Board approves running limited eight-car train service on the Orange Line
Metrorail riders may notice eight-car trains pulling into Orange Line stations even sooner than expected. The Metro Board approved running the longer trains on the line during a six-month test starting in January aimed at improving reliability.
Metro managers told Board members Thursday they could improve service if they could run slightly fewer, but longer trains. Currently, 114 rail cars made up of 19, six-car trains travel the Orange Line during a single morning rush hour. During the six-month test, there will be 114 rail cars, made up of a total of 17 trains: 11 six-car and 6, eight-car trains. Riders will see the longer trains during the morning rush hours.
"This will mean a faster and smoother trip for passengers because we’ll be reducing the bottleneck situation that exists now at Rosslyn," said Jim Hughes, acting assistant general manager of operations. "Right now, trains from two lines (Orange and Blue) have to pass through the same portal at Rosslyn. They bunch up, which means trains have to stop frequently in tunnels on the way downtown, because operators have to wait for the train in front of them to leave the station."
Currently, 29 Orange and Blue line trains are scheduled to pass through the Rosslyn portal during a morning rush hour, but on average only 26 are actually making it through on schedule. Twenty-seven would pass through the portal during the test period.
"Right now, if there’s a two-minute delay, every train for an hour thereafter experiences a minor delay. This test of using eight-car trains allows us more recovery time," Hughes said.
The change is one that passengers won’t even likely notice, given that they will only have to wait an extra 15 seconds for a train, Hughes said. Running fewer but longer trains was suggested earlier this year by an outside American Public Transportation Association panel made up of subway experts as a way to improve reliability given that most lines were operating at "maximum train traffic capacity."
Metro is able to run eight-car trains on a limited basis until power upgrades are made systemwide, Hughes said. Eight-car trains are scheduled to be in service on 20 percent of the system by next December.
During the test, operations employees will measure reliability, observe platform crowding and gauge passenger reactions. If successful, managers will move to implement the same concept on the other lines.
News release issued on December 15, 2005.