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 firstname.lastname@example.org
FAQ's from the Online Forum:
When will the Spotsylvania Station be open?
The station is scheduled to open on Nov. 16, 2015.
When will VRE get Wi-Fi?
Until cell phone towers are put in place all along our railsystem so that riders have 100% connectivity wi-fi will not be available. There are signs that freight railroads are working with cell providers to make this happen to help back up a Federally mandated safety program called Positive Train Control, so future wi-fi may become a reality. But until then, we do not want our passengers to experience a service that might be more of an inconvenience than a convenience (long buffering, lost connectivity with unsaved documents, frequent timimg out, etc.).
Will VRE ever have weekend service?
Our current agreements with our host railroads prohibit weekend VRE operation given the large amount of freight traffic that is held out of the territory during the weekdays. This is done so that VRE trains can operate smoothly and efficiently during our core service periods and CSXT and NS freight trains can continue to run smoothly as well.
What can be done about passengers who queue in the aisle way before their stop?
Standing is allowed onboard VRE trains (crowding does occur and trains are designed to hold standing passengers), so queuing is managed as a courtesy issue. We can continue to make courtesy announcements and work with crews to minimize this issue.
When will VRE be going to Gainesville/Haymarket?
The Gainesville/Haymarket extension is still a planned project. We will be starting new studies to look at the extension, station locations and possible service plans later this year.
When will the new cars be in service?
The current legacy cars are set to be replaced with new gallery cars by February of 2016.
When will service start at the Potomac Shores station?
Can VRE add additional late morning, mid-day, and evening service?
We are only contractually allowed by our host railroads (CSX and Norfolk Southern) to run service within the allotted window of time that we currently operate.
What is being done about the over-crowding on the trains?
We are working on gaining additional storage space so we can add additional cars to our busiest train sets, but unfortunately, we do not have an estimated time frame as to when such storage space would be able to be developed.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Our "Train Status" 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.
- 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.
- 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:
Northbound: 310, 312 and 314
Southbound: 301, 311, 313 and 315
Northbound: 328, 330, 332, 336 and 338
Southbound: 321, 325, 333, 335 and 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.
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, because riders continue to hand out money, they have continued to return. we ask that riders please refrain from handing out money.
What is VRE doing about the parking at Fredericksburg?
The Spotsylvania Station (which will open later this summer) will provide 1,500 parking spaces which should help alleviate some of the parking issues in Fredericksburg.
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
Virginia Railway Express
Attn: Ticket Refunds
1500 King Street
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.
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.
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. The difference in heat policies is due to CSX having a lot more train traffic on their tracks than Norfolk Southern. This means they have more friction related heat (from the trains themselves). As a result, they have more speed restrictions to compensate for this additional heat related factor.