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Receive Alert Messages: Tips for Registering for Train Talk

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.

VRE Onboard Bicycle Policy
July 21, 2016

Bicycles are sometimes a point of contention onboard our trains. On one hand some think that we don't allow enough bicycles. Unfortunately, due to heavy crowding there is simply no room at this time to provide enough space for full sized bicycles on most of our trains. If you are adamant that VRE provide more bike space, then consider buying yourself a collapsible bike, because collapsible bikes are permitted on all cars.

Then, on the other hand, some think that we shouldn't allow any bicycles onboard period. However, we are supportive of alternative and environmentally friendly transportation options, as well as the benefits of better health, less pollutants and less congestion that have been touted as people increase bicycle use. For VRE's benefit, the more people who bike to the station, the less congestion on the way to and from the station and more automobile parking for other passengers.

Between the two schools of thought we decided to compromise and allow some bicycles on our least crowded trains. On these particular trains, riders need to keep in mind that half of the priority seating area is reserved for bicycles. If a non-bicyclist chooses to sit in this area, they risk being asked to move to another open seat should this area need to be utilized.

Our bicycle policy follows below:

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 310, 312, 314

Southbound 301, 311, 313, 315

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.
Common Courtesy - Sometimes We All Need Reminders
July 15, 2016

Courtesy Towards Vendors

We would just like to remind our passengers who use ticket vendors to exercise courtesy and patience as you purchase your tickets.

The vendors do not actually work for VRE. They are, for the most part, small businesses that have agreed to sell our tickets just as they may have agreed to sell Coke or Pepsi products.

Be sure to keep this in mind when asking them VRE questions. They may know some answers but do not expect them to have all the answers, especially keep this in mind if you have a problem with VRE (late trains, TVMs not working). Please yell at us (gotrains@vre.org, or (703) 684-1001) and not at them. We might be able to do something about it. Finally, please do not push your way through their lines because you showed up late for your train. Their customers deserve courtesy too.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

If you carry a purse, a backpack, a jacket or anything with a strap onto the train, then this message is for you.

Since most people don’t enjoy being struck by someone else’s belongings, please pay attention to both your possessions and to the people around you.

As aisles are narrow, it is best to walk down them with your belongings in front of you, so that they don’t bang the heads or shoulders of your fellow passengers as you go past.

Likewise, if you need to put on a jacket, it would be better to do so after you have detrained, so as not to drape it across the face of someone else.

Scratched and Dinged Vehicles

This courtesy reminder is on behalf of scratched and dinged vehicles in VRE parking lots.

These scratched and dinged vehicles would like to ask people to please be gentle with them as they do not like to be scratched, nor do they like to be dinged.

Please be careful when opening your vehicle doors adjacent to another car. Likewise, when walking in between two cars, please make sure that your belongings do not bang or rub alongside either of the vehicles.

They would like to remind folks that they are somebody’s vehicle…not somebody’s counter top. So, place do not place your belongings upon them unless you’re the one who purchased them.

By being mindful of your surroundings, all our cars can keep their current shine.

Taking up Space

Commuting isn’t always the highlight in one’s life, but at least in doing so one should be able to sit, relax and rest. If you bring stuff with you, keep it with you. Put it under your seat or in the overhead racks. Don’t take up another person’s space. We all work hard and we all deserve our rest whenever we can get it.

Trash Disposal

As you gather your belongings to detrain, please remember that trash receptacles are available for your newspapers, empty water bottles, empty coffee cups, and/or any other “stuff” you no longer need.

Of course, if you are more environmentally minded, newspaper recycling bins are located at most of our stations!

Many of our train sets provide service more than once during the rush hours. Since the time between runs is so short, we are not able to perform a trash sweep in between.

To make the train an enjoyable experience for everyone, we need your help. Take your belongings with you and if you don’t want to keep something, just throw it away. Thank you got helping to keep our trains clean.

The Quiet Car

As most of you already know, passengers ride in the Quiet Car to take advantage of an atmosphere of peace and placidity. Cell phones are not allowed and any talk that must occur should be in whispers.

We want to take this opportunity to remind riders of another courtesy, one of civility rather than hostility. The Quiet Car should be thought of by passengers more in terms of a library rather than in terms of absolute silence. Should you be in the Quiet Car and encounter a fellow rider who may be talking too loudly, politely remind them that they are in the Quiet Car and kindly ask them to keep noise to a minimum.

While we encourage riders to “police” the Quiet Cars, extreme behavior by anyone is unacceptable. Remember, the Quiet Car exists as a courtesy and we don’t want that courtesy abused.

Mobile Tickets
July 14, 2016

VRE was the first transit system in the greater Washington, D.C. area to offer a mobile app that allows customers to pay their fares and skip a Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) altogether, allowing for greater flexibility and convenience for riders.

