Friday Question of the Day – How Important is the Yellow Line Service to Ft. Totten to you?

Photo by PoPville flickr user D©Bloom

Yesterday we spoke about the possibility of metro reducing weekend hours to midnight from 3am. My ANC commissioner Rob Mandle sent a note with even more potential bad news:

“The WMATA Board is considering cutting late night service hours as well as yellow line off-peak service to Fort Totten. I’d like to hear from constituents on this issue. I personally am against both service cuts, but the offpeak service reductions concern me the most.”

Is the continuation of the yellow line service to Ft. Totten important to you?

99 Comment

  • Cutting yellow during off peak makes sense. I think they need to run the yellow at least to Columbia Heights or Petworth though during rush. CH is now of the top five busiest metros in the District now, it doesn’t make any sense that we would not have premium service at rush hour. At least every other yellow should go to Ft Totten during rush. They also need to add at least 2-3 more fare gates. It takes forever now just to get out of the system in CH during rush. it would also help if all of the gates actually worked.

    • Yep, everything you said.

      • +++100. It’s amazing to watch about half the train empty out at CH during rush. Literally, it’s a major people dump between 5:30 and 7 p.m.

        • you can’t end the train at Columbia Heights or Petworth because there is no track there to turn it around on. It can stop at Mt. Vernon Square, Ft. Totten, or Greenbelt.

          • It can only stop at Mt Vernon or Greenbelt during rush hour. There isn’t a pocket track at Ft Totten for the train to wait on during rush hour. The green line trains then are too frequent to just pull the yellow line train across to the inbound track.

        • Can we have a few more faregates at CH too pls? Squeezing several hundred offloaded passengers through three fare gates is a little absurd. About half of my commute in the evening is spent on the actual train. The second half if getting from the platform outside the faregates.

    • Hopefully the Tivoli North/Park View infill station will alleviate some of the overcrowding at the Columbia Heights station, if it ever gets built.

  • Off topic, I know, but as a new resident of the U Street neighborhood, could someone explain the rationale behind having Yellow Line trains stop at Mount Vernon during rush hour? This makes no apparent sense to me.

    • The Green Line runs much more frequently during rush hour, so the thinking is that you don’t need to supplement with Yellow Line trains.

      As for the initial question, as someone who lives in Shaw, I strongly value Yellow Line service going past Mt. Vernon. I’m not sure that it has to go all the way to Ft. Totten, but there may be some logistical benefits to turning trains around there as opposed to in CH or Petworth.

    • I think they do this so that there are more frequent yellow line trains going in the Huntington direction during rush hour – to handle the large amount of commuters coming in from VA.

    • When they first expanded the Yellow Line to Ft. Totten, I remember reading that they couldn’t do it during rush hour, because they didn’t have enough train cars to increase the level of service then. I think that is still the case.

    • The trains can’t switch at Ft Totten during rush hour because there is no pocket track for the train to wait on, and green line trains are too frequent to just pull the yellow train across to the inbound track and have it clog everything up while the changeover happens. And they can’t run yellow line trains all the way to Greenbelt because there aren’t enough trains to do so.

  • If only because it provides more frequency of trains coming throught the stations b/t Mt. Vernon and Ft. Totten than having to rely only on the Green line.

  • I agree with ANONYMOUS – why not run the YELLOW line during rush hour all the way up to Ft. Totten? Sometimes the green line is so packed during rush hour I have to let a train or two go by.

    • Easy folks,

      They have to turn the trains around at Mt. Vernon because it is the last place where they built a pocket track… where they can switch tracks and “turn” the train around until I believe, Greenbelt.

      I would agree that it was poor planning when it was designed because as folks have said, the bulk of the northbound rail traiffic on those lines gets off at Columbia Heights. The problem will only get worse as Petworth catches up to COlumbia Heights.

      The only solution now is to physically run more trains which Metro doesn’t want to do because it is more expensive.

