- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

Metro yesterday began running eight-car trains on some Orange Line routes during morning rush hour as part of a six-month trial to see whether they alleviate overcrowding.

Metro has run eight-car trains for special events such as the Fourth of July and some baseball games, but this is the first time the transit agency has used the longer trains for regular commuter service. Metro usually runs six cars on commuter runs.

“I hope the six-month study is a good thing and they invest the additional money to add afternoon service,” said Becky Erkul, who rides Metro from her home in Arlington to her job in downtown Washington. “The mornings are more difficult because everyone tends to leave at the same time. We’re at overcapacity.”

When additional rail cars arrive this summer, Metro hopes to add eight-car train service in the evening rush hour on the Orange Line and then move to the other lines, said Jim Hughes, Metro’s assistant general manager.

Metro board member Chris Zimmerman, who represents Arlington, said a six-car train yesterday morning was too full, but he was able to get on the next train, which had eight cars. Other passengers reported being able to get a seat when they otherwise would not have had a chance.

Drivers will be running the trains in manual mode until the automatic precision stopping system is ready sometime this summer, Mr. Hughes said.

Now that drivers are trained to use the platforms with the eight-car trains, the next step will be training the passengers to spread out across the platform.

“I think it’s a great idea. They have nice long platforms. They may as well use them,” said Falls Church resident Mark Bowditch.

By December, 20 percent of the trains are expected to run with eight cars.

Mr. Zimmerman said he will be watching to see how many scheduled trains are able to run during the test program. Currently, Metro runs fewer trains than are scheduled because Blue and Orange line trains get stuck behind each other waiting to go through the Rosslyn tunnel.

Metro hopes that running slightly fewer eight-car trains will solve that problem for now, and that overcrowding will be relieved over the next three years as overall train car capacity is added.

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