D.C. Metro aims to ease station closures near Reagan Airport
Metro is focused on providing alternatives during the summer shutdown of subway stations south of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, intent on maintaining its recently rebounded customer satisfaction scores.
Beginning Saturday, six Blue and Yellow line stations Van Dorn Street, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street-Old Town, Braddock Road, Franconia-Springfield and Huntington will be closed until Sept. 8 so their platforms can be repaired and rebuilt. Metro said the closures will affect at least 17,000 riders a day.
“Metro is developing plans to retain and welcome back riders at the end of the platform reconstruction project,” said transit agency spokesman Ian Jannetta. “More immediately, our goal is to ensure that customers’ experience using free express and local shuttle services is as seamless as possible and that they have the information they need to make informed decisions regarding travel alternatives.”
Three express routes will be provided from Huntington and Franconia-Springfield, as well as to Landmark Mall. In addition, Blue and Yellow line shuttles will stop at each station.
Metro has been working with transportation officials in Alexandria and Fairfax County for more than a year on contingency plans. They advise commuters to plan an extra half hour for daily trips and say some adjustments will have to be made without notice.
“As we learned in SafeTrack, the first days of a major shutdown mean there are new travel patterns for our customers to adjust to and new operational challenges for Metro to address. We are prepared, but that does not mean it will be an easy week as our experience has shown,” said Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, referring to the 2017-2018 maintenance effort that generated closures and delays that soured customer satisfaction.
From 2013 to 2017, the share of riders who rated Metro’s quality as good or excellent fell from 71% to 42% in a Washington Post/Schar School poll. That number bounced back to 68% earlier this month. However, 40% of respondents said they use Metro less than they did five years ago, and Metro has confirmed a similar decline in ridership.
“The true success of Metro is how many people it moves daily. On that count, it’s failing miserably, with ridership at early 2000s levels. It seems Metro has abandoned the idea of being a major city mass transit system is focusing on becoming a commuter rail,” the anonymous transit critic who goes by the Twitter handle @unsuckdcmetro said in an email.
Mr. Wiedefeld said the fact that public satisfaction has rebounded bodes well for customer loyalty.
“In their discussions and focus groups, our riders understand what we have on our hands, and they understand that it’s going to take a while to get through it, and they appreciate that we are attacking those issues and solving them, so I think that was partially reflected in those poll numbers, where they have a more favorable view even though they may be impacted individually at certain times,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yon Lambert, Alexandria’s director of transportation and planning, said the summer shutdown offers an opportunity to show how well the city’s DASH bus system works for commuters.
“The more people use our buses to get around the city, the more they might realize that our bus service is comparable,” said Mr. Lambert, noting that DASH moves about 12,000 commuters daily.
During the shutdown, Alexandria will expand DASH along the AT3 and AT4 lines and lower some fares. Fairfax County will expand bus Routes 393 and 394 from the Saratoga Park and Ride.
Mr. Lambert said higher HOV restrictions on Washington Street might encourage motorists to use car pools or van pools, and Metro’s Mr. Jannetta noted that the 40 park-and-rides in Fairfax County will be free throughout the shutdown, saving $500 on the season.
“Our collective message to all travelers impacted is: Do not get in your car and drive alone as this will make things worse by creating gridlock on our roads and result in travel delays for all,” said Anna Nissinen, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.