Recent Blog Posts
- Lost and Found
- February 6, 2019
It sometimes seems impossible to believe that a lost umbrella or cell phone could ever find its way back to us, but at VRE, thousands of “lost” items have been reunited with their owners over the years thanks to our Lost & Found program, which has an 85-90 percent return rate.
If you've misplaced an item, the process for making a claim is simple, just fill out VRE's online Lost Item Report at http://www.vre.org/communicate-with-vre/contact/lost-items-form, or, call (703) 684-1001 as soon as you realize an item is missing. Please be sure to provide as much detail as possible to help distinguish your property from similar items.
In the meantime, VRE staff collects and tags items that are found on the trains every day. It can sometimes take up to 48 hours for an item to make it off the trains and through the proper channels to end up at our office in Alexandria, so please plan accordingly if you want to pick up an item. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. You must have a photo ID to recover your item from Lost & Found, and items are only kept for 30 days, except for keys, which will now be held for six months. (Food items must be claimed by 6:30 p.m. on the day that they arrive at VRE. All food items left after that time will be discarded.) Unclaimed items (except keys and food) are all donated to charity.
We ask that everyone coming to our offices to retrieve a lost item have a photo ID and please don't come until you have filed a report. Arriving unannounced without a report on file slows the whole process down and will likely result in more frustration for the customer. We're here to help, and we'll welcome anyone to come in to take a look at keys, umbrellas, glasses, but if you give us a heads up us that you're coming, everything can be processed more smoothly.
If you lose your ticket or ID, the procedure is similar: except you use the on-line Lost Ticket Report at http://www.vre.org/communicate-with-vre/contact/lost-tickets-form. If your ticket is found, we will contact you and make arrangements to return it to you. Ten-Trip and Single-Ride tickets will be mailed to your home address and Monthly tickets and Five Day Passes can be picked up at our Alexandria office between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. If you lose a Monthly ticket that is not found within 48 hours of reporting it missing, you may be eligible for a replacement ticket.
While we will do our absolute best to recover lost items and tickets, we are not ultimately responsible for them. In the case of a lost ticket, it is your responsibility to be in possession of a valid ticket when riding on trains until the missing ticket surfaces and is returned. To help ensure your ticket is returned, follow these simple suggestions:
- Always print your name and daytime telephone number on the front of your ticket,
- Try not to keep other people's business cards in your ticket holder, and
- Do not keep other valuables, like IDs or other tickets inside your ticket pouches. The higher its value, the more tempting it maybe for someone to take your ticket/pouch rather than to turn it in.
One final suggestion: A number of lost items and tickets go unclaimed. Please make sure to file a report even if you think your lost item or ticket(s) may not be of value.
- Receiving News and Delay Alerts
- February 6, 2019
VRE embraces the world of social networking sites to both communicate and interact with our riders. Twitter allows short 140-character messages that can be received via the Twitter website or via text messages on a cell phone. People must opt in to “follow” individuals or organizations in order to receive “tweets” from them. For us, we mostly use Twitter to help update riders of train delays, remind them of upcoming events, or relay other important information. If you are interested in following VRE on Twitter, you’ll first need to register by visiting http://www.twitter.com/VaRailXpress, and clicking on “join today” if you’re not already a Twitter user. During the registration process, you’ll be asked to set up any type of profile you’d like to make for yourself, as well as select which type of device you’d like the updates sent to. Once you opt in to start receiving VRE’s “tweets,” you’ll begin receiving them as we send them out.
Facebook is also utilized in a similar way, although it has the ability to provide longer more in depth information. VRE’s Facebook page provides info about delays, upcoming events, such as board meetings, Meet the Management schedules and on-line chats with VRE management.
To access VRE’s Facebook page, please visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Virginia-Railway-Express/53836370185#!/pages/Virginia-Railway-Express/53836370185.
