- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2016

The District is gearing up for a hellish Monday commute as Metro begins its yearlong overhaul of the ailing subway system that will shut down segments of track for weeks at a time.

The first leg of the reconstruction will last from Saturday until June 16 and will affect the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. During that time, the Orange and Silver lines will single-track from the Ballston to East Falls Church stations in Virginia.

And though that first phase of work isn’t being done within city limits, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the District is taking several measures to try to ease commute times next week.

“The plan will affect every single commuter. Even repairs outside of the District will affect us,” Ms. Bowser said Thursday at a press event at the Eastern Market Metro station, which will be affected by the second phase of the transit agency’s “SafeTrack” plan. “We believe Washington, D.C., will be affected by all 15 surges.”

Starting Monday, the city will expand its rush hour parking restrictions on main thoroughfares. Normally, drivers can’t park on those roads from 7 a.m.-9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays, but during the track work the restrictions will be enforced from 7 a.m.-10 a.m. and 4 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

That will start during the first few phases with east-west roads, while roads that run north and south will see longer restriction times in August during the sixth phase of SafeTrack, according to Leif Dormsjo, director of the District Transportation Department.

Ms. Bowser said the city also will deploy more traffic control officers, halt most public space construction work and offer Capital Bikeshare for $2 per ride rather than making commuters commit to the $8 day rate.

The mayor also is considering extending Circulator bus service to 3 a.m. as well as expanding routes for those city-run buses.

About 230,000 daily subway riders in the District will be affected by the second phase of the system’s renovation starting in August. The Blue, Orange and Silver lines from Eastern Market to the Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue stations will shut completely, meaning only the Blue and Yellow lines will operate in Virginia. The Orange and Silver lines will have disrupted service, with Metrobuses trying to make up the difference.

That work is expected to last for 16 days, and Metro officials said riders should expect extreme crowding and wait times of more than an hour in each direction.

Engineers at the University of Maryland-College Park plan to track how Metro’s yearlong overhaul affects commuters.

Lei Zhang, director of the university’s National Transportation Center, said the school has been tracking the Metro’s plan for “quite a while” and has surveyed riders to see how they plan to get around the work.

“We are actually most interested in finding out how individual commuters are influenced by this series of maintenance events,” Mr. Zhang said. “We want to capture riders who will be affected before, during and after each event.”

The school also will use modeling tools to predict how riders might change their travel as well as what roads will be most heavily affected when taking into account Metro’s service interruptions and day-to-day road work that normally occurs in D.C. metropolitan region.

Mr. Zhang said his team will work through all phases of the Metro rehabilitation. Before each scheduled maintenance event, they plan to use simulation tools to predict how individuals across the area will respond to the shutdown and then translate that information to the public to make them aware of problem spots.

The first report is expected to be available for the public on Friday or Saturday, Mr. Zhang said, and subsequent reports will be ready throughout each phase as commuters shift their habits.

But the reports will live on well past Metro’s year of repairs: Mr. Zhang said they will be shared with cities across the country to help them deal with similar problems, should they arise.

“We have very little to no data on how individuals behave or an entire transportation system behaves under a shutdown like this,” he said.

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