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September

Thank you for all the great questions. If your questions was not answered, please submit it to GoTrains@vre.org where we all answer all comments/concerns within one business day. You can also tweet us @VaRailXpress or post to our Facebook page.

Safety tip - we know football season is back but please be alert and stay aware of your surroundings during your entire commute.

Rich, Chris, et al.

  • joe from virginia asks
    cold? dress accordingly for the chilly train bothered by noise? headphones - good ones (they also block the chatty conductor lady) too much perfume on a nearby passenger? change seats common sense, folks, common sense

    VRE Response
                                                                             

  • Noah from Stafford asks
    I was wondering how old are the legacy train cars?

    VRE Response
    Thanks Noah, about as old as the Ark.  Kidding..............40-50 years old. 

  • linda from aldie, va asks
    the monthly ticket needs to be validated ?

    VRE Response
    You will need to sign the back of the monthly ticket. This is equivalent to validating the monthly ticket.

  • Dave from Woodbridge, Va asks
    How often are the conductors supposed to check tickets? On the 300 I think they have checked me once in the last 3-4 weeks. On the 305 I think they check about once a week now so a little more often.

    VRE Response
    Conductors should be checking tickets in every half of every car on every trip.  We'll address train 300 with the Conductors.

     

     

  • Rachel from Springfield, VA asks
    It would be nice to have a later departure than 8:15. Sometimes folks have to get to the office later, thanks to doctor's appointments etc., but can't really rely on VRE to get us there. Please consider later trains!

    VRE Response
    Regular VRE riders with multi-day tickets (Five Day, 10 Ride, Monthly) and a Step-Up ticket can ride an Amtrak Cross Honor train, some of which operate after 8:15 am. The only make certain stops so you may have to adjust which station(s) you use.

     

  • Larry from King Street asks
    I used the alert on the main page to ask a question, but when noon rolled around it was not very easy to actually figure out where the online forum was being held in real time. I did find it, but maybe leave a link on the alerts even after the session has started.

    VRE Response
    Jeremy says, he'll look at it and see what he can do.

     

     

  • Lynn from Warrenton asks
    Santa Ride tickets - We did the princess ride this summer and it was a blast, but despite being listed as Sold Out the train cars were half full - at best. I've never successfully gotten tickets to the Santa ride as they sell out online in under 5 minutes... How many tickets are actually sold for these rides and how full are the cars. I get it that a 100% full car is less fun for the kids than a 50%, but 5 minutes to sell out is like working with ticket scalpers.

    VRE Response
    We sell 1,000 tickets for each Santa Train.  That is a little less than full capacity because we do not allow seating in the upper level seats.  We also plan to offer Santa Train tickets through VRE Mobile this year as a third option for purchasing.

     

     

     

  • Denise from Broad Run, VA asks
    The schedule display on redesigned site is nicer looking but less functional. Requires a lot of back and forth scrolling between origin and destination to see departure versus arrival time of various trains. Any chance of going back to where all relevant info was on same screen?

    VRE Response
    We understand your concerns. When we designed the new website, we wanted to accommodate both mobile and desktop browsers and the schedule works better for mobile phones with smaller screens. We thought the desktop version of the schedule was too cumbersome but have a lot of the feedback you have mentioned and are looking to go back. In the meantime, you can click on of the links to print the schedule and it will bring up a window where you don't have to scroll as much.

  • MP from Springfield, VA asks
    Why is it so difficult to buy a monthly pass? One should not have to go all the way to Crystal City to do this. Having the service available at Union Station would be helpful. Not to mention having machines at all stations.

    VRE Response
    Our vendor at Union Station closed, but we are working on an agreement with Amtrak to sell tickets at Washington Union Station as well as Alexandria Union Station. Stay tuned!

     

     

  • Linda from Aldie,VA asks
    Why must a passenger validate their tickets twice within the same day? If the ticket was validated in the morning, and the passenger forgets in the afternoon to vaildate the ticket. Should the conductor give them a ticket violation? Why can't the ticket be validate for the entire day?

