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Metro's Rush Plus also a minus for some Orange Line riders

Metro riders (Examiner file photo)

Metro's Rush Plus service change that went into effect earlier this summer isn't pleasing some of the riders it was advertised as helping.

"It's a total failure," said Susan Cornelius, who rides the Orange Line from Vienna into McPherson Square for her job as a legal secretary. "Everybody's outraged."

She says she now has to regularly wait on trains, and multiple times during the trip for other trains to move, causing her to miss her bus in the evenings. That means she has to wait 20 minutes for the next bus.

"It never happened before until they started this Rush Plus," she said. Making matters worse, she said, the system raised fares July 1. "I wouldn't mind if they raised the fares, if it went back to the way things were."

Metro enacted Rush Plus on June 18 to make way for the Silver Line, now under construction and slated to begin running by early 2014.

The service change entailed rerouting some Blue Line trains onto Yellow Line tracks. That meant more trains traveling on some sections of the Orange and Yellow/Green lines.

The agency created a massive promotional campaign touting how it would improve service for some riders. Orange Line riders such as Cornelius who travel during the busy morning rush periods were among those slated to benefit, relieved from the crowded conditions that riders had dubbed "Orange Crush."

But Blue Line riders immediately started complaining that the Orange Crush conditions had jumped to their line, and they had to wait up to 12 minutes for trains during peak periods while paying peak prices.

Metro heard the Blue Line complaints and has taken some steps to improve conditions there. It added one eight-car train, with more space than the other six-car trains, onto the Blue Line to help alleviate crowding. "We would encourage customers to check the platform displays to determine the number of cars, and take full advantage of eight-car trains," said Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato. "Usually, the two cars at the rear of an eight-car train are where there's the most available capacity."

The agency also conducted a four-day survey of Blue and Yellow Line riders to help understand why more Blue Line riders weren't switching to the Yellow Line. The agency intends to use the results to develop outreach to riders, Asato said.

But the agency said it has heard only compliments from Orange Line riders.

"We don't have anything empirical to support the Orange Line feedback you heard," Asato said, when told of Cornelius' and others' complaints.

The agency has no plans to make other service pattern changes, she added.

Some of the bunching of trains at the end of the Orange Line could be alleviated when the Silver Line opens, though the "plus" of Rush Plus will be no longer.