The word “disruption” comes to us from an old Latin word that means to “break apart.” That could happen to your schedule, plans and rush-hour commute during the nail-biting and excruciating service disruptions on three major Metro lines over a ten-day period. Starting this Saturday, Aug. 11, and running through Aug. 26, riders of the Blue, Orange and Silver lines will face 10 days of construction with closed stations and continuous single tracking, which will result in significant crowding and delays.

Rush-hour trains will run every 20 minutes. There will be no Blue Line service in the District or in Maryland. Even worse, the Metro trains may not have room for all riders, warns the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Metro is advising its riders to “use alternate transportation” during the major track improvement project. Expect delays on key components of the Metrorail system, which experienced a ridership consisting of 613,000 weekday trips during 2017. During the service disruptions more discretionary trips could shift to other transportation modes on area roadways and freeways, such as Metrobus, MARC, VRE, taxis, Lyft, Uber, or Sidecar.

When the minutes seem like hours and the waiting seems interminable, patience wears thin. To avoid delays and to make it to work and their appointments on time, other commuters will make the trip by personal vehicles, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. You have been forewarned. The news is in the air, it is everywhere.

“Commuters, residents and tourists who normally use the Blue, Silver or Orange lines through the District for work, errands or sightseeing need to make alternate plans instead of using those lines, or they will face long waits for overcrowded trains,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public & Government Affairs. “Rush hour commuters already know what it’s like to stand at a station only to have a packed train arrive and have no room to enter or board the train. Now imagine that situation, and having to wait another 20 minutes in a packed station, or on crowded station platforms. Metro’s own advice to riders of those lines is ‘to use alternate transportation and to only use Metrorail if you have no other option.’”

Metro will conduct “around the clock construction on a segment of the Orange, Blue and Silver lines.” In actuality, the Capital Improvement Project will run for “16 consecutive days, including 10 commuting days.” On some lines, service will be reduced 50 to 80 percent. It is enough to make some Metro riders say “I wish I were as thin as my patience.” Single tracking between downtown’s McPherson and Smithsonian stations will result in Orange and Silver line trains only operating every 20 minutes. This means that any persons needing to travel through the downtown hubs on those lines will face significant delays and crowding.

The Blue line will only operate between the Virginia stations of Franconia-Springfield and Arlington Cemetery. Commuters traveling into the District from Virginia will need to transfer to the Yellow line at the Pentagon metro station. The Yellow line will have additional trains during rush hour for the expanse of the line between Franconia-Springfield station in Virginia and Greenbelt station in Maryland.   

After enduring “ four SafeTrack surges” Metro riders must once again cope with “substantial slowdowns and service disruptions.” Patience will be a virtue. “The project is needed to address the tightest curve in the Metrorail system between McPherson Square and Smithsonian stations,” Metro advises. “Working around-the-clock, crews will rebuild the track infrastructure, including installation of new rail, new fasteners, and repairs to the concrete pads that support the rails. Crews will work on each track for approximately one week at a time so that single-track service can be maintained.”

The good news is, it is taking place in August, “when ridership is lighter.” All of this is unfolding during the current shutdown and major improvement project along the Red Line that runs for 45 days through September 3.  During this period the Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue Metro Stations are shuttered, and there is no Metrorail service between NoMa-Gallaudet U and Fort Totten, advises Metro.

“Metrorail ridership has declined since 2010,” according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board. “Last year, Metrorail ridership reached 613,000 average weekday trips, the lowest point since 2000.”

No doubt, the upcoming major track improvement project, which begins this Saturday, will compel many riders to consider other “non-auto travel options,” including teleworking and telecommuting. “In 2016, nearly one-third, or 32 percent, of regional commuters teleworked at least occasionally,” explains the Transportation Planning Board.

“Ten Days in August.” It is all happening as commuters cope with sizzling temperatures outside, crowded Metro platforms, and sweaty commuters on jam-packed rush-hour Metro trains. Good planning and perseverance are needed to get around during the major track improvement project on Metrorail.

Plan, Prepare and Be Patient

  • If you would normally use the Blue, Orange or Silver lines– know station restrictions at your destination; plan travel accordingly; do not wait until the last minute.
  • Avoid the Traffic– if you need to travel into the District through areas that will have travel delays due to the metro track work, plan as you would for a snow storm; allow extra travel time or work remotely, if possible
  • Plan Alternate Routes– if your daily business or leisure travel will be affected by traffic and transit restrictions, plan an alternate route(s).
  • Safety First– The weather is unpredictable. The District has activated the Heat Emergency Plan several days this week due to heat index, plus thunderstorm warnings can make travel difficult. Wear comfortable shoes, bring an umbrella for rain or shade and pack a refillable water bottle should you need to walk extensively in the August heat.

The biggest disruptions, disappointments, slowdowns and delays occur during the tail end of the “Dog Days of Summer” as Washingtonians observe the long-awaited “August Recess.”  During two weekends, August 11-12 and 25-26, the entirety of Farragut West and McPherson Square stations will be closed in addition to the Blue, Orange and Silver lines in Metro Center. It is not lost on Metro riders that this track work is in addition to the shutdown of Metro’s Red line between July 21 and September 3, which closed stations at Rhode Island Avenue and Brookland leaving no service between NoMa-Gallaudet U and Fort Totten.

Be forewarned. Metro additionally advises that “Rush Hour Promise will not be in effect for trips on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines during this project.” Under the Rush Hour Promise, a trip with a registered SmarTrip card would have been credited if the traveler is delayed by 15 minutes or more. This is not the case this time.