The next VRE online forum will start on Wednesday, December
4th at 12:00pm.
There are currently 37 questions waiting to be answered.
We apologize for any inconvenience experienced last night for all of you who were caught up in last nightâ€™s delay. It turned out to be a very long commute for many, and we regret the inconvenience this incident caused. Secondly, we like to thank you all for your patience and understanding throughout the delay.
Now let us summarize the events that occurred and how the evening played out:
At approximately 3:51, we were notified that the engineer could not move Manassas train 327at Lâ€™Enfant Station. There was an equipment malfunction with the wheelchair system of the train. Whenever the train indicates a wheelchair lift is deployed the train will not move until the issue is resolved as a safety system precaution. As soon as we were notified about 327â€™s equipment, mechanical and VRE personnel worked with the crews to get the issue resolved.
Once train 327 was able to proceed we had to skip Crystal City station:
As many veteran riders know, when lengthy delays (half an hour or more) occur at the beginning of the trip, we need to address the crowding that will occur and lengthy delays we already have. We understand that skipping stations is not a popular decision and we only do it when absolutely necessary. Bypassing stations allows us to spread out passengers among several trains to reduce crowding. Also, this puts more space in between to allow the trains to go faster to get you home. Imagine when there is congestion on the highway; when you have so many vehicles so close to another, they have to slow down so they don't hit each other. The only way to safely achieve maximum speed is when there is enough room between the cars. It is the same for our trains on the tracks.
We also chose to do the Alexandria Shuffle to lessen delays on 337 and 313. Manassas Train 337 originated in Alexandria. All VRE Passengers boarded Fredericksburg train 313 which departed Union Station on Train 337â€™s schedule, it allowed train 337 and 313 to arrive at its final station with less than 5 minute delays.
Please know that decisions made during delays and disruptions are in the best interest of our riders and the railroad as a whole. We are working with the crews to eliminate extreme delays when equipment malfunctions. Though we know things happen, and delays do occur, it is our desire to minimize delay times as much as possible. We will continue to work in all areas to make sure we can handle situations such as yesterdayâ€™s in a better time frame.
We thank you again for your patience though yesterday's disruption and reading this explanation. Now, on to the questions!
Michael from Vienna, VA asks:
Why does VRE run so few Santa trains? If one goal is to help charities, then based on the fact that all tickets are sold out within 2-3 minutes of going on sale, you could do so much more adding some trains. Maybe another weekend or a few more on the days you are already running them? Very frustrating trying to get tickets and only finding a frozen website for 10 minutes, and then they are gone. Not a well-run process by VRE.
We understand that there is a huge demand for this popular event. Our goal for 2014 is to explore the opportunities to increase the number of seats available and subsequently for the number of tickets available. Stay tuned for updates on this event for 2014.
M from Fredericksburg asks:
I used to park in the back gravel lot in Fredericksburg until the cars that were broken into was getting to be a daily occurrence. It is still a big issue. I know am paying money to park to take the train out of Fredericksburg. Is there discussion on how to curb the issue of the breakins?
VRE is working with State and Fredericksburg Police to resolve this issue. We have aggressive counter measures in place in hopes to catch the perpetrator. We are currently working through additional measures to hopefully put the most recent string of events to a close.
Linda from Triangle, VA asks:
Are there any laws that regulate how many passengers can safely ride (ie: packed in to cars, standing in the aisles and wall to wall people in the vestibules). I just wander if there are any maximum occupancy fire codes for commuter vehicles like there are in public buildings, that might be useful in ensuring customer safety in moving vehicles. I am a bit tired of paying full fare on my ride home, standing, because no seats are available and getting knocked into other passengers by the movement of the rail car and jerky starts and stops.
All railroads operate with the safety first mentality, ourselves included. VRE passenger cars designed to operate safely when exceeding the current seating and standee capacity. In the end, when crowding occurs on the trains, conductors will use their discretion to defer boarding. All that said, we have plans to lengthen existing trains and add a train to our system. Projects are being finalized and funded right now to accomplish this.