    VRE Response
    Hi Linda, the number of ticket validations depends on the type of ticket you buy. If you have purchased the 10-ride ticket, you would have to validate every time you use it (the same goes for a single ride ticket, obviously). But all other options only need to be validated once--the monthly, 5-day and day pass only need to be validated once (for the duration of the ticket). 

     

     

  • Heidi from Fredericksburg, VA asks
    Southbound Train 303 is almost always late. Will this be addressed at some point?

    VRE Response
    Heat restrictions and construction on the railroad have been the biggest contributing factors this summer, but we are also looking at the schedule to see if we can minimize interference with Amtrak and CSX trains.

     

     

  • David from Woodbridge, VA asks
    On Friday, Train #309 went so slow after leaving Lorton and the conductor didn't make any announcements to why. There are some conductors that are good at making delay announcements and others that do not. Please remind your conductors to make announcements to why the train is going slow. Also, this is a perfect example of why CSX should not be operating trains during VRE's service window as they cause delays. Just like you don't park your car on the highway, CSX should not be parking its trains on the railway blocking the railroad.

    VRE Response
    We agree that conductors should make announcements about significant delays and we do our best to communicate to the crews about what is going on ahead of them. In case that doesn't happen though, we also send out communications to our passengers about delays that affect more than one train. That day in particular, a train encountered a mechanical issue and was blocking the Rippon Station platform. To expedite the repair and get the disabled train moving again, another freight train came alongside on the adjacent track to assist in the repair. We sent messages to the Fredericksburg riders signed up to Train Talk or that follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

     

  • Heidi from Fredericksburg, VA asks
    I would like to know when you are going to get the rest of the new cars finished. The old ones are freezing cold in the morning and uncomfortable warm in the evening. Passengers tend to go a fill newer cars making the train more crowded?

    VRE Response
    The next set of 5 new cars, which replace the remainder of the Legacy fleet, should be delivered in the first quarter of 2017.  We are as anxious as everyone else to retire the Legacy cars.

     

  • Pete from Partlow, VA asks
    The Spotsy station has certainly relieved some of the Fredericksburg parking problems. Are there plans to pave the 'back/gravel' area in Fredericksburg's lot or to build a multi-level facility there?

    VRE Response
    Yes, eventually we would like to consolidate the parking lots for Fredericksburg and paving the gravel lot is included in those plans.

  • David from Woodbridge, VA asks
    The web page with your fare chart isn't printer friendly in Google Chrome browser. Please fix it. However, it worked in IE and Mozilla Firefox

    VRE Response
    I just tried printing the fare chart from Chrome and experienced the same issue.  We'll ask the web designers to take a look.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

     

  • David from Woodbridge, VA asks
    When VRE starts using the storage tracks at L'Enfant Plaza, will those 2 afternoon/evening trains begin service at L'Enfant Plaza instead of Union station?

    VRE Response
    Those trains will move back up to Union Station to begin their afternoon runs south.

     

  • David from Woodbridge, VA asks
    Why were the trees cut down at the north end of the Lorton Platform?

    VRE Response
    Along with the platform extension and parking expansion, there is some required utility relocation requiring the removal of the trees.

     

  • Jim from Gainesville asks
    I've seen a man who occasionally rides Manassas Line #331 who, at broad run, always shoves his keys into the little ports next to the door to pin them open. I remember the doors used to have knobs that allowed people to pin the doors open, but they were removed. Should people be shoving things into these holes in order to keep the doors open?

    VRE Response
    The reason those pins were removed was to keep people from locking the doors open.  No passenger should be tampering with equipment on the trains.  We'll alert the conductors, but if you see it happen again, please let a conductor know immediately.

     

  • Louis from Union Station asks
    It has been repeatedly promised that the inaccurate announcements of arriving VRE trains would be fixed. Then it was promised that Kim, our VRE representative, would certainly have it addressed, especially since she witnessed the situation. Well there is total confusion every afternoon when the announcements start listing all of the VRE trains that are approaching the station at one time. By the way, may we assume Kim is no longer with us? She hasn't been spotted for awhile.

