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Frequently Asked Questions

In an effort to give you answers to your important questions quickly, below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions. They are grouped in these categories. If you find these don't answer your questions, please e-mail us at gotrains@vre.org

For Those Who Are New to VRE:

Does VRE offer free parking?

VRE offers free daily and overnight parking at most of our stations. You can keep a car at most stations for free as long as you need. However, remember that parking is always at your own risk.

To view station amenities, including parking information, please visit our station page and click on the station of your choice.

Special Parking Information:

  • Parking is not available at Alexandria, Crystal City or L'Enfant.
  • Union Station has a large parking garage available for a fee.
  • A Metro parking facility is available at Franconia/Springfield. A SmarTrip card is required. For more information, please call WMATA at (202) 637-7000.
  • Parking at the VRE Quantico station may require security checks.
  • If you plan to park at Manassas, you will need a permit. Please visit the Manassas Parking Page for more information.
  • Fredericksburg station has 644 free parking spaces available in different lots located within a few blocks of the station. Restrictions apply to some of the lots according to residency. See our Fredericksburg Station parking page for detailed information and restrictions.

Are there bathrooms on the trains?

All of our trains have at least one restroom, which is located in the car at the opposite end of the train from the locomotive, although our goal is to have at least two bathrooms. We attempt to place bathrooms on board the train so that riders never have to walk more than 2 or 3 cars. Unfortunately, we cannot always guarantee where the exact placement of a car with a restroom will be since cars often get switched out for maintenance.

If you have trouble locating a rest room, please feel free to speak to a conductor or fellow passenger.

Is there a cafe car? Can I bring food aboard?

VRE trains are not equipped with cafe cars. However, VRE passengers are allowed to bring their own food and drink (non-alcoholic) aboard our trains to enjoy while they commute.

Are there power outlets on the trains?

Most VRE trains are not equipped with power outlets. If you find an available outlet on the train, please use caution. Do not drape the cord across an available seat or across the aisle.

Can I use the Internet on the train?

Wireless Internet (WIFI) is not currently available on our trains. We know that there is interest in having WIFI on our trains and it is an idea that we would like to put into effect. Through a number of different tests and studies, we have discovered several areas along the tracks we use where a signal cannot be received. Until a provider is able to offer continuous service, we will not offer WIFI on our trains.

Do you offer weekend service?

Weekend service is not available. Amtrak does offer weekend service at some stations, but the VRE cross honor agreement does not apply to weekends.

Do kids ride free?

Children 10 and younger may ride free when accompanied by a fare paying adult. Passengers between the ages of 11 and 18 may take advantage of VRE's Youth Fare program which provides a discount of 50% of the regular fare. Discounted tickets can only be purchased at one of our vendors with a Youth Reduced Fare ID.

What does the "S" above the train number on the schedule mean?

Literally, it means "special". These trains operate every VRE service day. However, they are the only trains that operate when VRE is on its "S" Schedule. "S" schedule days typically occur during times of inclement weather or around certain holidays. The decision to run an "S" schedule is typically made the evening prior, or very early in the morning, before service starts. Service updates are passed to our riders via Train Talk emails, website updates, and alerts to local media outlets.

How will I know if my train is late?

On occasion, delays do happen.  Delay information can be found through several different means:

  1. Call our information hotline at (703) 684-0400 or 1-800-RIDE-VRE. Our automated system will keep you updated on any delays that are occurring.
  2. Our "Rail Time" tool is a web based program that allows passengers to get up-to-date information on where their train is located. To view your train's status, simply place your mouse over the train and you will get a "pop-up" box indicating the train's position.
  3. Finally, riders may subscribe to Train Talk or Twitter to receive automatic updates customized especially for their travel needs on any computer or mobile device.
  4. If you have already reached the station, listen for station platform announcements.
Can we take bikes on the trains?

Collapsible bicycles are permitted on all cars, on all trains. These bicycles must be completely folded and safely stored in overhead luggage racks, under seats or in some other place that is not an inconvenience to other passengers.

Full size bicycles will only be allowed on the last three northbound, the mid-day, any reverse-flow, and the last three southbound trains on each line. Specifically, these are trains are:

Fredericksburg Line
Northbound 308 310 312
Southbound 301 309 311 313
Manassas Line
Northbound 328 330 332 336 338
Southbound 321 325 333 335 337
  • Full size bicycles must board at the northern-most car on the train and use the southern half of the car.

  • No more than two (2) full size bicycles are allowed on the car. If the car already has two bicycles, you cannot bring your bicycle on the train and must wait for the next one.

  • Full size bicycles must be tethered to the bench seats using a bungee cord attached to the eyelet on the seat frame. The south end bench is distinguishable by only having four (4) folding seats. Bicyclists will be responsible for securing their bicycle.