      • They can turn the trains around at Mt. Vernon Square, Ft. Totten, or Greenbelt. I love all the people who just want the train to go to their stop (Shaw, Columbia Heights, etc) and don’t care if it goes any further. Going to Ft. Totten where it connects with the red line benefits all the green line DC neighborhoods without I’m assuming lots of extra costs to go all the way to Greenbelt. It would be awesome though if one day the Yellow line could split at Ft. Totten to serve totally new neighborhoods…but for now, please don’t kill a good thing in the making and keep what Yellow Line service we have!

        • agree! Don’t stop it at CH. Petworth is growing rapidly. and the Red line connection is valuable as said above.

          As for non-rush hour and weekends, I find the direct Yellow line connection to National Airport very valuable, as well as the fact that the trains run more often at Petworth to get anywhere. We are limited in west-east bus routes, so having trains run more often lets us get to other places in the city without it becoming an all day affair. However, I can live without it for a while if necessary. Just don’t forget that I said only “a while!” Having the streetcar will help.

        • Well said, GeorgiaAve! Keep the Yellow Line running beyond Mr. Vernon.

  • The area surrounding Columbia Heights has the densest population of any metro station in the city. No, service should not be reduced.

  • The yellow line service is very important to me. And I echo other comments above: the yellow line needs to run to at least Columbia Heights during rush hour. The stop is very crowded and under serviced.

    Reducing the hours to 12AM is just crazy. In a time when gas prices are rising we need more service, not less. Our metro is a big attraction for people living in the city. I understand that metro is not profitable, but that’s not going to change with reduced service. They need a complete overhaul of their operations.

  • The Green/Yellow line in DC is the area of most rapidly growing ridership in the city, so cutting service on this line would be very short sighted. If providing services to customers were the utmost priority, then the Yellow line service should be extended to also run during rush hour. I understand the reality of needing to cut budgets, but Metro’s approach of reducing service and making it more and more unpleasant to ride metro is like shooting themselves in the foot. I wish they would solve other hugely expensive problems instead – like why the escalators and elevators are never properly repaired. I feel like metro’s been undergoing an extensive overhaul of escalators since I moved here in 1994.

  • That’s a big conversation topic in my office. We need the yellow line to go to Petworth or Fort Totten during rush hour. I thought I’d read somewhere in wmata press releases or something that it was going to happen in 2011. To hear that the plan would be to reduce yellow line service even more instead is really depressing.

    I also don’t understand the rationale for a better yellow line service during off-peak hours and worse during peak hours. We really need the complete line during peak hours. Not to mention the tourists and visitors that are often completely mystified by the line stopping because it isn’t clearly explained anywhere in station.

    • Where do you work that you have coworkers in Petworth? I don’t know a single person in my office or my former office that doesn’t live in VA or MD.

      • I work for a non-profit downtown, and easily half of my colleagues live between Dupont and Petworth, concentration increasing as you go north. Of the forty people in my office THREE drive to work.

      • really? my office has just under 30 people at off the top of my head i count 14 in dc (ranging from columbia heights, tenley, capitol hill, etc.). the rest are an even split md/va

      • I work for an environmental think tank in DC. Probably 25% of our office bikes to work and the most common neighborhoods where my colleagues live are Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill and along the H Street corridor. Lots of people are moving to Petworth, too – I got a lot of blank stares when I bought my house there in 2005, but now have many coworkers among my neighbors. Lots of people live in Silver Spring, Arlington, Takoma Park and other close-in suburbs and a lot of them bike, too. Probably < 10% of our office drives to work and parks in the garage.

  • Yellow line to Fort Totten on the weekends and later at night during the week brought me to the metro. I use it. If I had to wait 12-15 minutes for a green line train instead of a 5-6 max wait during thoes times to catch either – I would take cabs (like I used to before this started), not metro. I don’t want to do that, but that’s my impatient reality. If the yellow isn’t through to Ft. Totten, I will not put any money into the system at all.


  • You know what…..screw metro. We should petition the circulator to exand their service.

    • +100

      Let’s face it… metro’s not convenient for most people that aren’t tourists.

      • ? I guess a lot of tourists in DC like to dress in suits to go see monuments at 8am then.