    VRE Response
    We understand your frustration, Louis. Kim, who occasionally is not at the station, due to administrative or training obligations, is as frustrated as you when the tracks come in on a different track that is posted. She is working to improve the communications between the dispatchers at K Tower, who control all the complex moves in the station, and the customer service desk that enters the information for the screens to display. We appreciate your patience as we work through these issues.

  • Mike from Union Station asks
    Yesterday train no 313 was late and many people thought it was going to Mananas. There were no announcement until the train left L'enfant station. Why there is no announcement before the train leaves the station or at the boarding time so there will not be any confusion!

    VRE Response
    There is an announcement which automatically plays as the trains arrive at the station, and the destination is displayed on the message board next to each door.  Conductors are also required to make an announcement prior to arriving in Alexandria, so anyone on the wrong train will have an opportunity to step off and then board the correct train.

     

  • Janet from Manassas asks
    Can they add time and temperature to the monitor screens that give the train number on-time status?

    VRE Response
    We are currently looking at new and improved passenger communications tools for the stations to enhance the information on those screens.  Showing the time is already on the list, and we'll look for a weather app that could add the temperature as well.

     

  • Daniel from Roanoke asks
    what about using your trains on Saturdays to run fans down to UVA or VT for football games? I don't know if there is a station in Blacksburg but there is one in Charlottesville. This might generate revenue and get a lot of traffic/drunk drivers off the road. A lot of their fans are within your area.

    VRE Response
    We have no plans to operate outside our current service area.

     

     

  • James from Manassas asks
    How can we get more cars on the afternoon trains? I know of several people who have stopped riding VRE because the had to stand every afternoon.

    VRE Response
    Good question James.  We monitor ridership to make sure the trains which carry the most riders have the most cars.  Sometimes the ridership trends change seasonally, so if you notice a specific train which may be an issue, please let us know.

  • Betty from Manassas asks
    Thank you Rich and Chris for making our daily rides safe and clean. During the meet the management at L'Enfant station I mentioned making the platform deeper so we all didn't have to walk through the grass? With the additional Fredericksburg trains the platforms seem to be fuller most of the time now. Any thoughts on the outcome of this?

    VRE Response
    Hi Betty, thanks for the reminder.  In an update from our facilities manager today, he mentions the project to widen the L'Enfant platform has been initiated.  Please stay tuned for more updates.  We'll let you know of an expected schedule when we get one.

  • Stanley from Alexandria, VA asks
    Will the Franconia elevator be ready in October?

    VRE Response
    The elevator on the East side should be completed in the next few weeks.  The Metro side elevator work is still experiencing delays.

  • Don from Woodbridge, VA asks
    Is the Alexandria Pedestrian Tunnel really needed? I saw a $22 Million price tag. It seems like are alot of bells and whistles for project that just needed an elevator to connect to the middle platform for access to the third track.

    VRE Response
    The Alexandria tunnel project will not only provide access to both platforms, but will also provide direct access to the King Street Metro station. 

  • Donna from Lorton, VA asks
    I am a new rider on VRE. I am pleased and enjoy the friendly staff and passengers. Are you planning a promotional event or rider appreciation day in the near future?

    VRE Response
    Hi Donna, welcome aboard. We are pleased that you have made VRE your commuting choice. We hold Meet The Management Events at several stations every year, beginning in May. Next year is also our 25th anniversary so we anticipate some fun events/interactions with riders (though we are still planning these). In the meantime, please feel free to contact us at GoTrains@vre.org or by phone at 703-684-1001 in case you have questions or need ticket holders and the like.

  • Lynn from Burke, VA asks
    What can be done to increase parking capacity at Rolling Road. No spaces available starting with the 8:55 (#330) train. Side of road and 'grassy areas' not marked with No PARKING signs filling too....

    VRE Response
    Fairfax County is studying the idea of putting a parking garage at Rolling Road.  We'll keep everyone posted as we hear more.

  • Dave from Manassas asks
    It would be wonderful if you all could move some of the Manassas Southbound train times to earlier times. At least one Manassas train departing between 300-320 would help.

