Friday, January 29, 2010

Blue-to-Orange Switcheroo

From CS:

We tag Metrorail pretty good about its many shortcomings these days, so when they get it right, fairness -- plus the desire to reinforce unsucky behavior -- says we should note that, too.

Yesterday, as I descended into the bowels of Metro Center, for reasons not clear, there was some bad gapping between Vienna-bound Orange Line trains. (Unfortunately, nothing new there these days.)

With the next Orange Line many agonizing minutes away, with the Red Line hordes pouring down the stairs like water into the hold, and with rush hour (excuse me, "regular" hour, as Metro likes to put it.) still having another half hour to go, conditions were brewing for a good fail. Maybe not an epic fail, but one Metro could nevertheless be proud of.

Except it didn't happen. As a Blue Line train sat in Federal Triangle station, preparing to make its final assault on Metro Center, it magically transformed, at the direction of Central Control, from Blue to Orange.

This made perfect sense. For every Orange Line train that limps out of Metro Center jammed to the rafters, Blue Line trains often offer the spacious accommodations of a bygone era.

By switching the train from Blue to Orange, Metro could immediately sweep lots of people off the Metro Center platform, and stem the growing tide. And while a few Blue Line riders had to get off and transfer trains, there was another Blue Line train not far behind. Minutes lost for these passengers: probably about three.

So, somebody at Metro was on the ball, seeing that an easy switch could serve the needs of the many, while not doing serious harm to the needs of the few(er). Like Peyton Manning, Central Control called an audible, dodged the blitz, and the play went for a big gain.

It'd be nice to see more of this kind of thinking in action.

In talking later with the Ms. (also a daily rider), it turns out Metro pulled the same Blue-to-Orange switch at least once before my ride, about 15-20 minutes earlier. So, while not the first instance the technique was employed yesterday, my experience was still pretty slick.

More by CS:

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Kara said...

Unfortunately it has a MAJOR problem that metro has yet to recognize. When they do this they announce it over the PA system.

Try being Deaf and have that happen to you and you will not think it is such a great idea anymore.

Anonymous said...

"Blue line trains offer the spacious accommodations of a bygone era."

Uh, really? Because I was on a blue line train at rush hour yesterday that was packed to the gills, just as much as the orange train that limped through the station just ahead of it.

Yellow line ftw.

Anonymous said...

OK. SOMEthing is up! Alien invasion? "Had enough so let's fix this ourselves" employee revolt? I dunno but I have noticed this past week that the attendants at New Carrollton are somewhat of a delight to behold. They are wide awake and personable. I caught one smiling this morning while saying, "Good Morning!" to a rider who was walking up to him. They are walking around, paying attention even when there's nothing to do for anyone and I have loved it! His response to a rider walking up with (an obviously problematic) SmartCard made me smile as I headed up the escalator. I was fully confident that rider was going to have a helping hand that was not snarling at his need.

Was it simple surprise for me or simply one person's good nature "vibing" its way onto me? Whatever it may be, to see your post of the day as well makes me wonder. How can I be sitting here with complimentary thoughts and experiences on Metro. It's been years. It's actually perking me up!

Houston! We have hope! (All readers.. faint now... ;)

Anonymous said...

Fuck this post! Really. Fuck it up its ass. I take the Blue Line every day, and I take it past Stadium Armory. You think this is some sort of solution? I've enjoyed your blog here. And there are often times very good ideas, but this is not one of them. Overcrowding for the Orange Line? I know! Let's try to overcrowd the Blue Line, and have those poor bastards make one more transfer! You must be some kind of genius. You Band-Aiding bastard.

Fuck that shit!

Anonymous said...

uh hey Anon 10:24? If you are that unhappy with this blog and the posts, then do not read them! Go away and read something else. Better yet, go learn how to create your own blog so you can be vulgar, crude and childish all on your own, sparing us your useless tirade. You sound absolutely ridiculous, jealous and afraid. I, for one, would not mind seeing your post deleted. The inappropriate words offend me even though your frightened attitude towards a possible increase in Blue line crowding makes me laugh.

Anonymous said...

This is a great example of how Metro's performance is based very much on the individual's experience. I would say that changing a train's destination mid-course on a whim is a bad thing overall. It's kind of like how I am glad to walk into Ballston in the morning and see Orange line trains arriving in 2,4 and 6 minutes. Great for me, but overall that means Metro is not running on schedule. Bad for somebody else I am sure.

I've also been on the bad end of line switches. Deciding not to jam my way onto an Orange line train coming home because there was another one 2 minutes out, only to have that Orange arrive and change to Blue right before my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Anon 10:56. However, today I am in a hopeful mood as the original post and the comments above show me someone somewhere is trying to help. To see initiative, quick decisions to try to keep things running well is, IMHO, laudable. They tried! It may not have been the perfect solution, nor even the right one, but hey! Someone is trying! I like it. It is an improved "thought pattern" I hope continues.

Pete said...

Suffice it to say that the entire system is falling down a bottomless rabbit hole. I've lived, at various points in my life, on virtually every end of the line on virtually every line Metro ru(i)ns. They ALL suck, some just a *little* less crowded than others. Language aside, 10:24 AM is justified in the outrage.

But don't worry, because Metro is going to Tysons and to Dulles, and your experience will suck even more because of it. Packed trains? You ain't seen nothing yet. Gapping problems? likewise! Want better results? Well, that'd mean dedicated lines - no orange/blue, no green/yellow shared tracking - and the odds of that happening in your lifetime, let alone your grandkids lifetime are? Oh, sorry, Metro's calculator is experiencing some mechanical difficulties. Standy by for an answer. Regret any inconvenience.