Don’t like social media? You can still receive delay alerts and news updates to your email or phone via our “Train Talk” alert system. To subscribe please visit the Train Talk page (https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/VAVRE/subscriber/new) and follow the prompts. If you need assistance, contact the VRE office weekdays between 7:00a and 7:00p at (703) 684-1001 or send an email to email@example.com. Make sure you click all the necessary boxes pertaining to your commute. We do get riders reporting that they did not receive alerts about a specific train or a specific station and when we check their account the boxes to those trains or stations have not been checked.
While Train Talk is our chief method to disseminate information for normal delays, during heavy delays when many messages are being sent out, email and phone servers can delay receipt of messages and we have found that our Twitter page (http://twitter.com/#!/VaRailXpress) is more instantaneous when it comes to relaying information.
Other ways that VRE communicates with you!
Call our office: 703-684-1001. Need a question answered immediately? Give us a call Monday through Friday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
CEO Report: http://www.vre.org/about/board/board-agenda-minutes/. Read our report presented each month to our Operations Board regarding On Time Performance, Capital Project Updates, Parking Utilization and more.
Contact & Forms page: http://www.vre.org/communicate-with-vre/contact/. Office address, phone number and email, as well the link to all our various forms (complaints, lost items, refunds, reduced fare applications, and more).
Daily Performance: http://www.vre.org/service/daily-performance/. Was your train delayed? Go here to find out why.
Email our office: firstname.lastname@example.org. Not finding the information you need? Send us an email and we’ll do our best to get back to you ASAP.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RideVRE. Information, news and a chance to interact with VRE and fellow riders.
Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.vre.org/service/faq/. Weekend service? Price for children? Gainesville/Haymarket extension? See what riders ask on a regular basis.
Meet the Management: http://www.vre.org/special-events/meet-the-management/. VRE management visits a different station every week usually between April and June to meet our riders in person to hear any questions, complaints or comments they may have.
New Rider page: http://www.vre.org/service/rider/. If you've never ridden our trains before, this is the first page you need to visit.
Online Forum: http://www.vre.org/about/online-forum/. Our Monthly live online chat session between VRE management and riders. Every 1st Wednesday of the month at Noon.
Press Releases: http://www.vre.org/about/pr/.
RIDE Magazine: http://www.vre.org/about/ride/. RIDE is our monthly print and online magazine designed to inform riders of VRE service information as well as other transportation and community matters.
Train Status: http://www.vre.org/service/status/. Live tracking of your trains.
Train Talk: Check out the latest delay alert notices posted on our website: http://www.vre.org/service/traintalk/.
Want to receive alert texts or emails from VRE, subscribe at: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/VAVRE/subscriber/new.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VaRailXpress. News and delay alerts available here.
- Receive Alert Messages: Tips for Registering for Train Talk
- February 6, 2019
Still not a member of VRE’s Train Talk news service? Why not? It only takes a couple of minutes to join.
To register, visit us here (https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/VAVRE/subscriber/new). The program takes you through a series of steps so that you can customize your account and only receive alerts that are important to you. Once registration is complete, you will receive the latest information on schedule changes, service disruptions, seat notices and other news via email and phone.
There are two types of Train Talk messages: urgent service-related messages and newsletter-type information. The service messages can be sent so that you can receive longer messages through email or shorter versions on your cell phone. The newsletter is only sent in a long format.
When editing your account information, make sure you also tell the program which email address or phone number should receive the message and when. In the previous step, you created your contact information, but now, we need to know which one should get which messages.
Finally, the preference page allows you to choose some other important features. Would you like to know when an elevator is out of service? Choose the appropriate email address under the elevator notification.
Still confused? Feel free to contact VRE for assistance with signing on or troubleshooting at (703) 684-1001.
- Operation Lifesaver Infographic
- February 5, 2019
- Head Phones & Announcements
- January 30, 2019
Some choose to wear headphones while commuting. We understand that listening to music is one of the perks of riding the train or the use of noise cancelling headphones may be a “sound” investment for those who like absolute silence in the quiet car. However, if you do wear headphones, please keep a few things in mind:
1. It's courteous.
Keep the volume of your electronics turned down low, one, as a courtesy to those around you.
