On time for Metrorail may not be for riders - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

On time for Metrorail may not be for riders

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If you ride Metrorail in the middle of the day or at night, one of the most frustrating things can be waiting for the train.

It can take anywhere from a few minutes up to 20 minutes under new service standards adopted by Metro. In reality, trains could take much longer and still be on time.

Metro says it is just formalizing a policy already in place and nothing should change. But many riders feel they are already waiting far too long.

"I try to avoid the Red Line off peak," said Adam Barr, who lives in D.C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood and works in the city.

On Thursday, he was at Gallery Place-Chinatown where the Red, Green and Yellow lines intersect. Barr leaned on the concrete wall -- the platform full of the riders waiting and waiting and waiting. The next Red Line train was 11 minutes away.

"The wait is always 10 or 15 minutes," Barr lamented.

The wait should be six minutes midday during the week in the core of the system under Metro's newly adopted service standard and 12 minutes on the rest.

That is fine with Kevin O'Dowd.

"I have my book and I just wait it out," he said, not too troubled by the lengthy wait which applies to off-peak service during the week.

At night, the standard wait is 15 minutes between trains in the core and 20 minutes elsewhere. Shorter rush hour limits were introduced last fall.

"I'm assuring riders they will see no changes from what they see today," said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles.

But today, riders find the wait times inconsistent at best. When it comes to being on time, a six-minute standard doesn't always mean six minutes. Metro gives itself padding before and after a train's scheduled arrival. So sometimes, that six minutes can actually be 12 minutes between trains and still be considered on time.

"During non-rush hour, sometimes it's five minutes to 20 minutes, and it's very annoying with the long wait because I have to get from point A to point B in only a matter of minutes to make a meeting or whatever,” said Angela Palombaro.

Given the leeway Metro gives itself at night -- theoretically -- there could be as much as 40 minutes between some trains.

"That's very, very unusual when you actually look at the performance," Sarles said.

The service standards don't apply anytime there is track maintenance or repairs. The transit agency says most of that work is no longer done during the week and is instead done primarily on weekends where Metro has yet to introduce rail service standards. For some riders, it is a numbers game that does not add up.

"If the goal is to get to six minutes, it should be six minutes on every train," Barr said.

As it stands now, if you have to be somewhere, what Metro considers "on time" could actually make you late.

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