Metro Says Ridership Way Down on First Morning of Maintenance Surge
Number of Red Line riders dipped as much as 40 percent and no Metrobus overcrowding was reported
Metro GM Paul Wiedefeld, front, and Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner, right, at a press conference last week at the Silver Spring Transit Center
Updated at 5:10 p.m. – For at least the first morning of Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance surge on the Red Line, it appears commuters heeded calls from public officials about finding alternative modes of transportation.
The surge, the first to hit Montgomery County, started Monday morning with continuous single-tracking between the Silver Spring and Takoma stations that will last through Aug. 7.
Metro GM Paul Wiedefeld and Montgomery County officials warned last week that the single-tracking would cause delays and possibly overcrowding throughout the Red Line, even on its western leg that includes stops in Bethesda and Rockville.
But Metro said Monday afternoon that the morning ridership was down approximately 30 percent to 40 percent. The Red Line serves about 94,000 riders per day. Metrobus reported steady ridership but no overcrowding conditions.
“Now we need everyone to keep this up for the rest of the week,” Wiedefeld said in a Metro press release.
Esther Bowring, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), said county officials thought everything went smoothly Monday morning.
The free Ride On shuttle service the county is providing between the Silver Spring, Takoma and Fort Totten Metro stations had 723 riders and buses began their routes about half-full at Silver Spring before picking up additional passengers at Takoma.
“We had some pretty full buses and some of them were standing room only,” Bowring said. “From what we’ve heard from Ride On, things went pretty smoothly. But I think it’s a little too early to declare victory.”
The free Ride On shuttle serving the western leg of the Red Line with stops at the Grosvenor-Strathmore, Medical Center, Bethesda and Friendship Heights stations had 113 riders. Both shuttles ran from 5:30 to 10 a.m. and started running again at 2:30 p.m. The service continued until 7 p.m. The free shuttles will operate through Friday.
Bowring also said the county saw no measurable increase in vehicle traffic or congestion during the morning rush hour, something she said could be because commuters decided to work at home or because people are on vacation as August begins.
Sandy Arnette, spokesperson for the Maryland Transit Administration, said its MARC Brunswick Line, which could serve as an alternate mode of transportation for local Red Line riders, had about 220 more passengers than it would on a normal Monday morning.
The Brunswick Line includes stops in Gaithersburg, Rockville, Garrett Park, Kensington and Silver Spring, and ends at Union Station in Washington, D.C. Arnette said MARC added four extra rail cars to some Brunswick Line trains but the additional cars weren't needed. MARC will keep the extra cars running Tuesday in case more passengers use the service on day two of the SafeTrack surge.