2. It's for your safety.
Also, keeping the volume low is for your own safety. If an emergency occurs, announcements about that emergency will be made over the PA system.
3. We don't want you to miss your stop.
Announcements are made for each station stop. Please do not only allow rely on the scrolling screens on board the train to see if you are approaching your stop.
We understand that riders wish to be as comfortable as they can while riding our trains. But remember, train announcements are there for a reason and if you hear them playing, you may wish to take a second and listen.
- Rippon and the Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge
- September 6, 2017
Recent construction at the Rippon station to allow public access to a wildlife refuge has been completed.
The Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge, which is adjacent to this VRE station, is a National Wildlife Refuge (located at the meeting point of the Potomac River in Virginia and the Neabsco Creek) established with the purpose to protect the features of a contiguous wetlands area.
VRE’s parent commissions, through VRE, were asked to permit public pedestrian access across the station to reach the refuge. Completed construction includes a platform extension, stairs, and a ramp on the east side of the platform.
The 325 acres of woodland and freshwater tidal marsh has been administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service since 1970; currently, it is part of the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The refuge covers wetlands and woodlands, and has a railroad right-of-way bordering its western edge.
- The Circus Train
- September 1, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, step right up and witness the final bow to what was once the greatest ride on Earth! The Circus Train! Not only have railroads proven well-suited for commuters and freight, but for over 140 years they have also been known to ease the transportation of massive animals and heavy equipment often for your entertainment. In fact, during the late 1800s, the term “railroad show” was synonymous with large circuses and carnivals. One of the largest and best known users of trains was the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (RBBX).
During the 1820s, there were approximately 30 animal circuses touring the eastern United States. These shows traveled nightly by wagon through muddied country roads. By 1872 the P.T. Barnum Circus had grown so large that they decided to only play at large venues, and to travel by train. They developed a system of ropes, pulleys, inclined planes and crossover plates between cars that, first used in 1872, was continued through more modern methods by the RBBX up until its retirement this year.
The RBBX circus trains were more than one mile in length and consisted of 60 railroad cars, which is the equivalent of 120 trucks. The trains consisted of stock cars for exotic animals, flat cars for heavy equipment, and coaches to the rear. No space went underutilized.
Stock cars were 72 feet long and of two basic types. One was designed for the horses and ring stock, and the other for the elephants, or “bulls.” The cars designated for bulls were about a foot taller than the others, with solid sides and small windows for ventilation near the top. The bulls were usually positioned in three pairs at each end of the car and another elephant could be loaded at the center. Thus, each bull car could carry 12 or 13 adult elephants. Stock cars were usually coupled directly behind the locomotive to help minimize jolting the animals, and were then followed in the consist by the flat cars which were the heaviest due to rides, wagons and other equipment. Finally, the passenger coaches brought up the rear of the train.
The circus had a very strict employee caste system that was apparent in the sleeping assignments onboard. Featured performers and key personnel were often assigned a stateroom or even a half or third of a car. Some of the larger shows had a private coach for the owner or star performer. Most of the circus coaches were filled top to bottom with bunks, and an individual’s assignment in the circus and length of employment dictated the assigned bunk. For example, a newcomer might be assigned a top bunk, while working men might be assigned two to a bunk. These cars were not air conditioned and many a circus worker chose to sleep on an open flat, beneath the wagons, on a hot summer night.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circuses traveled in two trains, the blue unit and the red unit, following an alternating two-year schedule to bring a new show to each location once a year. Up to their retirement, between 250 and 300 performers and other circus workers traveled on each of the two trains for more than 40 weeks each year. The Red train made its final run on May 7th this year, transporting its last show to Rhode Island. The Blue train followed suit two weeks later, on May 21st, with its final show in New York.
Although the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus no longer performs, other circuses still take advantage of the railroad for transportation. From circuses to lumber to coal and to people, America’s railroads have played a vital role in building, connecting, and even entertaining the country. Among all opportunities made possible by the railroad, who knows what could be next?
- Feet on the Floor
- August 30, 2017
The next time you’re out walking, pay attention to what you are walking on. You just might notice that the ground isn’t exactly clean, with the mud, grass, wet leaves, gum, glass, and general yuck.