        • Metro is fine for tourists and commuters. But its is horrible for getting around the city. It was not designed for DC residents. Going East/West North of U Street is a pain.

          And I’ve noticed that DC is, slowly but surely, becoming a late-night city. We need an effective transportation solution at all hours. Metro is not willing to deliver.

          So, I am ready for new solutions. The streetcars are a good idea. And I love that the DC Circulator is filling in some of the void.

          • That’s what I meant. Metrorail services a very small percentage of residential neighborhoods (and it doesn’t go to a fair amount of business areas either). Most of the commuters you see on the metro took either a car, bus, or shuttle to get to the station, and many more will take another bus or shuttle to get to work. If there were a few more buses in service I think most of us would prefer to take one or two of them than take three different forms of transit to get to work.

          • There are undoubtedly gaps in the system, such as neighborhoods that aren’t served by rail at all, or neighborhoods where rail isn’t the most direct route (e.g. Col Heights to Dupont), but for the most part buses fill those gaps (although not that example; I think it would be great to see a new route connecting those neighborhoods).

            But to claim that Metrorail is NOT vital to moving residents around the District and region is absurd.

          • Metro def. plays a role at moving residents. But, again, the routes aren’t ness. the best for DC residents getting around the city. There aren’t that many stops and the routes don’t connect more residential areas to each other. But, yes, its effective in getting people across the river to major commercial neighborhoods. Well, not ness. for me. I work at the Dunn Loring metro which is 1hr20 mins and $5 one way.

            I think what some of us are saying is bus routes could be redesigned to better meet the needs of folks wanting to get around the city.

            On a side note, I’ve always thought our station stops are too over-the-top: vaulted ceilings, etc. If the minor stations were simpler, maybe we could have built more stations into the system.

          • saf

            Am I the only bus rider here?

          • I am! That’s what I agreed with the comment that we need more bus service, and let the metro go to hell.

          • jsl just proved my point. You can’t get from CH (a very densely populated neighborhood to Dupont without either walking to MtP or changing buses. Well…there is a crosstown bus, but its only at rush hour (H4???) Washington has great mass transit service. All I am saying is it can be even better!

        • Ditto what A said. I’m not a tourist but a daily Metro commuter from CH to Crystal City. I depend on the Yellow line and absolutely favor it going to Ft. Totten so I don’t have to change trains at L’enfant. I think the choices are Mt. Vernon or Ft. Totten because those are the only stations along that line that have the third rail that allows the train to switch to the other side. Not sure that capacity is there at CH or Petworth.

          • Agreed! U street to Pentagon here.

          • A should probably look into the 42 bus, which does provide CH (well, MtP, but it’s not exactly a long walk, or you can transfer off of one of the H series) to Dupont service.

            But yes, yellow line off-peak service makes living on the green/yellow even better, since we have short headways almost all the time. While track apparently makes peak service for the yellow line through Ft Totten difficult, it’s something that ought to be pursued and certainly nothing that would make the U St/CH metro less serviced than it currently is should be considered seriously – they really are incredibly busy stops.

            On a side note, I lived in Chicago while CTA was busily cutting service to make their budgetary ends meet. It turned into a death spiral – service cuts lead to less ridership leads to more service cuts. It’s not the path you want to go down.

          • 14th St Height – don’t chant at L’enfant going to work, change at Mt Vernon, that way you get a seat,unless you like standing.

          • Completely agree! CH to King St and I travel off-peak soley to avoid switching trains.

      • I have to assume there is a typo somewhere in the 11:09 comment. It doesn’t make sense as it appears.

        • Why? Read what I said above. If you’re wable to get to most places by metro and short walks, you clearly got lucky with where you work and live.