Anonymous said...

I wrote crude language. That is my reaction to more dismaying news on a blog that is full of information about Metro sucking.

To the person who said to me, "If you are that unhappy with this blog and the posts, then do not read them!" and then said, "I, for one, would not mind seeing your post deleted." I, for one, would not mind seeing your whole thought process deleted you hypocrite. This idea that you have the right to not be offended is a new one in America, and I, for one, think it fucking sucks. Eat it.

But you were right about one thing, you're damn right I'm afraid! I'm afraid that every time I think the Metro experience can't get any worse, I'll be proven wrong.

Look, I'll try and explain my concern now that I've snorted 5 lines of Oxy and had a minute to calm down. Orange Line overcrowding is a problem. It is a systemic problem, not one to be solved by sweeping it under the Blue Line's carpet. That's a spurious solution, it's a disengenuous device, and it's so very, very childish-- which is why we're now seeing it put into action. And if you don't like what I have to say, I'll give you a convenient scapegoat under which you can wave the banner of disagreement-- "poopy." There, forget everything else I've said now that I've said "poopy."

Anonymous said...

From author CS:

Crude-Language Anonymous is right to a degree, in basically saying that nothing constrains he/she from being graphic. But I think he/she also illustrates the old maxim: Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. Folks, we as a society are experiencing a massive fail these days on civility and courtesy (and I've been guilty of this myself more times than I'd like), so it would behoove us all to try and be nicer. And, much like one of the posts here today indicates, being nice makes everyone feel nicer, including yourself.

Anyhow, sermonizing aside, let me address the substance of the complaint, and my apologies for not being clearer. I meant to suggest only that given the circumstance, this was a good way to address the problem of the moment. Yes, of course, the system shouldn't have the various problems we all know too well. But, my point was: Given the particular bad scene that developed at that moment and that place, this was a helpful solution.

Also, as to Blue Line crowding, yes, I'm sure there is. But as a veteran of probably thousands of trips through Metro Center, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Blue Line trains are much less crowded than Orange Line trains, at least in the direction of Vienna.

Finally, regarding the design issues, I'd refer you to the Great Society Subway book, which is linked on this blog. Among other things, it contains a lot of history about the considerable political infighting that presaged Metrorail's creation. Unfortunately, Metro does not have four-track operation, but if you read that history, you'll see that the existing system barely won approval back then, and four tracks -- with their far greater expense -- would surely have been a deal-breaker.

Anyhow, best to all, and I appreciate the debate.

Anonymous said...

Routinely switching trains from blue to orange is not a good solution for the SYSTEMIC problem of overcrowding. I didn't read the original post as suggesting that it was. Rather, the point was that on one particular occason, when there was bunching of trains of one color, a complete absence of trains of a different color, and a station platform filling with people, somebody at metro showed some initiative in quickly making a switch that alleviated some of the overcrowding. Making the switch delayed dozens of people by 3 minutes; not making the switch would have delayed hunreds of people by many minutes. I would say metro showed good judgment on this one occasion.
That is all; flame away.

Anonymous said...

To the irrate drug addict above (who mentioned the drugs, not I) - You miss the point completely. Since you apparently need the drugs to post on this blog there is no need to attempt any intelligent conversation with you. Perhaps when you are in rehab and get clean we can continue in a more proactive manner.

My original comments stand. Metro showed initiative which worked. Attendants today were seen being helpful, positive and completely at odds with what most of us expect.

That is a positive step with Metro. Those who cannot stomach the thought of positive Metro results are to be pitied. ANYthing can improve, even Metro. (It's just a surprise when it happens with Metro, I admit. ;)

There. I stood my ground without one poopy word nor scapegoat needed. Take a lesson child.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 12:51 PM

I can tell you with absolute certainty that Blue Line trains are much less crowded than Orange Line trains, at least in the direction of Vienna.


I take the Blue Line from Metro center to Franconia Springfield and it's ALWAYS crowded.

Metro got problems and all lines are overcrowded.

Let's stop playing the oppression metro line Olympics.

Anonymous said...

I knew it!! All those days on the platform at McPherson Square, waiting 8, 10, 12 minutes for a rush hour (who's in a rush? Certainly not Metro) blue train, it's because they gave it to the bloody orange line! Boo!

Anonymous said...

Crowded Blue Lines?? That's a rarity. I've been riding the Orange from Farragut West to Dunn Loring for 12 years. At ANY point during evening rush hour you can easily get a seat on those half-empty Blue Lines at Farragut. Not so much on the sardine cans to Vienna. No wonder Metro has also taken to switching the embarassingly empty Blues to Orange at Rosslyn.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Blue line is always short-handed when it comes to the Orange. It is as crowded as other trains yet it is ran less frequent. This same incident happened to me while riding the Blue line. The Orange line train in front of us had to off load due to door problems. Instead of telling passengers that another Orange line is coming, they changed our Blue line to Orange and told us that beyond Stadium Armory it would be "Orange line train to New Carrolton." Mind you this was during the evening rush hour and there were already delays. By the time all BLT passengers got off at Stadium Armory, the next Blue line was packed! Not one soul could move or get off. I was wise enough to get off at Eastern Market and transfer. And the train behind us....Orange line! So that whole "this is a great idea to change Blue to Orange" is complete BS. Metro's supposed solutions end up being a complete failure.

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