    VRE Response
    When we have an opportunity to add service on the Manassas Line, we will target a slot between the current trains 325 and 327.

  • John from Manassas, VA asks
    When is the next VRE GHX meeting/update? I have been hearing alot about a possible Godwin Dr Station. This would be very convenient for me and has good access from 234 Bypass for the Bristow/Gainesville/Haymarket riders.

    VRE Response
    John, here is the info on the next GHX meeting we have in the books:

     

    VRE GHX Community Meeting #3

    December 7, 2016

    6:00 – 8:00 pm

    Piney Branch Elementary School

    8301 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA 20136

     

  • Dave from Woodbridge, Va asks
    In the future can you please have the 300 Express starting time moved up by approx. 10-15 min. It would be great to get into DC about 6am. Thank you!

    VRE Response
    We understand the early bird gets the worm, and will keep it under consideration as opportunities arise to expand service.

  • Frozen from Broad Run asks
    Could you raise the temperature on the frozen..I mean quiet car? It is painfully cold to people that have skeletal problems. The only option is to move to a 'talk & laugh at any volume you want' cars.

    VRE Response
    All passenger car temperatures are automatically controlled at the same temperature, approximately 70-72 degrees F. The upper levels appear colder because there is more air movement. 

  • Jimmy from Burke, VA asks
    I ride the first Manassas train. Whenever you update your printed schedules, can you fix the schedule so that the train doesn't have be needlessly delayed at some of the stations? We sit every morning for about 2 minutes at Rolling Road long after the train is loaded. Alternatively, VRE could return to its historical practice of simply leaving after the train is loaded. For the last 15 years, VRE used advise customers to arrive 5 minutes before the scheduled departure time just in case the train was running a couple of minutes ahead of the printed schedule. We never used to just sit and wait. Thank you.

    VRE Response
    Thanks Jimmy.  We have already been through the schedule with the Keolis management and crews and are prepared to make adjustments to the Manassas line trains to eliminate the dwell time, specifically at Rolling Road.  Departure times at Manassas, Manassas Parke, Burke Centre, and Rolling Road may change by a minute or two, but the departures from Backlick and all stations north will remain the same.  We'll keep you posted as we reprint the schedules and make those changes official.

  • Kevin from Manassas VA asks
    Hello, why can't you validate round trip in the morning on a 10-trip ticket like you can on a two-ride ticket?

    VRE Response
    The Ten Trip ticket was designed to give riders the flexibility to only validate when they actually ride.  The five-day pass needs only a single validation for the five day period.  The day pass was designed to replace the two-ride ticket, as it is generally used for round-trip fare.

  • Ron from Broad Run asks
    Couple questions and observations: 1. Bringing trains to the platform at Broad Run – Does it bother you that your train arrivals at the platform are now on par – or worse – than Amtrak used to be? Barely in time to not be late. 2. Since 8/1/16 – monthly rider – my ticket has been checked by the conductor exactly 6 times. 3. The lady conductor still makes her numerous long-winded frivolous announcements – and then repeats them. Why is it not possible to curtail her infatuation with the microphone?

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the observations Ron.

    1. At Broad Run, most trains arrive at the platform more than 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time. If you notice an issue with a specific train, please let us know.

    2. We'll pass this on to the Keolis management.  We have asked the conductors to strive for 100% inspection on every trip, so again, if you have any specifics, we'd be happy to follow-up.

    3. Safety and service related announcements are a critical part of the operation.  Since new riders have the potential to board at any station, it is likely you will hear the same announcements multiple times.  That being said, we have automated announcements which should be used whenever possible. 

  • Quantico Rider from Dumfries asks
    I watch each morning Quantico riders racing to the VRE ticket machines to validate their ticket but I wanted to know there is a caged in area a bench was added to "Thank you" but why can't a VRE ticket machine be installed in the caged/covered area like the one at the end of the platform at the Woodbridge Station? This would extremely help Quantico riders to have one more VRE ticket machine. A VRE ticket machine to cover each end of the platform is a great idea and would prevent riders running/racing to validate. Riders enter from each end of the platform. Just make sense to have a VRE ticket machine at each end. Just a thought -- after years of asking for a bench -- we finally got it. Now wishing for another ticket machine.

