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OmniRide Adds Free VRE Shuttles During Metro's Summer Shutdown

OmniRide will offer FREE shuttle service connecting residents with two nearby Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Stations during Metro’s summer shutdown. The shuttles will begin operating on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 and will continue until Metro reopens the six Blue and Yellow line stations that are scheduled to undergo major repairs.

The Dale City shuttle will start at the Dale City Commuter Lot at Minnieville Road and Gemini Way. It will serve multiple stops along Dale Boulevard before connecting riders with the Rippon VRE Station.

The Lake Ridge shuttle will start at the Tackett’s Mill Commuter Lot at Old Bridge Road and Minnieville Road. It will serve multiple stops along Old Bridge Road before connecting riders with the Woodbridge VRE Station.

The shuttles will operate four trips in the mornings, and those trips will be timed to meet specific VRE trains. In the afternoons and evenings, OmniRide shuttles will meet each VRE train at the Rippon and Woodbridge VRE stations so riders can disembark from the train and ride the shuttle back to their neighborhoods and/or commuter lots. Shuttle service timetables and maps are posted at OmniRide.com.

“VRE is a tremendous resource for Prince William County, and it serves some of the same destinations as the six Metro stations that will be closed all summer. OmniRide is happy to work with our friends at VRE to lighten the burden of commuting during Metro’s summer shutdown,” said PRTC Board Chair Ruth Anderson.

As an added benefit, commuter parking in the Prince William County area is free, so OmniRide passengers will be able to park and ride the shuttles at no charge.

Potomac Mills Mall will increase the number of parking spaces it sets aside for commuters during Metro’s summer shutdown, making it easier for commuters to park close to home and ride one of OmniRide’s regularly scheduled bus services. OmniRide Express buses that serve the Potomac Mills area have destinations including the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station, Washington, D.C., and the Washington Navy Yard.

“With the upcoming closing of six local Metro stops, Potomac Mills welcomes affected commuters to access free parking in the mall’s commuter lot – available near Costco and Restaurant Plaza,” said Jen Snitselaar, General Manager, Potomac Mills Mall. “Working closely with OmniRide operators, our hope is to provide convenience to commuters, while keeping the roads clear and safe throughout the work period. Not to mention, no better way to break up a commute than easy access to great shopping!”

Feet on the Floor
August 30, 2017
Feet on the Floor

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.

Our Passengers: The Eyes and Ears of VRE
August 7, 2017

Life’s busy. Trains can be crowded. People lose stuff. The news is full of scary headlines. It’s enough to make you want to bury your head in a pillow sometimes. But before you do that, keep in mind that paying attention to the environment around you—and helping serve as VRE’s eyes and ears—could make an enormous difference.

Thankfully, the day-to-day reasons for staying alert are fairly innocuous, but they could easily make you a hero. Noticing that someone left behind their memory stick may have saved their big presentation; returning a misplaced ticket or keyring surely saves its holder a lot of aggravation; and keeping on top of how the trains are operating goes a long way in helping VRE staff correct minor issues.

We can’t be everywhere all the time, so it’s always helpful having our passengers keep us posted every time they discover a problem. If a door sticks, if the heater is acting cranky, or if a bathroom needs servicing, we want to know about it so that we can fix it as soon as possible.

Of course, the other major reason to pay attention is for security reasons, particularly since transit systems have become a terrorist target. Trains in particular can be at risk, since they have no gates and checkpoints as airports do.

The first line of defense lies with the people who ride the train every day. VRE passengers know each other, and as people become familiar with regular passengers, they become familiar with that is typically carried on board. When a familiar face brings something different on board, that’s rarely cause of concern. But, when a strange face boards, it’s important to pay particular attention to them and what they’re bringing on to the train. We rely on the fact that the same people are on the same trains every day, for weeks, months, and years. Terrorists won’t ride hundreds of times merely to conduct surveillance, so it makes sense for the regulars to scrutinize the few people who are new and different until they, too, become regulars. It takes a village.

Another important step is to watch unusual packages to make sure they’re carried off by the same person who carried them on. If you ever see a package left behind by someone you know brought it onboard, bring it to their attention. If they say it isn’t theirs even though you know they brought it on, immediately contact a conductor and explain the situation fully so that the appropriate action is taken. At the stations, be alert for suspicious vehicles idling adjacent to station entrances and stairways.