        • Steve at 2:50. you are correct. I change at Lenfant on the way home so that I can have seat. I usually leave late enough (after 9:15) in the morning that I can catch the yellow and not change at all. : )

  • Bear

    Re: the comments about extending yellow line service to Columbia Heights/Petworth during rush hour. There’s no turn around at either of these stations, so the yellow trains would have to go to Ft. Totten to switch directions. I think I remember reading in a previous post either here or on DCist that this isn’t possible during rush hour because of the set up at Ft. Totten vs. Mt. Vernon. I believe Mt. Vernon has a pocket track where trains call pull into to switch directions, while Ft. Totten does not. Trains turning around at Ft. Totten interfere with the green line trains already running at increased frequency during rush hour, so that’s why they turn around at Mt. Vernon during peak times.

  • I too would start taking way more cabs if yellow line service were reduced. Green line trains seem to run up about 15 minutes apart on weekends, even in the middle of the day. Factor in the fact that metro prices seem to keep going up, and the small cost savings of taking the metro rather than a cab just isn’t worth the time difference.

    • +1 I do that math regularly too. I live at GA/Petworth, and if the train service runs only every 15 minutes on the weekend, forget it. Cabs start to seem more convenient, comfortable, AND about the same price when there are 2 or more of you. I want to support metro, but we need more service, not less.

      • Case in point: went from Ga Ave/Petworth last night to Dupont. The yellow line train the trip planner said was coming never showed up so I had to wait for the green. In waiting for the green I missed the red I would’ve been on and had to wait TWENTY minutes for a train. TOOK ME AN HOUR for my trip. I said f this and took a cab home.

  • Since Fort Totten is a transfer point to another line Red], it makes sense for the Yellow Line to go all the way there. I fail to see what would be saved by stopping at Mt. Vernon Square. That’s a legacy stopping point from when the system was first constructed.

  • Yes! The train and bus frequency is already abysmal in the Bloomingdale and Shaw neighborhoods. Further reductions in frequency are likely to push more riders into alternate modes of transportation. Then, lower ridership numbers will be used as a basis for further cuts. We need more frequent service in the neighborhoods–not less.

  • I agree with most everyone here that we need more yellow line service not less. The other day on my commute home I had to wait for two consecutive yellow line trains before the green line came. Then when the train got to CH the driver announced that it would be “expressing” the Petworth station. Thankfully the driver clarified this statement explaining that the train’s next stop would be Fort Totten and countless people had to get out of the train and wait for the next green line.

    Bottom line, it would be great if the yellow line went all the way to Fort Totten during rush hour. Definitely we need to at least keep the amount of service we have now. In the last 7 years since I started riding the green line I have observed a huge increase in ridership and I suspect that this trend will continue. It always frustrates me that it takes at least 45 mins to commute to work door to door and I live in the city! Driving cuts down the commute by around 15 mins. With service cuts and increased fares I’m afraid it will make more and more sense for people to start driving…what a shame.

  • End of late-night service is a terrible idea.

    I’m from boston where the T stops running around midnight on weekends and its pathetic. The bars close a couple hours later at which point masses of people begin wandering around the streets looking for cabs,getting in fights, and frequently driving home drunk.

    The fact that Metro runs til 3 on the weekends is usually the first thing I mention in reasons I prefer DC, and I think it is often overlooked as a critical draw for young people coming to the city.

    Metro should raise the late night fares if they must but cutting this service should not be on the table.

    • Hey there you go — raising late night fares wouldn’t be too horrible. It’d still be cheaper than a cab.

      Cutting late night service is a terrible idea, and they should do whatever possible to avoid it. The changes to the late night life in this city over the last 10 years are huge, and we should stick with making this a BETTER pedestrian city, not going backwards.

    • janie4

      I agree – raise the late night fare if you have to, but don’t cut the service. Otherwise, why metro anyplace if you have to be sure to leave by 11:40?

  • I agree with the need for yellow line service to Fort Totten during rush hour. 7 years ago, the green line came every 6 minutes during rush hour. How often does it come now after a huge ridership increase? Every 6 minutes. Doesn’t make much sense.

    Every time service cuts are proposed, I think how short-sighted this is. I know they are trying to balance the budget, but ending service at midnight on weekends and cutting other services will likely result in more drunk driving and lost revenue for area businesses. It will also likely lead to further reduced ridership which, wait… isn’t that one of the big reasons why we are in this pickle to begin with?