VRE Mobile, a free download at the iTunes App store and Google Play, allows VRE customers the ability to map out their trips and purchase whatever ticket option works for them, whether they need a monthly pass or a ticket for a single ride. Utilizing the tool allows VRE customers to purchase tickets at their own convenience and save time by completely bypassing station TVM’s. The app gives users the option to use two different payment options, such as splitting the cost between two different cards, and can use a riders’ SmartBenefits.

Aside from ticket purchase, VRE Mobile comes in handy when it comes time to validate a ticket. Validating a ticket, the process of applying the value of one ride from a ticket to that current trip on a train, is mandatory before starting a trip. When in a rush to catch a train, it can be difficult to stop at a machine to validate that ticket. Failure to do so, however, could result in a summons to court and a hefty fine. With VRE Mobile, riders can validate right on their Smartphone, bypassing the TVM altogether. Riders who buy and validate tickets via VRE Mobile then need only show the conductor their phone upon ticket check.

Learn more about VRE Mobile and all you can do with the app at http://www.vre.org/service/vre-mobile/.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About VRE Step-Up Tickets
June 20, 2016

A step-up ticket is a ticket that VRE riders can purchase (in conjunction with a TLC Ticket, Monthly Ticket, Five Day Pass or Ten-Trip ticket) that allows one the ability to ride a designated Amtrak train.

Step-Up tickets are valid one year from the date of purchase and are not refundable or cannot be exchanged once expired.

Amtrak charges VRE $13 for every step-up ticket collected on their trains. The current cost of an Amtrak step-up ticket for riders is $8.00. VRE subsidizes the last $5 to help reduce crowding on some of our trains by allowing riders to take an Amtrak train instead.

If any of the following Amtrak train numbers are operating: 66,67, 83, 85, 86, 84, 87, 93, 94, 95, 125, 171, 174, 176, Monday through Friday, even on a weekday holiday when VRE is not running, an Amtrak step-up ticket with a properly zoned VRE Monthly, 5 day pass or 10 ride ticket, will be accepted by Amtrak for travel on that train.

Amtrak numbered trains that are different from any of the above are not considered cross honor trains and cannot be ridden by a VRE passenger with a VRE ticket or step-up. These trains can only be ridden with an Amtrak ticket.

If you do not have a Step-Up ticket accompanied by a valid VRE ticket and you board an Amtrak train, you will be asked to pay the standard rate for an Amtrak ticket to your destination.

Step-Up tickets can only be used in our service area. From points beyond our service area, you would need a separate Amtrak ticket.

Step-Up tickets may be purchased on the platform at one of the ticket vending machines with a credit or debit card only, or, these tickets may be purchased in bulk from one of our vendors. Please visit our vendor page for the vendor closest to you.

Before boarding the Amtrak train, validate your multi-fare card (if needed) and present your tickets to the conductor (the Step-Up ticket does not need to be validated). The conductor will then collect your Step-Up ticket and you will keep your VRE ticket.

NOTE: SINGLE FARE TICKETS MAY NOT BE USED WITH A STEP-UP TICKET TO BOARD ANY AMTRAK TRAINS.

VRE is not responsible for the on time performance of Amtrak trains.

New Rider Information
June 7, 2016

Our new rider's guide can be found on our website at http://www.vre.org/service/rider. New Rider information covers:

The Benefits of VRE - Infographic
March 11, 2016

Understanding the Need for Heat Restrictions
March 10, 2016

During summer riders may experience heat restrictions on the Fredericksburg Line from 1-7 p.m. For the uninitiated, heat related delays accumulate over the course of the trip so the farther you go, the longer the delay will be.

If your destination is Franconia-Springfield, you will likely not notice the two minute delay. However, if you travel all the way to Fredericksburg, the delay will be approximately eleven minutes. The train crews will do everything they can to make up time along the way to minimize any delays. 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. With a substantial change in temperature, even in early March, there can be heat restrictions. 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 is the "S" Schedule?
February 5, 2016

The "S" stands for "special". Trains marked with an "S" operate every VRE service day, and 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, Facebook, Twitter and alerts to local media outlets.

VRE Prepares for Winter Weather
January 20, 2016

When a winter storm is projected to affect our region, VRE works with our host railroads, the National Weather Service and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to help determine if conditions will allow for the safe operation of our trains.

As always during winter weather, safety is our main priority. While we work diligently to keep the trains operating and on-time, inclement weather can impact our ability to provide normal service. Another key component to safe VRE operations is the ability for you to reach our stations safely.