Carole from Burke, VA asks:
One of the commentaries on last week's tragic crash of the NY commuter train noted that the safety of using the push/pull method of having the engine sometimes push instead of pull the train has been questioned before. Is that this an issue that VRE has considered looking at or may look at in the future and is VRE contemplating any changes in how it operates depending on what further safety studies may show?
Since the information currently available from the Metro-North incident is still coming out we do not want to speculate on the root cause and how the results compare to VREâ€™s current system and operations. We will continue to monitor the NTSB investigation at Metro-North as we do with all incidents across our industry and will ensure lessons learned are reviewed for potential opportunities for improvement at VRE.
ck from clifton, va asks:
what type of safety does VRE have in place in case the engineer falls asleep at the wheel?
All VRE locomotives and cab cars are equipped with an alertness control system. In short, activity by the engineer needs to occur every few seconds or the train will come to a stop.
Carl from fredericksburg, va asks:
I have submitted numerous requests to fix the heat on the Fredericksburg line trains (to include pictures with thermometer readings), yet I have not heard back from the maintenance folks about what they have found (and the problem has not been corrected on a consistent basis). Basically, the heat has been turned off in the morning by the time the trains reach Brooke (tHe baseboard vents are lukewarm to the touch). By the time the trains reach woodbridge they are cold to the touch, and the temperature continues to drop in the train cars. What will be done to fix the problem?
Thanks for asking, Carl. In response to your specific question we have a technician currently riding our morning trains to evaluate all heating systems and based on his findings, we will respond back with more detailed information.
Danny from Manassas, VA asks:
Yesterday, train 322 had an apparent electrical issue that caused the heaters and numerous lights to be inoperable in every car. The dim lighting was very nice as most folks like to nap on the long boring ride. I've been previously told you elect to have all lights on in the interest of safety. But yesterday, nobody was hurt and nobody died as a result of the dim lights. Why can't you dim the lights every day to make the ride a bit more pleasant?
Under normal conditions we have to have lighting on the train. Only under certain circumstances, like yesterday with the electrical problem, can we only run with emergency lighting.
Jeff from Brandy Station asks:
When you run the S schedule for the holidays, will train 324 on the Manassas line be using legacy cars or the newer cars? The normal consist of train 324 is legacy cars, but since not all trains will be running on the S schedule days, I'm hoping that VRE won't make us ride in the older cars if it's not necessary.
Our goal is to not run legacy cars on â€śSâ€ť Schedule days.
Tom from Manassas, VA asks:
It's been regularly requested over the past several years that smoking be prohibited within a certain distance (25 feet would be ok) of the train platforms or doorways in the parking structure. "Running the smoke gauntlet" is no fun for those of us with allergies or who just want their clothing not to smell like smoke. The answer to this request is always that the board will look into it....when will a decision be made?
The smoking policy is a difficult one to address since we operate in so many jurisdictions. While we have made a uniform policy, obviously not everyone adheres to our current policy. It may end up that every station will have different rules depending on the jurisdiction.
robert from dumfries asks:
Potomac Shores station - is the developer required to build the station as part of the PW County approvals and any idea on a timeline?
We do not have any new information currently, we will have more detailed answer for you next month.
scott from Fairfax, VA asks:
Many times an announcement is made to move up (or back) to car #X to get off the train. Is there signage in the train to tell me what car I am in so I know how far I will need to go to make my exit in a timely manner?
While the car position is not labeled, we do have car identifiers (i.e. V842) which are placed throughout the car: next to the emergency call button, in the vestibules, on the interior doors, and on the outside next to the door.
Rider from Burke, VA asks:
Is there a predictable way to know which cars will reach the platforms at Rolling Road? It seems to change depending on the number of cars, whether the engine is in the back or the front, etc. I also noticed that train 327 is good about announcing which cars will not reach the platform, but train 329 never seems to announce it.
That is correct, there are many variables which affect which cars make the platforms. Best advice is to ask the conductors which cars will make the platform at your station.
