Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Few Minutes With Metro's Deputy General Manager

For some time, I have wished to directly ask Metro Officals about their upcoming train service to and from New Nationals Park. Yesterday's Photo Op with Team President Stan Kasten riding a train to The Navy Yard Station--gave me the opportunity. The Navy Yard Station's West Entrance re-opens next week with an increased capacity to handle 15,000 patrons per hour. Going to any ballgame for Our Washington Nationals on Metro--should not be a problem. Fans usually arrive staggered and spaced out. More than enough room for everybody.

But what about after the game? Even with all the extra trains running through Navy Yard--can Metro handle the crowds and the transfer points?

Well, riding the train Wednesday afternoon, along with Mr. Kasten and My Best Friend Screech!! was Gerald Francis--Deputy General Manager and Chief Operating Officer for WMATA. After yesterday's event--he took time to answer some of those questions.

Here we go:

I want to ask you about transferring after a game. From experience at using Metro from RFK Stadium—there was never a problem catching a train out of RFK Stadium—heading back into the city. But, going to Virginia, transferring to the Yellow Line—many times we would arrive at L’Enfant Plaza Station and have to wait 18 to 20 minutes for a train to Huntington. Now—you have more people accessing L’Enfant Plaza to transfer after games—how will this situation be handled for Nats Games this season? (SBF)

“For weekday games, what we are going to do is look at it. Those games start about 7:10PM. We have extra service trains that will be out there. So, what we (Metro) will do is look at the size of the crowd and use them to coordinate what we should do. Usually, we have five or six extra trains out in the system. So, we might be able to reduce that 18 minutes delay—make some headway and reduce that wait time in half—or even less.”

That would be nice, because one of the issues of using Metro and transferring at L’Enfant Plaza has been the delay. When it’s already past 11PM—on a weeknight—you don’t want to be hanging around the system. (SBF)

“Oh, I understand—you are trying to get back home and it’s been a long day—and probably a early rise.”

You got that right. (SBF)

“Yeah, you don’t want to be waiting 20 minutes for a train at that time. Over the course of the season—we will be looking at this exact issue. We are always flexible. We make tweaks and changes as necessary. But no one is going to get stranded. So, that is our game plan right now—to look at your situation that way.”

During an average game—how many cars are being added to the line? (SBF)

“Right now—for the first game—we are going to add about 14 or 15 cars to the line. I should say Trains on The Green Line. We are also including some on the Red, Blue and Orange. During the evening weeknights—we are going to be in our Rush Hour mode prior to the games--already. And then after the game—depending on the time the game ends—we are going to have those extra trains available to our customers to get them home--also.”

Everyday, I read in the newspaper, on local TV news, the radio—you name it—Metro can’t handle the expected crowds at Nationals Park. What do you say about that? (SBF)

“It’s like I told Stan Kasten. They (The Nationals) go through their Pre-Season; we (Metro) have gone through our Pre-Season. (Chuckling). We’ve got the operators and station managers doing calisthenics—getting their work in. But honestly, I think we ARE READY. Metro has handled a lot of different special events over the years and we have been pretty successful. The thing we look at is being safe, reliable and convenient for our customers. That is our goal every single day and we are going to keep working toward those goals.”

You not worried about The Navy Yard Station being deluged with passengers after any game with a large crowd? (SBF)

“No—that’s why we are finishing up the expansion of the west entrance. When it re-opens next week—I expect everything to run smoothly. There are always kinks—but nothing that cannot ever be solved. Metro can handle it.”

That’s confidence. You feel Metro is up to the task? (SBF)

“Yes, we are. No doubt.”

When will The Nationals SmartTrip Cards go on sale? (SBF)

“They will be available tomorrow (March 20th), Friday at the latest—online. That is the goal.”

I noticed Metro would be selling them here at Navy Yard on Opening Night—anyplace else? (SBF)

“They will also be available at The Metro Headquarters Sales Center and some of the other sales outlets.” (But, Mr. Francis was not sure where, or for how long)

And finally, just to be clear—as in previous years—even if the game runs well past midnight—fans should have no worries about getting home on Metro? (SBF)

“We have to make sure they get back. If they don’t—we are not doing our job. Especially, if they (the team) go into extra innings. We all want to root for The Nats to win then—because we always want to have happy customers at the end of day!” (Both of us busting out laughing)

With that--my chat with Metro's Gerald Francis concluded. Sohna and I are planning to take Metro--to most games--but especially on Opening Night. There is no question in our minds--Getting to New Nationals Park and Back on March 30th--is going to be interesting. Hopefully--fun too.

Metro--We Are Counting On You!! Please don't let us down!

1 comment:

paul said...

I hate to keep harping on Metro's cluelessness, but last week, after the DC United game, about a thousand of us ambled up to the red line platform for Shady Grove just as the train was pulling out. The next train, 17 minutes later, was too full to accommodate all of us.
Just today, on my way to National airport, I was in Gallery Place and couldn't help noticing a phalanx of Metro employees on the platforms. They told me they were told the second NCAA game just ended. A quick check of the handheld showed that the second game was at halftime. I was able to watch a half hour of the game when I got to National.