  • The bench seating on the north end of the car is priority seating for passengers with disabilities. This area is located directly across from the restroom and cannot be used for bicycles.

  • If the bench seating for full size bicycles is occupied by passengers, the bicycle rider may ask the passenger to vacate the seat or ask the conductor for assistance if the passenger is unwilling to move. The priority will be for the bicycles.

  • For the safety and convenience of our other riders, bicycles will be boarded and removed last after all other passengers have boarded or detrained.

  • Passengers are not permitted to ride any bicycle on the platforms or trains.

  • All bicycles must be clean and free of grease.

  • VRE will not be responsible for the security of bicycles brought on board.
I want to sell cookies, doughnuts, etc. at the VRE station. What do I have to do?

VRE does not allow any sales of goods or services on its platforms. However, one day or short-term sales of goods are permitted at certain stations in the parking lot or on the sidewalk adjacent to the parking lot.

If you are interested in participating in this program, you must fill out and submit a Right of Entry form. The mailing address is listed at the top of the form.

For Those Who Have Been Riding VRE Longer:

What are you doing about the people who loiter at the L'Enfant station?

Some passengers have expressed concerns about individuals who loiter and attempt to solicit from passengers at our L'Enfant station. These individuals have been removed from our platform by VRE staff, Amtrak police and the Metropolitan Police Department on numerous occasions. However, they have continued to return.

What is VRE doing about the parking at Fredericksburg?

We recognize that parking is an issue for all people in Fredericksburg, however, there simply is no more space available for people to park and the City of Fredericksburg will not allow for more parking development. The only respite from this crowding is when Spotsylvania County builds their station within the next two years, which would reduce the number of Spotsylvania residents who are may be taking up parking spots in the Fredericksburg lots.

My ticket expired - what do I do?

We no longer exchange or refund expired tickets.

I purchased a Ten-Ride ticket and now will no longer need it. How do I get a refund?

VRE Ten-Ride tickets are non-refundable. However, we do make exceptions from time to time on a case-by-case basis. To receive consideration, simply send in your tickets along with the Refund Request Form to:

Virginia Railway Express
Attn: Ticket Refunds
1500 King Street
Suite 202
Alexandria, VA 22314

You should receive a response to your request within 10 to 14 business days.

How do I use my SmartBenefits/SmarTrip card?

VRE does not currently accept the SmarTrip card as a form of payment for VRE tickets.

However, in conjunction with WMATA and the Commuter Stores of Arlington, we are able to accept electronic SmartBenefits through a special program. For more information visit the SmartBenefits FAQ page.

What should I do if I find I have left my ticket or a personal belonging on the train?

If you accidentally leave a personal item on a VRE train, please visit Lost Items page (for lost items), or Lost Tickets page (for lost tickets), to complete our customer service form. The information you supply will help us quickly locate your item and return it to you if it is turned in.

If you do not have access to the web, please call us weekdays between 7am and 7pm at (703) 684-1001. We can personally make note of any details that will help us identify and return your lost item(s) if it is located.

Tell me about Guaranteed Ride Home.

Virginia Railway Express is pleased to participate in a special service that can get you home in case of emergency. Commuter Connections "Guaranteed Ride Home" (GRH) is a special service that can get you home in case of emergency. This program is free and available to all VRE passengers. To learn more about how the program works, or to sign up, please visit the Commuter Connections website

How do I subscribe or unsubscribe to Train Talk?

If you would like to subscribe or unsubscribe your email address, simply visit the Train Talk page and follow the prompts. If you need assistance, contact the VRE office weekdays between 7:00a and 7:00p at (703) 684-1001.

How is the temperature controlled in your cars? I am always too cold or too hot!

Car temperatures on all trains have been stabilized to a consistent range of 70 to 72 degrees.

While we will continue to look for ways to improve our train’s HVAC units, there is no perfect temperature for everyone and some passengers will always feel cold while others will be hot and still for others the temperature will be just right. If you are cold we recommend that you do not sit in the upstairs section of the train, as this is where the blower used to circulate fresh air is located. This blower cannot be adjusted and it is usually this constant blowing of air that chills riders. Downstairs the blowing of air is less pronounced. Hopefully, this helps.

I have a problem with the announcements on the train. They are too loud/not loud enough!

If the volume of announcements appears too high or too low, it could be due to a mechanical problem, or it may be due to the manner in which the crew person is making manual announcements. If this continues to be a problem for more than one day, please alert your conductor to the problem.

After you have discussed it with your crew person and you continue to observe a problem, please submit a mechanical concern complaint via the Train Information Form on our website. Information submitted in this manner is automatically sent to our Director of Rail Equipment & Services, allowing for faster review and problem resolution.