Harry from Manassas, VA asks:
Please do something about the quiet car. It is no longer quiet with several people "clickedly clickedly clickedly" typing on their laptops for over an hour. Do not give the standard "It's not the silent car". Keyboard noise for close to an hour is inconsiderate of their fellow passengers. Please have the conductors ask them to either turn off the laptop or relocate to another car.
If they are making disruptive noise, please talk to the conductor.
Paul from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
Due to engine problems with a Manassas-bound train yesterday (3 Dec 13), my train to Fredericksburg, #305, was delayed over 45 minutes. Why were no FRCs distributed? Thank you.
Our goal is to distribute FRCs on any trains with a qualifying delay. If you did not receive one on 305, please fill out an FRC request form found here: www.vre.org/programs/PDF/frc-request.pdf FRCs were not distributed because the train was too crowded to get through.
Gman from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
Can you provide your latest guess as to when the Spotsylvania Station will open?
There are many pieces to this project. The final major component is Spotsylvania County acquiring the land for the station and parking lot. While VRE is not directly involved in the negotiations, we are confident that it will get done soon. To date, utility relocations are well underway and construction of the third track will commence this month. As soon as we break ground on the station, we can have a better idea as to when the service from Spotsylvania County will begin.
Jeff from Broad Run asks:
Please look into a traffic study or something for the parking lot at Broad Run. I'm hopeful that the intersection improvements (double left turn lanes)at Piper & Rt 28 will be a big help once completed, but over the past year the parking lot has become the biggest problem. As additional lots have been added over the years the traffic flow was never properly planned. The closely placed intersections and people short-cutting the piper traffic by using observation rd makes for inefficient traffic flow and frequent fender benders. We need some better traffic flow and pedestrian safety!
Our Manager of Safety and Security is looking into improving traffic flow in the Broad Run lots.
John from Manassas, VA asks:
Why can't you make timely announcements to allow riders to make alternate arrangements to meet their obligations? Tuesday evening I was the backup plan when my wife had to work late at a client's site. I carefully prepared and left work early to catch the 327 to be home in time to supervise our 4th and 5th graders. I was good to go, even with the lateness of 327 until the reviled express past Crystal City announcement - too late to get to Alexandria. Lack of communication destroyed my opinion of your operation.
We apologize for the inconvenience last night. Delays are dynamic situations and we do the best to inform riders of what is going on. Mechanical delays are difficult to predict how long it will take to get resolved. As with all service disruptions, we will review what happened, including how we communicated and look for opportunities for improvement.
Pam from Manassas VA asks:
In light of the upcoming reduced transit subsidy in January 2014, will the VRE reduce its fares as well?
Our operating costs, and subsequently our fares, are not tied to the transit subsidy. We are in support of making the transit subsidy permanent at the current level.
Jeff from Broad Run asks:
I would like to commend the VRE staff that clean and maintain the fleet. The investments made for the new equipment are clearly being protected by those folks. Thank you.
Thanks for the compliment, Jeff. We pride ourselves on having a clean system that both we and the riders can be proud of.
Kim from Burke, VA asks:
Will we be participating in the Toys for Tots program this year? I haven't seen anything announced and I wanted to get the toys this weekend. Thanks.
We will make announcements but our on-board drop off is on Wednesday, December 11th. Please leave an unwrapped toy in your seat or give a cash or check (made payable to Toys for Tots) to your conductor on that day. Also, if you are riding Santa Trains on the 14th, we will accept toys that day, too.
Pat from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
What is being done about train delays due to "other train traffic"? My train was 45 minutes late because of an Amtrak train coming through 35 minutes AFTER my train's due time. And then my train was so packed (folks stuffed into the vestibule), that I opted to wait for the next train, 15 minutes later. As a result, I was an hour late getting home. This is totally unacceptable - you've already gotten our money and CSX has gotten yours, so how can they justify taking back their "rented track" any time they like?
The root cause of the delay was that Manassas Line 327 was stopped at Lâ€™Enfant with an equipment issue for an hour. It caused residual delays to all the following trains, which is why you saw delay to other train movement.