Stuff sticks to the bottom of your shoes and you track it around with you all day long. Shoes are filthy, and no one really wants to sit in anything dirty. So be respectful. Please, keep your feet off the seats and off the walls. They should be firmly placed on the floor in front of you. And please don't take off your shoes and place your bare or stockinged feet on the seat or walls. Do this at home, not on public transportation. Thank you for your consideration.
- In Case of a Personal Emergency, Guaranteed Ride Home is There
- August 30, 2017
One of the biggest obstacles to getting people to take public transit regularly is working around their fear that they might someday be “stranded” should an emergency come up. What if, for example, you unexpectedly had to work past your normal quitting time, and you’ll miss the last train. Or, a child falls ill at home and you need to get home moments after you arrived at work…when there aren’t any trains running in the direction you need.
It’s a stressful situation, and VRE understand that sometimes people really need to travel during off-peak hours, no matter that the train schedule says. Thanks to a regional, cooperative effort called the “Guaranteed Ride Home” (GRH) program, there is indeed a “safety net” in place that will guarantee you a ride home in the case of family illness, unscheduled overtime or an unusual emergency.
The program is free and available to all VRE passengers. The ride is paid for in full by GRH up-front, with no reimbursement by the commuter necessary. For those passengers living more than 40 miles away, a cab or rental car may be made available, but the mode of transportation to get you home is ultimately up to the GRH customer service representative.
There are a few things to keep in mind when using GRH:
1) To qualify for the GRH program, you must be pre-registered with the Council of Government (COG). (Unregistered commuters can use GRH one time, but you must then register before you are eligible to use GRH again.) You will be asked to state your normal work hours (i.e., 9-5, 7:30-4:30, etc.) on the registration form mailed to you, call 1-800-745-Ride.
2) The GRH program does not cover gratuities paid to cab drivers.
3) To qualify for an emergency ride due to unscheduled overtime, your supervisor must be available to confirm authorized overtime.
4) As soon as you know that you will have unscheduled call Commuter Connections at 1-800-745-RIDE to schedule your ride. Please call as early as possible. (You can call any time before, but no later than, your normally scheduled quitting time. Additionally, the operator will need to speak to your supervisor to confirm authorized overtime.)
5) The program operates from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on weekdays. It generally will not run in severe weather or on holidays.
For more information, please call 1-800-745-RIDE.
- Crossing Tracks Can Be A Deadly Choice
- August 7, 2017
Whether you’re an archetypal A-type or a Zen master, there are times when just about all of us have wanted to shave a few minutes off our commutes. Unfortunately, an increasing number of VRE’s passengers have chosen one of the most dangerous and ill-advised methods out there: crossing railroad tracks at a place where there is no crosswalk, or dashing across the tracks even when the signal lights are flashing and the horizontal warning bar has lowered.
The problem is particularly worrisome at our Quantico, Burke, Manassas and Fredericksburg stations. At Burke Centre, people using the parking garage on the north side of the tracks cut across to access the shopping center located on the southside of the tracks, and then cross again to get back to their vehicles. They’re crossing at a very sharp curve in the track with zero sight warnings of an approaching train, and because there’s not road crossing there either, there’s no whistle warning.
It’s an extremely dangerous situation, and it’s illegal too—in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is illegal to cross a railroad track outside of a marked crosswalk. Doing so is considered trespassing and puts you at risk of citation or, of course, worse.
Track improvements allow track speeds to increase, so approaching trains move at an extremely fast pace. People may feel inclined to walk around the end of a stopped train, not realizing a second train is approaching. Or, they’ll see one train pass and start to cross, oblivious to a second approaching train because they’re so focused on the one they see right in front of them, which has lead to tragedy.
When people walk with lowered heads, headphones jammed into their ears, or are focused on a cell phone conversation, situational awareness is lost. Never ignore or go around flashing red lights and a horizontal gate. Never cross a railroad track anywhere but a crosswalk. Always look and listen if you want to live.