My Week in SafeTrack: A Travelogue

Twinbrook Metro signCOURTESY PHOTO  

I live in Silver Spring and work in Alexandria, normally parking my car at the Twinbrook Metro station.

After I park, I catch the southbound Red Line to Gallery Place, where I transfer to the Yellow Line in the direction of either Huntington or Franconia and ride to King Street.

From there, it’s about a half mile walk to my office. The commute takes about an hour, and I start work at 8:30 a.m., so I try to be on the train at Twinbrook not much later than 7 a.m..

Wednesday, July 6

I arrived at Gallery Place at about 7:45, which is fairly typical.

Someone announced through the loudspeaker there were no trains running from between National Airport and Braddock Road.

I remembered, with horror, that this was the beginning of SafeTrack for this section of the rail. It was some time before a Yellow Line train pulled in and I boarded.

As I rode past L’Enfant Plaza, I remembered the fatality that occurred on this line, right around here in 2015, which is largely the motivator for this maintenance.

If this goes some distance to preventing future such incidents, all to the good, I suppose.

As directed, I got off the train at Crystal City, made my way topside, then waited about ten minutes for the shuttle bus which ferried me to Braddock Road.

Once there, it was another five minutes or so before a train finally arrived which took me a short distance to King Street. I arrived at work at about 8:45.

As luck would have it, I had to go into D.C. to run an errand that afternoon, and so was able to board the Red Line afterwards and go straight home.

Thursday, June 7

Now knowing to expect the delay, I boarded the train at Twinbrook at around 6:40 a.m.

Again, it was some time before a Yellow Line train arrived at Gallery Place. I stood, clutching one of the overhead poles in the cramped car.

When I ascended to the top of the escalator at Crystal City, there were WMATA employees handing at brochures with information on the SafeTrack schedule.

Next to them, a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses handed out pamphlets. I give them credit for recognizing an opportunity. People riding the Metro these days are a safe bet to be looking for answers from a higher power.

It was another long wait for the shuttle bus to Braddock Road. I arrived at work at just after 8:30 a.m.

After work, I waited about five minutes for a train from king Street to Braddock Road, where I boarded the shuttle bus to Pentagon City.

Is it just me or does Pentagon City have the narrowest platform of any station in the MetroRail.

The opposite site of the platform was packed with Nationals fans in their regalia. Knowing how uncomfortable it is getting to Nationals Park on a good day, I wished them good fortune.

The display screen, which normally gives the time until trains arrive, seemed to be completely haywire. Various times flashed on the screen: eight minutes, 12 minutes, 17 minutes, but without specifying what line the train would be, or even if there was a train.

Several minutes passed with no light at the end of the tunnel, figuratively or literally.

Eventually a train arrived, one of the much vaunted “new” trains with the computer displays and the voice that sounds eerily like the computer from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

The graphics on the screen extolled the virtues of the new trains, one of which was, “No carpet.”

If there has ever been a regular Metro rider whose principal complaint with the system was that the cars were carpeted, that person is lucky indeed.

At Gallery Place, I boarded the Shady Grove-bound red line and again stood, clutching the overhead bar.

Just before getting we arrived at Tenleytown, the young child of a tourist family exclaimed, “This is a crowded train!” From out the mouths of babes…

I finally got back to Twinbrook at about 6:45, more than an hour and a half after I entered the King Street Metro in Alexandria.

But I was home, and happily drove to the hospital to meet my nephew, who was born at about 3:30 that morning. May he and his generation know a better public transit system.

Friday, July 8

I got on the train at Twinbrook at about 6:30 a.m., and there wasn’t anything too horrific this time on the way down, or perhaps I was just getting used to it. I arrived at work on time, anyway.

The ride home was another matter.

There were delays at every point of the trip, from the train out of King Street to the bus to Pentagon City, to the train out of there to the train out of Gallery Place. The car was so hot and crowded that I eventually had to take my dress shirt off.

I was wearing an undershirt, but might have done so even if I wasn’t. I clung to one of the car’s poles, trying to send a psychic message back through time to five-year-old Peter, gleefully playing with his toy train set: Those things are evil, kid. Stay away!

At Friendship Heights, a friend of mine from a Meetup group I belong to boarded my car.

“Back there it’s even worse,” he told me, indicating the trailing car he’d just come from. “The air conditioner’s completely out.”   We talked about work and he asked if I planned to move to Alexandria at some point.

“Possibly,” I said. “The idea of not having to ride Metro is more appealing with every passing second.”

It was after 7 p..m. when the train finally got to Twinbrook.

Monday, July 11

I’d gotten to sleep early the night before, and managed to make it to Twinbrook at 6:00. The trains weren’t as crowded this early, and while there was a fairly long wait for the shuttle bus at Pentagon City, I made it to King Street at a little after 8 a.m.

So, I’ve figured out the formula. Just add an hour or so to your commute and you’ll get where you’re going on time.

The commute home was relatively painless, as well, or perhaps I was just lucky. I caught trains at each of my stations in the nick of time and arrived at Twinbrook at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 12

A new phase of improvements begins. This time Crystal City is closed, and so I had to get off at Pentagon City to catch the bus to Braddock Road. Not too bad, all in all, and   I made it to work at a little after 8:30 a.m.

After work, I was to join my friends for a movie at Tyson’s Corner.

As it was cheaper and I wasn’t in a hurry, I elected to bypass the rails altogether and boarded the 28A bus and took an hour-and-half long scenic tour of Alexandria, Falls Church and Tyson’s. 

Afterword, I got a lift home from one of my friends who lives in Rockville.

But, of course, since I didn’t come back the way I left, I didn’t qualify for the rider’s rate and had to pay $3.00 more to leave the lot.

Perhaps the next year-long improvement project can look into that.


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