Jim from Broad Run asks:
Where can I find previous newsletters
On our website here: http://www.vre.org/service/seatnote.htm
Steven from Burke Centre asks:
Any update on FY 2015 funding. Rate increases July 1, 2014? Also, for folks who are badly want wireless, why not add an additional $5 or $10 for the service when it's available? VRE fares are very high, I don't want to add to cost I pay out of my pocket for folks who want free WiFi.
At this time, we are not recommending a fare increase for FY15.
Brett from Manassas Park asks:
We've talked about WIFI a lot. Can you give us a time frame?
In the past we have told you that we do not provide WiFi because of lack of coverage in certain areas. We have also told you we would like to roll WiFi into other upgrades of our equipment. We will be revisiting potentially a stand alone project to determine if this solution will get us WiFi sooner rather than later.
Joe from Nokesville asks:
Stuff happens, so there's no need to apologize, but would you satisfy the curiosity of all of those who were held up by the wheelchair lift problem on Manassas Train 327 last evening? I heard that it was stuck in the deployed position at L'Enfant.
Is there really no way for your guys to muscle it back into the stowed position? (Most of your conductors look like linebackers!) How was the problem resolved? Did you have to send a mecahnic out to L'Enfant? Any plans to help prevent this from happening again?
See our opening comments.
Pedestrian from Burke Centre asks:
Today I was almost run over by a car going the wrong way down a one-way isle in the garage. We used to have patrols in the morning to prevent this. Can the patrols come back before someone is seriously injured? Perhaps better lines and signage will help as well.
We can engage Fairfax County Police to help us out.
Becky from Manassas asks:
I'm sure the woman who recorded your announcements is a lovely person, but I think I'm not the only one who's tired of listening to her. I understand that the announcements are here to stay, but how is it that after all these months VRE still hasn't worked out the glitches in the system?
We often get the wrong station announcements and needless repetition. I listened to the "approaching Burke Center" about 6 times the other morning before we had even gotten to Mansassas Park.
If you guys can run those big complicated trains, how does a simple digital recording loop defeat you? :)
The conductors should be monitoring when the station announcements are out of sync and either reset the system or make manual announcements. If this is not happening, we will address this with them.
Downtown Fredericksburg from Fredericksburg VA asks:
We need more southbound routes in the morning. What is being done to work towards this other than raisign fair prices.
We are looking at reverse commute trains as part of our System Plan found here http://vre.org/about/strategic/strategic_plan.htm. While it will not happen anytime soon, it is a goal for it to eventually happen as more and more jobs are created outside of the city center.
Samuel from Richmond, Va. asks:
I had ask a question some months back and I don't see that it was answered, so I would like to pose the question again. A while back, I was told there was talk of extending the VRE back to Caroline County (Kings Dominion area). Is that still in the works?
We have had preliminary discussions with Caroline County as recently as a month ago. As future discussions occur and more details become available, we will let you know.
Big D from Woodbridge asks:
Each morning on the 300 Express in the last car people stand in the vestibule and make it hard for others to get off at Alexandria and Crystal City stops. Can you please have the conductor enforce the no standing in the vestibule policy? I've seen some people getting "testy" with others. Would be sad to have an incident over people standing in the way.
No problem, Big D. We will address it with the conductors.
Ken F. from Woodbridge, VA asks:
Your policy states when a train is late & FRC warranted, conductors will ALWAYS hand them out at station upon exiting, yet the last 2 times, including last night (FB Train 305, car V352(?) to WB, late ~38 minutes), I was told by the conductor that there were "too many people" to hand out FRCs, & I should "call the office". REALLY? When is a VRE train late & there aren't a lot of people? Last time you were late, I was told to send in the form, which I did, & did not even get a rejection notice, let alone an FRC. Are you going to honor your own POSTED FRC policy OR NOT?
FRUSTRATED in Woodbrid
If the conductors cannot make it through the train to pass them out, we ask that you fill out a form. If you didnâ€™t get one last time, we apologize, please send us what you sent in the first time and we will follow up.
Dave from Woodbridge, Va asks:
Can you all add an extra car to the morning express train?
