NEW CARROLLTON – Metro’s SafeTrack plan may have 15 surges, but Prince George’s County’s plan to mitigate its effects is a three-parter, officials announced today. At a press conference held at the New Carrollton Metro Station Thursday morning, County Executive Rushern Baker III, county Director of Public Works and Transportation Darrell Mobley, and Metro Chief […]
NEW CARROLLTON – Metro’s SafeTrack plan may have 15 surges, but Prince George’s County’s plan to mitigate its effects is a three-parter, officials announced today.
At a press conference held at the New Carrollton Metro Station Thursday morning, County Executive Rushern Baker III, county Director of Public Works and Transportation Darrell Mobley, and Metro Chief Operating Officer Jack Requa detailed the county’s plans to help commuters impacted by the second and 12th maintenance surges outlined in SafeTrack.
“This is a very critical issue for us in the Washington region, especially Prince George’s County,” Baker said. “We have some of the highest numbers of federal employees in the county, and those federal employees and those employees who work in the district take Metro. So it’s very important for us during these times when they’re doing SafeTrack that we figure out ways for them to be able to get back and forth from their jobs in the region.”
County commuters will be significantly affected by Surge Two, which will completely shut down the Metrorail system on the Orange, Silver and Blue lines between Minnesota Avenue (Orange Line)/Benning Road (Blue and Silver Lines) and Eastern Market stations between June 18 and July 3. Those lines run from Prince George’s County into the District of Columbia.
In a change from previous statements from the county, Mobley announced that from June 20 to July 1, Prince George’s County’s TheBus service will increase capacity on the 15X line, which runs from New Carrollton Metro Station to Greenbelt Metro Station, where riders can access the Green Line or other modes of transportation. Buses will run every 20 minutes, and rides will be free of charge from New Carrollton to Greenbelt during the surge.
TheBus’s 15X service will run from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., although those hours could change.
“We also are looking at possibly extending that a little later. If we see the commute patterns have adjusted, we will adjust accordingly,” Mobley said.
Initially, county officials had said money was a factor prohibiting them from making such service increases. But today, Baker said providing the service to residents is the right thing to do to make commutes easier during this time.
“What we’ve always said is we’re going to look at how the situation is unfolding and we’re going to make the best decision for the residents of Prince George’s County to get back and forth,” he said. “We’re going to make the best decision within our confines. Everything is within a budget, but we’re going to make the adjustments we need to make to make people’s commutes as easy as possible.”
Metro will also be providing shuttle buses to service the affected stations, but county officials say the best option is to avoid those train lines if possible. That is part one of their plan for handling the surge.
“We want to do everything we can to have individuals avoid the system if they can during that time period,” Mobley said. “If you’re able to telework or to work an alternative work schedule, we strongly encourage it during the second surge.”
Part two of the plan involves looking at alternative commuting modes like rideshare services or carpooling. Mobley said the county is working with the Washington Area Bicycle Association to determine bike commuting routes for residents.
Mobley also said the county had requested the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) increase service on the MARC train lines during the surge and had received “verbal commitment that they are willing to increase capacity along the Camden line and the Penn line to aid in additional capacity.”
But MTA spokesperson Paul Shepard said the agency is only planning to increase capacity on the Camden line, adding 10 cars that will stay in service “as long as needed,” but might be removed if they are not utilized.
The increased bus service provided by the county and Metro itself, whose 40 to 50 buses will be supplemented with Prince George’s County buses if necessary, is part three of the plan.
Requa said Metro believes it has enough buses to shuttle effectively, running every five to 10 minutes during peak hours.
“We think there will be sufficient buses if we can keep the number of people coming through the Orange and Silver lines down to a minimum,” he said.
Unlike during the 29-hour system-wide Metro shutdown in March, the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane restrictions will not be lifted during the surge. In fact, Mobley said he has asked the state to increase the number of officers enforcing those restrictions.
“We want to encourage carpooling, so we don’t want to take away and have single cars in an HOV lane, which will create more congestion and further delays,” he said.
The county will be monitoring traffic on major roadways into the district and make real-time adjustments to the length of green lights as needed to accommodate an increased number of drivers.
A later surge will also impact Prince George’s County commuters. From Nov. 12 through Dec. 6, Metro will be single-tracking trains between the Greenbelt and College Park stations. Mobley said the county will be adding 10 more buses to create a shuttle between those stations once that surge begins.
Mobley said getting the word out to residents about these other options is critical in the lead-up to the surge. To do so, department of public works and transportation employees will be present at county Metro stations starting June 9 through next week, handing out informational cards explaining the alternative transportation options. Four or five yellow shirt-clad SafeTrack team members will be at each station, but the distribution might change based on the traffic at each station.
“That commute will be different from what we are experiencing now with Phase I,” Mobley said. “So we need to make sure we are communicating and getting information out.”
The county’s website will also advertise the plan.
Requa said commuters in Virginia seem to have heard about the SafeTrack surge currently taking place on their portion of the Orange Line and have adjusted their habits accordingly, which makes things easier.
“The word has gotten out,” he said. “We’re very pleased that people not only have heard about SafeTrack, have heard about alternatives, but are taking the alternatives.”