When are you going to offer service to: Gainesville/Haymarket, Spotsylvania, Bealeton and Richmond

Gainesville/Haymarket

Currently, the rail line from Manassas west to Front Royal is a single, unsignaled "dark" track, unlike the dual tracks we normally operate on. Norfolk Southern, who owns the line, has indicated that investment in capacity and signal improvements will be required prior to the operation of commuter service. At least one additional track must be constructed from Manassas to Haymarket, and a modern signaling system installed, before any expansion to these areas is possible. In addition, the at-grade highway crossing at Route 29 would have to be eliminated.

More information on the progress of this project can be found on the Gainesville/Haymarket page.

That said, ridership studies have shown this to represent our most promising near-term expansion opportunity. With growing public support, we are working to make this happen. It will be a number of years, however, until passenger trains begin to operate to Gainesville/Haymarket, and no decisions have yet been made as to what affect this will have on service levels to Broad Run. Service beyond Haymarket is not being considered at this time.

Spotsylvania

We are aware that many of our Fredericksburg Line passengers reside in Spotsylvania County. We would like to open a station there to ease the commute for our Spotsylvania riders while relieving the parking situation in downtown Fredericksburg. Our overnight storage & maintenance facility is in Spotsylvania County off Route 17, which would make an ideal location for a station. We continue our efforts to engage Spotsylvania County and encourage them to bring service to their jurisdiction.

Bealeton

It is in our long range strategic plan to expand service to the Bealeton area. We feel that service to the Bealeton area would be a valuable service to the growing constituency in the Fauquier County/Culpeper region. At this time, our efforts to expand on the Manassas Line are focused on the Gainesville/Haymarket area.

Richmond

The main considerations for expanding the Fredericksburg Line further south to Richmond are similar to those of Spotsylvania, but also include issues of trackage rights, limited equipment, and funding.

Why doesn't your service guarantee cover the Amtrak trains on your schedule?

We are proud to be one of only three transit organizations in the United States to offer a service guarantee. We are also pleased to offer select Amtrak trains as a supplement to our own service.

Amtrak trains are not strictly limited to our service area. They are long distance trains that pass through our area of service. We are unable to provide any type of guarantee regarding their on time performance.

When will you offer more service?

VRE service is concentrated during peak commuting hours. We do offer one early afternoon departure on each line, timed to allow many of our passengers the ability to work a half day and commute home on the train.

We regularly receive requests for express trains, early trains, late evening trains and weekend service. As much as we would like to add more service, we do not own the tracks we operate on. Therefore, we must receive permission from our host railroads (Norfolk Southern and CSX) to operate additional trains. We are negotiating for additional service, however, this process takes time.

Operational testing delayed my train. Why can't they be done when some other time?

In order to ensure your safety as passengers on VRE commuter trains in our heavily used rail corridors, the operating officials of Amtrak, CSX, and Norfolk Southern periodically conduct "operational tests" on the crews that operate our trains. These teams, on a monthly basis, create unannounced "tests" and "observations" of employee compliance with the Railroad Codes of Operating Rules.

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rules require periodic field testing of your "driver," the engineer. Conductors are also tested within the owning railroad's rules and regulations. Such tests must be performed under actual operating conditions. For more information, see our VRE Update article.

What are heat restrictions and why they necessary?

Just as automobiles are sometimes requested to lower speeds for various road and weather conditions, trains are subject to similar restrictions. Heat restrictions are orders given to railroad engineers to reduce their speed over a given section of track.

Steel rails slowly expand and contract as temperatures rise and fall. Careful engineering measures are taken when rail is installed to account for rail expansion and contraction. The ties, rock ballast, and rail anchors, which hold the rail longitudinally, must be strong enough to keep the rail solidly in place instead of expanding or contracting. Under extreme heat, the rail, on rare occasions, will experience a "sun kink", which causes the track to shift laterally causing a curve in the track.

When a "kink" or high tension is found in the track, the track is taken out of service, repaired, and then put back in service. That is why there are times that we are limited to one track during the summer as repairs are made.

What are flood restrictions and why are they necessary?

Railroads have crevices in the ballast (the rocks that support the tracks). When an increased amount of rain occurs, water gets into the track bed and can cause washouts. As a result, our host railroads issue periodic flood restrictions: Norfolk Southern requires trains to operate no more than 20 mph. CSX limits the maximum speed to 40 mph. Both railroads institute these restrictions to ensure passenger safety.

Why do Norfolk Southern and CSX have different policies?

The short answer is that each railroad operates efficient and safe. Railroading is an inexact science and many challenges faced are met in different, but equally effective, ways. The approach to track restrictions in different kinds of weather is one of those challenges.

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