Metro will be making its biggest service change starting Monday, when it begins shifting some trains during rush periods onto different lines.
The change, dubbed Rush Plus, will make way for the Silver Line. But it's confusing to riders, despite a $400,000 information campaign from Metro.
"I saw that today, and I said what the hell is that?" said rider Bill Kammerzell.
The Washington Examiner spoke with 15 riders on the Orange and Blue lines Wednesday, and only four of them knew what Rush Plus meant and how it would affect them. Others had seen signs, while some had no idea.
Even some who had heard about it said it was going to be confusing.
"It's going to throw me off," said Jonathan Hirsch, who said he will have to pay attention to make sure he's on the right train as he travels between Farragut West and New Carrollton. "I think it will be a little confusing to others, especially tourists who may be coming from other parts of the country or overseas."
So what is changing Monday?
Metro will take three Blue Line trains each hour during the morning and afternoon rush periods -- 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. -- and run them along the Yellow Line tracks from Franconia-Springfield to Greenbelt. That means the agency will be able to run more trains on the Orange Line, but three per hour will end at Largo Town Center, not New Carrollton. Some Yellow and Green riders will see more service.
How do you know where the train is going?
Riders will have to look at the train's destination sign, not just the train's color, when traveling during rush periods.
Why is Metro doing this?
The tunnel under the Potomac River is already at capacity during rush hour, so the agency needs to make way for the Silver Line by early 2014, which also will use the tunnel. An added perk is more rush-hour service to parts of the system that are already crowded. But it's a short-term fix, said transit advocate Ben Ross. A longer-term solution for crowding requires a new crossing of the Potomac or splitting the Green and Yellow lines, he said.
Why is it called Rush Plus?
Metro originally called the plan the Blue/Yellow line realignment, a literal description. But it opted to spin it positively and call it Rush Plus in its information campaign, although some riders lose out.
Riders traveling from these areas will see more rush-hour trains:
Yellow Line: between King Street and Greenbelt.
Green Line: between L'Enfant Plaza and Greenbelt.
Orange Line: between Vienna and Stadium-Armory. But that may be short-lived for riders west of East Falls Church as Metro will need to use some of those slots for the Silver Line when it begins by 2014.
An estimated 6 percent of riders will get less service, with waits up to 12 minutes on the Blue Line even though they are paying peak fares. Riders going to the far ends of affected lines will have to pay attention to the destination of the trains they are boarding.
Who isn't affected by this?
Red Line riders are spared, as are those who ride outside the rush windows.
What is the next challenge?
In recent weeks, Metro has been trying to alert riders about the change. But the region continually has lots of new riders, whether they are visitors or transplants. So how will Metro continue to communicate this service pattern to new riders? The system is already confusing with its variable fares and infrequent station signs.
"It's worth doing an extra communication effort at National Airport -- and not just for the first week," Ross said.