Metro prepares for Cherry Blossom Festival activities
Metro adds eight-car trains; prepares air conditioning
As Washington, D.C., welcomes the return of the Cherry Blossoms, Metro is preparing for large crowds by placing more eight-car trains in service, preparing air conditioning and curtailing weekend track maintenance and rehabilitation work to support the upcoming 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 26 to April 10.
“Metro will convert five six-car trains to eight-car trains. The cars will remain in service after the festival,” said Richard Sarles, Metro’s General Manager and Chief Executive Officer. “We will add 10 rail cars or 640 more seats to our weekday morning and afternoon peak service starting on March 21, increasing the number of rail cars available for customers from 850 to 860 rail cars.
“We will also operate eight-car trains during the weekday, off-peak daytime hours to accommodate the expected crowds and will be prepared to use eight-car trains on the weekends if necessary,” Sarles said.
With the National Cherry Blossom Festival approaching, riders should expect very crowded conditions aboard Metrorail trains and at Metrorail stations for the next few weeks and they can plan ahead by purchasing a SmarTrip card or a One-Day Pass before entering the Metrorail system.
Each year during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, crowds increase, so commuters may want to build extra time into their daily commutes due to the larger than usual number of people using the Metrorail and Metrobus systems. It may be difficult to board crowded trains and to enter stations such as the Smithsonian and Federal Triangle Metrorail stations during peak periods and on the weekends.
During last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival, Metro recorded three of its top five highest weekday ridership days in its 34-year history and it also recorded its fourth highest Saturday ridership day as well. Overall, Metrorail recorded 10,930,795 passenger trips, a 5.7 increase in ridership (595,368 more trips) compared to the same period in 2009 when Metrorail recorded 10,335,427 passenger trips.
“In anticipation of large crowds expected to attend the events, we will curtail weekend track maintenance and rehabilitation work during the weekend of March 26- 27, and the weekends of April 2-3 and 9-10,” Sarles said. “We will have personnel available on stand-by in the event we have to respond to an operations issue, and we will conduct track maintenance during late-night weekdays and when the system is closed."
Metro preparing its rail car fleet for Cherry Blossom festival and tourist season
As the region prepares for an influx of tourists, special events and the start of baseball season, Metro is checking its air conditioning units inside its rail car fleet to ensure service reliability and enhanced customer service.
Last month, Metro’s Car Maintenance department launched an initiative called “Operation Cool Breeze,” a program designed to inspect and overhaul the air conditioning units inside the agency’s 1,142 rail car fleet. Under the program, maintenance personnel are cleaning condenser motors, checking auxiliary power units and other key vital components associated with providing air conditioning, and making sure the units are ready when they are turned on at the end of the month.
“We hit the ground running in February by checking all the vital components inside every rail car,” said Dave Kubicek, Metro’s Acting Deputy General Manager for Operations.
“It has been a monumental task, however our dedicated car maintenance personnel have been working diligently during the last several weeks to help ensure our customers will be comfortable throughout the spring and summer months while riding Metrorail,” he said.
Escalator modernization continuing
Metro will continue its state-of-good repair work on escalators at the Metro Center, Gallery Pl-Chinatown, Union Station and Foggy Bottom Metrorail stations. Metro will also have technicians available immediately to assist with escalator and elevator issues at the Smithsonian, L’Enfant Plaza, Waterfront, Arlington Cemetery, Capitol South and Metro Center Metrorail stations throughout the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Smithsonian Metrorail Station crowding – possible entrance/exit only
During the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Smithsonian Metrorail station typically experiences crowded conditions, particularly during the weekends. In the event of crowding, Metro Transit Police may designate either the Independence Ave. or National Mall station entrance as designated exit-only or entry-only to move as many people as possible into and out of the station safely. Metro encourages customers to pay special attention to announcements and to personnel located at the station in the event such a change occurs.
Two Metrorail early openings
Metro will open one hour early, at 6 a.m., on Saturday, March 26, to help participants get to the starting line for the SunTrust National Marathon. The race begins at 7 a.m. near the Stadium-Armory Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange Lines.
Metro will open two hours early, at 5 a.m., on Sunday, April 3, for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-mile Race. The race begins at 7 a.m., and will start and finish at 15th St. and Jefferson Drive, S.W. The closest stop is the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange Lines.
Metrobus detours during Cherry Blossom events
On Saturday, April 9, Metrobus routes 13F, 13G, 32, 36, 64, P6, S2 and S4 will be detoured for the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Festival and Metrobus routes 5A, 13, 32, 34, 36, 52, 54, 64, 70, 80 P6, S2, S4 and V8 will also be detoured for the National Cherry Blossom Parade.
Tips for Riders
During the Cherry Blossom season, customers can do their part to help ensure that their trip is pleasant by remembering the following travel tips:
• To avoid crowds, visitors should travel during non-rush hour times and if possible, avoid traveling Metrorail at the height of the afternoon peak period, from 4 to 6 p.m.
• Regular commuters, especially those who work for the federal government and whose offices are in the vicinity of the Smithsonian Metrorail station, which is the most frequently used station for tourists arriving at the National Mall, are urged to stagger their arrival and departure times for work and use the L’Enfant Plaza, Archives-Navy Memorial, Federal Triangle and Union Station Metrorail stations.
• Visitors are encouraged to buy the $9 Metrorail One-Day Pass for multiple trips. The One-Day Pass can be used after 9:30 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.
• Visitors should buy a SmarTrip card, which is used to pay the fares on Metrorail and Metrobus, and is the only way to pay for parking at most Metro-operated parking lots. Customers can pay for parking with Discover, Mastercard, Visa, American Express or Japanese Credit Bank credit cards at the Glenmont, Grosvenor-Strathmore, Rockville, Shady Grove, Greenbelt, New Carrollton, Landover, Largo Town Center, Addison Road, Branch Avenue, Suitland, Naylor Road, Anacostia, Huntington, Franconia Springfield, Vienna-Fairfax-GMU, Dunn Loring-Merrifield, and East Falls Church Metrorail stations. Visitors can purchase a SmarTrip card from Metro’s Web site for $25 (with $20 of value on the card) or for $10 at any Metrorail station with a parking facility (with $5 of fare value on the card). SmarTrip cards can hold up to $300 of fare value.
• Metrorail riders who pay their fare with a SmarTrip card instead of a paper farecard save 25 cents per trip. Metrobus riders who pay with a SmarTrip card instead of cash save 20 cents per trip.
• Regular commuters should allow extra time for travel. All riders are reminded when traveling on Metrorail to please walk into the center of the rail car so that they do not block the rail car doors.
• For safety reasons, stand back from the platform edge as trains approach the station.
The 99th Annual National Cherry Blossom Festival brochures are free and available at Metrorail stations. For more information on traveling by Metrobus and Metrorail, call (202) 637-7000, TDD (202) 638-3780, or visit Metro’s web site at metroopensdoors.com for safety and security tips.
News release issued at 11:35 am, March 15, 2011.