At this time, we cannot add any more cars to 300. When we have the ability to lengthen trains, 300 will be at the top of the list.
Rich from Fredericksburg asks:
Why is VRE going to the "S" schedule the week of Christmas? I realize a lot of people will be off but most of us that need to work still rely on VRE's full schedule. It seems VRE is more interested in pleasing the Federal Govt passengers and you ignore the Private sector passengers that need VRE as well.
We see a dramatic decrease in riders during that week and saw an opportunity to be fiscally responsible. If there was higher demand, we would run the full schedule. That said we are trying to increase demand on soft holidays by running an â€śSâ€ť schedule because we know people want them.
Bruce from Manassas asks:
There have been several handicap lift delays lately. Do you know what the problem is?
While we have had a few lately, all the root causes are different. We are working to mitigate these types of delays should they happen in the future.
LINDA from Fredericksburg va asks:
Who do I contact about a homeless man who is on the ramp everyday at la faunt plaza, bulling the riders for money and blocking the entrance if we say no????? It's a real problem, thanks so much, linda
We recognize this as an issue and we are working with Metropolitan PD on it.
David from Rippon, VA asks:
Why isn't the November issue of Ride VRE on the trains? All I see are the October issue in the holders.
The November is on our website (http://vre.org/service/seatnote.htm) and we will get the physical copies on the train this week.
Lisa from Fairfax, VA asks:
What are the plans for updating the ticket kiosk software, so riders trying to pay with Chip Enabled credit cards can purchase tickets on the platform? Now, we receive an error and are unable to buy tickets. Followed up with VRE and was told I could stop by Alexandria to purchase my ticket. Not many options when you are on the platform and can't use your credit card. Thanks!
We are working with our fare collection manager to make sure we can accept chip enabled cards.
Matt from Lorton, VA asks:
Will VRE be adding a 10-car train next year?
Our goal is to add a train next year. Not sure what the length will be.
Mark from Fred asks:
Why bother having a Daily Download when it seems you only update every two weeks, sometimes more?
We will make sure it is updated on a daily basis.
Mike from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
Why can't a kiosk be placed at the end of the platform where the handicap entrance is at L'Enfant? It is both dangerous and difficult for patrons to traverse the entire platform, weaving through the crowds waiting on trains to validate their tickets at the existing kiosks. Relocate one of those near the steps to the other end of the platform and incur minimal cost.
We will take a look at this suggestion.
Piper Lane from Piper, VA asks:
It appears that a second left turn lane is going to be added at Piper Lane and Route 28. Do you have any information that you can share with us? Also, once the new light was installed a few weeks back, the timing is really off and short. Can you please let the appropriate department know of this and hopefully this can be fixed. I know you (VRE) can't control everything and everybody even though most people think you do in their questions
We will pass this information on to VDOT/Prince William County.
K from Broad Run asks:
Are you going to check the chair lifts? Yesterday was the third time that they did not go back in place and we had to wait. It seems like you need to check them on a regular basis to make sure they work properly.
As mentioned previously, we are looking into corrective action into yesterday's equipment issue.
cliff from burke asks:
What are the proposed ticket price increases?
There are no proposed ticket price increases.
Tom from Manassas, VA asks:
Does the VRE have an agreement to provide tranportation to Amtrak personnel? I understand if there's a courtesy agreement, but for public relations reasons, perhaps a pseudo-ticket could be worn by the Amtrak folks when they are aboard. After all, I keep my (purchased) ticket in view, why should they as well?
Everyone on board needs to have a valid VRE ticket, including Amtrak personnel.
Chuck from Washington DC asks:
Will you please enforce the quiet car rules? I reported computer game noise and was asked to insert my headphones.
This would not be VRE's preferred response. We will address this with our conductors.
Thanks for all the great questions. We would like to wish you happy holidays and remember that we are operating "S" Schedule the days between Christmas and New Years. We hope to see you on Santa Trains on the 14th and remember to bring a toy that day or on our onboard collection on the 11th for Toys for Tots.
See you next year!
Rich, Chris, et al.