And at any time, if something doesn’t “sit right,” passengers are urged to summon a conductor so that they can further investigate the situation. In the absence of a crew member, call 911 (calling VRE’s headquarters in Alexandria is the last thing you should do, because it won’t elicit an immediate emergency response like calling 911 or notifying a conductor would).

Collectively, we have an immense intelligence system. Together, we can work to safeguard our rail lines.

Station Histories
August 4, 2017

Alexandria Union Station

Alexandria VRE Executive Offices

Backlick Road

Burke Centre

Fredericksburg

Manassas Station

Quantico Station

VRE: A Civil War Perspective - Infographic

Washington D.C. Union Station

VRE: Past, Present & Future - Infographic
August 3, 2017

Onboard Restrooms
July 5, 2017

In the past, we have received comments and complaints regarding water washing onto the tracks from our restroom cars. Because of this, we feel it may be helpful to clarify what exactly is occurring when this happens.

First, the water released from the car is not sewage. It is treated water. Bacteria has been used to turn what was sewage into liquid and mostly CO2 gas. This by-product, known as gray water, meets antipollution recommendations of the Association of American Railroads, which exceeds the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration.

Once treated, this gray water can then be recycled and returned into the environment. The tanks onboard our trains which house this water are designed to seep over the tank when full, and will naturally seep more based on the motion and how level the train is. The discharged valve of the tanks is not timed or controlled and it discharges cleaned water randomly.

Here is a more technical write-up about how this system works:

The toilet and waste treatment tank assembly uses compressed air to flush toilet water and waste into an underfloor-mounted waste treatment tank, where it is chemically treated and then discharged directly to the roadbed. Water for toilet flushing is provided from a storage tank mounted above the toilet room. Upon manual actuation of the flush pushbutton, air is supplied into a valve, combined with fresh water, and the toilet is flushed.

Waste is washed into a hopper. The toilet is hermetically sealed from the hopper by a flapper valve, and gravitational pressure forces the water downward into the bowl. A charge of compressed air then moves the waste water into the waste treatment tank for processing. In the treatment tank, solid waste and toilet paper are broken down by bacteria into liquid and gas. The gas escapes out of the tank vent. Through a filter, the liquid flows to the bottom of the treatment tank, then into the chlorinator (which holds chlorinating slugs and is located next to the treatment tank). The bacteria in the effluent are killed as the effluent flows around the chlorine slugs. The effluent then flows into the secondary chlorinator, allowing the chlorine to have sufficient contact time to kill the bacteria.

The secondary chlorinator contains a series of baffles which extends the time of contact for the chlorinated effluent, thus insuring the bacteria is killed. This total bacteria kill allows the Microphor system to, as previously stated, meet antipollution recommendations of the Association of American Railroads, which exceeds the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration. The treatment of effluent is then discharged directly on the roadbed.

That's our waste treatment system in a nutshell. Hopefully, this helps to clarify what riders witness on the railroad tracks.

Standing Means Detraining (or, Please Don't Queue)
June 2, 2017

It seems we've been talking about queuing for as long as we've been in operation. When it has become an issue, we have asked passengers to please remain seated until their train has left the station stop prior to their own, but sometimes people insist on queuing in the aisles two and even three stations early. The result is crowded aisle ways that make it impossible for others to detrain and often causes riders to completely miss their stop.

Certainly, we understand that some riders like to stand, and, with the exception of standing in the vestibule, standing is allowed onboard VRE trains (crowding does occur and trains are designed to hold standing passengers). However, the conductor is the sole authority onboard the train and we rely upon them to determine how best to run the train in the safest most efficient manner. If they feel that available seating will help reduce crowding thus making it easier for them to patrol a train, or to clear the aisles for detraining passengers then they have the right to move passengers from one car to another and ask riders to find a seat. (Note: sitting on the stairs to the upper level is not allowed for safety reasons).

Our crews have always had the option to invoke our “Standing Means Detraining” policy, allowing crews to stop a train or refuse to open train doors until all those riders standing have either detrained or have found a seat.

This system was put into place on a few trains with particularly bad queuing issues with excellent results: when people stayed in their seats until their train had physically left the station one prior to the one where they detrain, the trains ran on time.