When we have service during and after winter weather, we want to make sure the lots and platforms at our stations are clear of snow and ice.  We utilize a combination of our facilities contractor, VDOT, jurisdiction crews and third party private contractors to clear the lots, depending on who has responsibility for the specific facility. Our facilities crews begin clearing and treating the platforms the day before weather is expected, and continue through the night if necessary to keep everything clear.  If you do arrive at a parking lot or platform and notice patches of ice or snow, please contact us at gotrains@vre.org and we’ll get it addressed.  We also activate our snow removal plan working with VDOT, the local jurisdictions and our own contractors to clear parking lots, sidewalks and platforms.

In the event that we do need to cancel service, or operate on a modified schedule, we will get that information out as early as possible, usually no later than 4:15 a.m. of the affected service day. All information will be posted to our website at www.vre.org, on our Twitter and Facebook accounts, through Train Talk text and email alerts, on our station signs and our information hotline, 1-800-RIDE-VRE. VRE also contacts local media including TV, radio and traffic reporters.

While we do take the decision by the Office of Personnel Management into consideration regarding the operation of the Federal Government, it does not necessarily dictate whether or not VRE trains operate. We realize that many of our riders are not employed by the Federal Government, or are considered essential personnel who need to get to work, we still make every effort to offer at least an “S” schedule operation.

Stay safe this winter and thanks for riding VRE!

Types of Common Rail Systems
August 16, 2013

Rail transportation has been around since the early nineteenth century. It replaced America's network of canals, inland water steam navigation and other early forms of transportation. However, it has yet to be replaced as a key facet in America's transportation portfolio. Given rail transport's tremendous efficiency and cost effectiveness, there are many different forms of rail in use today. Ranging from small to large, they all serve a basic purpose: to move people and freight. Here is a basic overview of the railroad industry's main components.

Class I Freight Carrier: Generally focused on moving freight, a Class I railroad is defined by the Surface Transportation board as having in excess of $250 million dollars in annual revenue. Class I railroad companies own and maintain a huge network of routes connecting different locations and mainline tracks spanning several states. They possess a large fleet of locomotives and railcars suited to shipping many different kinds of materials. The Class I carriers are Canadian Pacific Railway, Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX, Union Pacific, BNSF, Canadian National and Kansas City Southern. Collectively, these companies make up a large majority ownership of all operable tracks in the United States.

Class II or “Regional” Freight Carriers: These railroads are smaller than their Class I brethren in both track-miles and revenue. A regional railroad is classified as earning less than $250 million but more than $20.5 million in annual revenue. Regional railroads often own mainline track routes to move goods long distances but often have a network of slower speed secondary tracks that branch out and connect with factories and mills that may not generate or receive as many shipments as industries on a Class I system might. Regional railroads play an important role by providing small companies with access to the major rail infrastructures across America and generating traffic for Class I railroads. Some examples of Regional carriers in America are the Reading & Northern Railroad, Wheeling & Lake Erie and the Maine, Montreal & Atlantic System.

Class III or “Shortline” Freight Carriers: Short-line railroads are often the smallest of the point-to-point rail systems in America. Their trackage territory can range from only a few miles and upward. Their official classification is contingent upon annual revenues being less than $20 million dollars annually. A large percentage of American short-line railroads are slower speed “branch line” tracks that were sold off by larger railroads. Short-lines often only have a few locomotives but can provide greater levels of attention to customers on its lines than a larger railroad carrier with many customers and lines. Some examples of short-line railroads in America are Lehigh Railway (56 track miles), Towanda Monroeton Shippers Lifeline (6 track miles), and Delaware-Lackawanna (85 track miles).

Class I National Passenger Carrier: After most railroads were permitted to abandon passenger service in the mid twentieth century, Amtrak was formed by the US Government to preserve passenger service with federal funding given its unprofitable nature. Today, Amtrak officially qualifies as a Class I carrier due to the level of revenue it receives. It utilizes a network of its own tracks and over track usage rights on other railroads to provide service in most regions across the country.

Regional Commuter Carrier: Also known as Commuter Rail, Virginia Railway Express finds itself in this category. These carriers can either operate on a network of privately held right-of-way or can operate over host railroad territory. Regional Commuter carriers are generally found around dense urban areas. Regional carriers generally own or lease their own fleet of specially built passenger equipment capable of speeds of up to 79 mph and most often operate under partnerships with a transportation authority or government agency. Some other examples of Regional Commuter carriers would be the Trinity Railway Express, based in Texas, SEPTA Regional Rail Division, based outside of Philadelphia, and New Jersey Transit Regional Rail, based in Northern New Jersey.

Closed System Rapid Transit: This system will most often operate on its own network of trackage within a city or connecting two major population centers. The defining difference between this system and other previously listed systems is train frequency. Within a rapid transit network, there are generally a large amount of connection options and routine train arrivals and departures without interference from other types of trains (closed system). The equipment is generally electrically propelled, versus conventional diesel-electric locomotive use. An example of this type of system, locally, is Metro. Nationally, another example is New York's MTA.