    This is one of the few places in the U.S. where it is easy to be car-free. Instead of constantly proposing service cuts, get your creative juices flowing and identify some forward-thinking, long-term fiscal and management strategies and implement them!

    • “get your creative juices flowing and identify some forward-thinking, long-term fiscal and management strategies and implement them!”

      YES! I don’t get some of these comments saying Metro can’t do such and such, because well, they just can’t.

  • I agree with everyone that this would be a TERRIBLE idea. I can think of so many routes that would be better cut instead – what about closing some of the stops around the Mall during non-rush times (especially late at night) or on weekends during the winter?

    Since moving to Columbia Heights, I avoid the metro as often as possible, because it is just too much of a hassle and too poorly organized to deal with. In VA it was fine, but green line trains are WAY too crowded during rush hour due to lack of service past Vt. Vernon Square on the yellow line.

    Like others, I just take the Circulator, which is so useful to DC residents in terms of connecting areas that aren’t connected by the metro. They really have a great strategy.

  • I think the metro lines that share tracks should run along the same route while within DC borders. The blue/orange, yellow/green, blue/yellow (and soon to be silver line) splits exists only for suburban commuters and should not reduce reliability for people who live in DC, where public transportation is relied on for more than just commutes.

    While I totally support the Silver line extension, I’m worried about the unnecessary confusion created by having a line share a track with the yellow/green line before switching to the blue/orange line halfway through the city.

    As the primary form of public transportation within the city, the metro should first focus on allowing people to move within the city, before concentrating on shuttling people in from the suburbs.

    • I think because the funding is regional, metro needs to cater to commuter needs to a large extent. Perhaps that’s why DC is starting to fund some alternatives such as Circulator/streetcars that are less dependent on VA/MD funding (and are more tailored to city residents’ needs). Still, at least for now, metro is the main source of transportation within the city for city residents and shouldn’t lose sight of that.

    • While we can all argue about what the metro *should be* it was designed and organized to be a way to shuttle suburban commuters in and out of the city. While we can augment the focus somewhat, changing it wholesale is logistically impossible. It’s *owned* by all 3 jurisdictions.

      Also, what DCster says about alternate means. That’s why we have a circulator and (coming) trolleys.

  • It’s so funny that people have such a CH/Petworth myopic view of things. Of course this is a Petworth blog, but on this question, it makes absolutely no sense to say, well at least run it to CH or Petworth but not all the way to Ft. Totten. When major bus lines run from Ft. Totten and there’s a connection to the red line at Ft. Totten? So yes, the yellow should continue to run all the way to Ft. Totten during off-peak hours.

    • that’s not what people on here are saying, they are saying during rush hour, the yellow line should continue all the way to ft. totten or at least columbia heights to take the pressure off of the green line. Nothing to do with the off-peak hours.

  • Cut the late night hours. I know it’s nice and it lets people go out and get hammered until 3am with a free nap thrown in until you get to your hood, but it’s costing Metro too much.

    And the “drives revenue for the city ” argument is weak. DC is in no position to increase Metro funding and I’m sure MD/VA would be happy to have people from their state party within their borders. Besides, the 3am crowd isn’t driving that much revenue. Most of them have spent their money by 11:30p and bars and clubs aren’t known for paying their taxes properly. Add on top of it the additional police required to patrol places like Adam’s Morgan and I think it’s a wash if not a loss. If you want to party in the city, grab some roommates and live in the city.

    And I say that as a 30 something who had to live through the ‘dark days’ when there was no late night metro service.

  • I only care whether there is train service between L’Enfant Plaza and Columbia Heights or GA Ave-Petworth during rush hour. I do not care what the color of the line is. Just don’t send less trains down that route during rush hour.

  • How is it possible that the metro sucks sooooo bad.
    How is it possible that bigger cities with more people in much poorer countries can provide much much better service at a much much lower cost than metro.

    And no, it isn’t becuase they get taxed 90% and the government funds it becuase Metro here is subsidized as well and probably at a much larger budget than the total operating cost of these other countries.