When people queued and the trains were held as a result, the passengers ultimately created their own delay, and the incentive to remain seated quickly outweighed the desire to queue.

What we really want is to allow detraining passengers an easy exit, and since you can still stand just before your stop, you'll still manage to get off your train in a timely manner. However, if the conductor asks you to find a seat, please do so.

From past experience, we know that this policy will sometimes delay a train, but for the non-queuers on the train, rest assured it will quickly resolve itself and you should never have to elbow your way past another queuer again. 

Leaf Oil
November 9, 2016

For those passengers who aren’t familiar with leaf oil season, when the leaves begin to fall, those that land on the damp surface of the rails are crushed under thousands of tons of steel. An oily, gelatinous chemical compound called pectin, which is the chief component of the cell walls in these leaves, coat the surface of the rails and eliminate the frictional forces between the steel train wheels and the steel railhead, resulting in slow, slippery climbs up hills and difficulties pulling into and out of station stops. 

While we try to compensate for the slippage by adding an additional locomotive to our trains, leaf oil season (all of autumn) can often result in train delays. 

More information can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_rail

Mobile Ticket and Ticket Machine FAQs
September 19, 2016

Mobile Tickets:

I have a new mobile phone. How do I recall my tickets onto the new phone?

  1. Log into your online account at https://vre.transitsherpa.com/rider-web.
  2. Go to “My Tickets”
  3. Click the “Move Tickets From” box and select your old device
  4. Then click the “Move Tickets To” box and select “New Device”
  5. Click “Transfer Tickets”
  6. Go to “My Tickets” in the app on your old device and hit “Refresh” (all tickets should have been removed).
  7. On the new device, go into “My Tickets” and hit “Refresh”. All tickets will now be on your new device.

**   You will need both devices in order to transfer tickets. If your phone has been lost or stolen, you will need to contact VRE to help transfer your tickets.

I’m trying to buy a monthly pass with mobile, why isn’t the monthly showing up?

Mobile monthly tickets can be purchased for the next month on the 23rd of the current month. If you are using SmartBenefits for the first time, you can only purchase your monthly ticket on the 1st day of the new month.

I bought a mobile day pass and it says it expires today?

Tickets should expire one year from purchase, unless they are immediately validated. Check to make sure that it doesn't say "expires 2018". If it does say 2018, you should be able to validate that ticket on the specific day you wish to travel.

I bought a mobile ticket but I need to exchange it for another ticket.

We cannot do a ticket exchange in the mobile app. We can refund tickets you purchased with your personal credit card and then you can repurchase the correct tickets you need. We cannot refund tickets in the mobile app if purchased with SmartBenefits.

How do I purchase a mobile VRE ticket with electronic SmartBenefits?

Go to www.SmarTrip.com/sbftp/vplpat.login and allocate your benefits before the 21st of the previous month to either VRE Mobile, a VRE vendor or Commuter Direct. For a visual of how to allocate, visit our website at www.vre.org/service/vre-mobile and click on “How To” videos.

For further assistance please call WMATA SmartBenefits helpline at 202-962-1326 (option 3).

How do I get a reduced fare ticket on my mobile phone?

Please fill out this application:  http://www.vre.org/communicate-with-vre/contact/vre-senior-citizens-reduce-fare-application and email it to jyoung@vre.org. (Make sure to include a headshot for your ID.) Once approved we will send you an ID, then you can enter the ID number into the app. Reduced fares will then be available for purchase under “Select Fare.”

Paper Tickets:

My credit card was charged but no ticket was issued from the ticket vending machine (TVM).

If your ticket does not print you usually will not be charged. Your bank will show a pending transaction but it will drop off in a few days. If it does not drop off after a couple of days, please contact us and we will research your claim and if applicable we will issue a refund back to the original credit card that you purchased your ticket with.

Can I get a refund for SmartBenefits that have been used?

We cannot refund SmartBenefits.

I didn’t use all of my benefits and now they are missing.

Any unused benefits will be sent back to the government at the end of the month.

I need to refund a ticket.

For a refund request, we need your original ticket(s), receipt of your purchase and your phone number.

My ticket was captured/eaten by the ticket machine.

When you contact us to make a report, please make sure you get the number of the ticket machine (located in the upper right hand corner of the machine) that captured your ticket. Once verified, we will mail you a replacement ticket.