Zimmerman shared some thoughts on Metro’s current woes during a phone interview with ARLnow.com.
In 2002, Zimmerman and the Metro Board were actively seeking additional capital funding for Metro from Maryland, Virginia and the federal government — but to little avail. With inadequate funding, Metro wouldn’t be able to afford the track and station maintenance and new trains needed to keep the system running smoothly.
“It was foreseeable and it was foreseen,” he said of Metro’s problems today.
What would it take to fix the chronic system breakdowns that are causing long, frustrating commutes and chasing away riders? Zimmerman said it would take a lot more than that $1.5 billion figure sought in 2004 — and would likely require intervention by the federal government in the form of increased annual funding.
“What would actually make a difference is if [the federal government] would partner with our system… we have federal folks on the board but we don’t really have a federal funding partner,” he said. The feds have been providing funds to Metro for capital improvements, but Zimmerman argues that the level of funding doesn’t reflect Metro’s critical importance in helping the federal workforce in D.C. get to their jobs.
Metro said that an inbound Orange Line train offloaded at East Falls Church just before 8:30 a.m. due to a brake problem.
That, coupled with reduced rush hour service on the two lines due to power issues around the Stadium-Armory station following last week’s transformer fire, has caused big delays.
Via Twitter, riders are reporting longer-than-usual waits between Orange and Silver Line trains. Trains that are arriving at Arlington stations are full, causing overcrowding at the stations as riders continue to wait for trains.
I've been in Clarendon metro for 40 minutes now. About 5 cars have arrived that were packed. Stem-to-stern. Fml https://t.co/md5kbILKzA
— Rachel Joy Larris (@RachelLarris) September 28, 2015
— Courtney Fogwell (@CourtneyFogwell) September 28, 2015
— David Buzby (@buzbyindc) September 28, 2015
Metro says that repairs on its nine-megawatt power substation near Stadium-Armory are expected to drag out over the next six months or so. During that time, speed restrictions will be in place around the station, and Orange and Silver Line trains will run less frequently during rush hour while skipping the station entirely — a strategy intended to reduce congestion while coping with the lack of track power around Stadium Armory.
“On Friday, Metro began running Orange and Silver line trains every 8 minutes during rush hours, rather than every 6 minutes, to reduce the number of trains in service at any one time,” the transit agency said in a press release. “Metro is also increasing the number of 8-car trains on the Orange and Blue lines to provide additional capacity.”
Hat tip to @unsuckdcmetro
Metro is describing the incident as a “medical emergency.” A Twitter user said a woman walked off the platform and onto the tracks.
“Lady just walked smooth off the platform onto the tracks at Ballston station right in front of me,” said @Durrrius.
Fire department radio traffic indicates that the patient has been removed from the tracks and is now being treated by medics.
Metro says that trains are again moving through the station, with residual delays in both directions.
Metro Transit Police responded to the Pentagon City Metro station around the beginning of the evening rush hour for a “report of [a] suspicious package,” Metro said via Twitter.
According to Metro spokesman Mike Tolbert, a “suspicious note” was found on a train. The note was similar to another note — a bomb threat — that caused delays on the Blue, Silver and Orange lines this morning, Tolbert said.
Trains single tracked between the Pentagon City and National Airport stations for about a half hour as a result of the investigation. Metro said officers determined that the threat was “unfounded” and an all clear was given. Full service resumed, though with significant residual delays.
The incident even caused delays on the Green Line in D.C. “due to earlier congestion from delayed Yellow Line trains.”
WMATA says it has placed a speed restriction on the bridge, limiting trains to just 15 miles per hour. The restriction is “part of Metro’s aggressive campaign to fix track conditions identified following inspections after the derailment of a non-passenger train in early August,” the transit agency said online.
Replacement of metal fasteners on the Yellow Line bridge is currently underway, Metro said, but may take 6-8 weeks.
“While it may seem like slow-going, we do not expect significant delays,” the agency said. “However, if there is another issue such as a disabled train, switch problem or medical emergency, the speed restriction may result in congestion prior to the speed restriction area.”
Additional 15 mph restrictions are in place on the Orange, Silver and Blue lines between Foggy Bottom and Farragut West, and in three sections on the Red Line. Readers and an ARLnow.com reporter have also observed trains running slowly in a portion of the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom.
In addition to the slow restrictions, Metro says it has also placed “medium restrictions” of up to 40 mph in certain parts of the Metrorail system.
— Adam Tuss (@AdamTuss) September 1, 2015