    • Metro got screwed up during the first couple of decades of DC home rule. DC always had a veto (which MD/VA do not) so they ran it into the ground as an arm of social policy.

  • It means a lot to me, my family, and my neighbors. Please increase metro service, not cut it!

  • I take the yellow line to work, so I’m obv. in favor of it taking me all the way to Petworth every day (I’m often traveling out of peak hours).

    That said, I think it’s much much more important to keep the metros running until 3. Remember how awful it was before that? If we’re supposed to be a world class city at night, then we need public transportation to match it. Don’t make me always take a cab…

  • If you look at the rail schedules, eliminating Yellow Line off-peak service to Ft. Totten leaves the Green Line operating with the same off-peak headways as the Red Line. So the question that PoP should have posed is, do you favor continuing to give these Green Line stations special treatment (i.e. shorter off-peak headways) than other Metro lines?

  • Man it was awesome to take the yellow line straight from the airport to my stop, Ft. Totten, last Friday around midnight. Then a bus 5 min. to my house. It was one of those moments when I marvel at how nice public transit can be. Of course, just when I fall in love with something they want to take it away 🙁

  • with one apartment building in petworth just opening (and a PoP advertiser), and another one to open within a few months, there’s going to be a big increase in urban density directly on top of the petworth metro station. i suspect that a lot of these people WILL be metro riders, as the proximity to the metro is likely the biggest draw of both of those buildings.

    personally, it’s not so much the color of the yellow/green line service that matters to me as to the frequency of trains….as through the city core, they’re the same. though i suspect if they want to cut yellow line service, they don’t anticipate ramping up green.

    i’m sure metro can analyze the HUGE increase of ridership out of columbia heights in the past 2-3 years. when i used to go to that station in the pre-DC USA days, it was a ghost town. now it seems that half the train is getting on and off there.

  • I live in Columbia Heights, and if Yellow Line service on weekends were eliminated I wouldn’t even bother taking the metro then – especially not to the airport or Pentagon City.

    And I understand the difficulties of running the Yellow Line to Ft. Totten during peak hours, but I think the goal should be to make it work some time in the next five years or so, given that neighborhoods north of the Convention Center are adding so many new residents.

    So, to answer the question: Yes, Yellow Line service to Ft. Totten is very important to me!

  • I’d like to keep Yellow Line service to Ft. Totten. It is perfect for getting home from the airport.

  • Agreed with the people who said they didn’t care what color the line is, just do NOT cut service between Petworth/CH and L’Enfant during rush hour. I understand that there are no turnaround points to allow the yellow line to go all the way to Fort Totten in the evenings, but at the very least metro should then increase the number of green line trains at rush hour! Why can’t it be two greens for every one yellow, like the blue/orange lines at rush hour? I get on at CH in the morning and with trains every 7 minutes, sometimes the train is already crowded before people at CH get on, and packed before U St. Then in the evenings for some reason there are two yellows before a green! Metro needs to realize that most yellow/green line riders now live at CH and Petworth, and respond accordingly.

  • Metro may be screwed up but not for the reason you cite – DC, MD, and VA have always been equal partners in Metro – each one has a veto on the WMATA board and always have. It has nothing to do with DC home rule.

  • Alright, i’ll go ahead and say it. This move would be racist. The metro stops that receive the benefit of this are some of the most used and fasted growing stops on the system. These stops are also in neighborhoods that have large black and hispanic populations. I don’t see them considering an option of stopping half the off-peak red-line trains at dupont or woodley park to save money.

    • it’s a shame people can’t reserve the word “racism” for something that actually is.
      there most certainly is racism in the world. you do justice a disservice by bitching this way.

      • if the decision is not justified by the numbers, then what is the reason? the population that these stops service are not as organized as, say, the cleveland park nimby’s who would never let an option like this even see the table. they’re targeting what they see to be the weakest group.

        • If they’re targeting the least organized, weakest, poorest group, isn’t it classism, rather than racism? And it probably is.

  • Keeping off-peak Yellow Line Service to Fort Totten is very important.

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