    VRE Response
    Thanks QR, as we progress with the Quantico station improvement projects, Ticket Vending Machines or Validators will be added or relocated to better support the needs of the riders.

  • Rider from Alexandria asks
    Can you please give us an update on the elevators at Franconia Springfield? There is currently no work being done at the metro side elevator. Thank you.

    VRE Response
    The east side elevator work should be completed in the next few weeks, while the Metro side elevator work is still experiencing delays.

  • Pete from Fredericksburg VA asks
    Are there plans to add earlier trains to the Fredericksburg line?

    VRE Response
    No, not at this time.

     

  • Obi Wan from Kingstowne, VA asks
    First question: Can you please look at increasing the font size on the train alert/status messages? When accessing on smart phone the actual message font is really small and very ahrd to read. Second question: Can you please consider changing the bike policy to folding only? It is really a lot to ask your already busy conductors to enforce the storage policy, or to expect timid v. rude passengers to "work things out" on their own. Alreray seeing multiple violations with bikes in the aisles. I have no problem saying something politely but it isn't my job either. For whatever it is worth, I am an avid cyclist and bike to and from VRE. A committed commuter cyclist will spend on a folding bike. The trains are not designed to safely move regular bikes and passengers---that is the bottom line.

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the comments, Obi Wan.

    We'll look at the mobile version of the website to see if something can be done to make the alerts easier to read, but you may want to look at the accessibility settings on your phone to increase the font size.  Folding bikes are allowed on every train, so no issue there.  The current bike policy allows for full-sized bikes on the last 3 northbound and southbound trains, which had traditionally been the least crowded trains.  The train cars are built to accommodate the bikes where the fold-up seating is located.  The conductors are more than capable of handling any issues, so please feel free to ask a conductor if you need assistance

  • johnathn snaders from Woodbridge asks
    will you be offering midday services that would be great?!

    VRE Response
    We offer Train 301, which departs Union Station at 12:55pm.  Demand for that train is low on most days(except on Friday's before a long weekend), so we do not have any immediate plans to offer additional midday service.

  • Lisa from Manassas park, VA asks
    Can we get more cars added to the north bound 324 & the South bound 327 Manassas line trains? North bound is full after Manassas park & South bound is full after L'Enfant.

    VRE Response
    According to August 2016 data, 324 (during the heaviest days) averages a little under 600 people on a 819 seat train and is one of the lower ridership trains in the morning on the Manassas Line. 327, however, is a popular train but still averages about 50 people below its 951 seat capacity. We will continue to monitor ridership trends especially now when we normally see new riders join the system.

  • Mary from Fredericksburg asks
    Is there no longer assistance with the vre lines at Union Station? Tuesday commuters from both lines aware the 6pm train.which was late and overlapped the 6:10 Manassas line..confusion everywhere

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the feedback Mary.  Kim should be up there unless she was in training or something that kept her away from the station.  We apologize if there was confusion and will follow-up with Kim.

  • MJBucci from Leeland asks
    Why are the Amtrak cars so smooth and the VRE cars so bone jarring? They roll on the same rails! Is it a cost savings issue regarding the suspension between the two? thx

    VRE Response
    Amtrak cars are designed for much longer trips and do have a different suspension.

  • Mike from Ponax asks
    The new Spotsylvania Station is great, and you especially did a nice job with the access and egress. Just a courtesy suggestion I would have my fellow riders adopt from Leeland Rd: The center aisle has a stop sign, and so must yield to traffic coming from the northern lots. I usually park there, but I would encourage drivers to take turns and follow a "zipper merge" pattern with the center aisle. It is just better to show a small courtesy at the end of the day. I think people are getting the hang of it, but wanted to pass that along.

    VRE Response
    Thanks Mike, glad you like the new station.  We'll be happy to pass along the courtesy request to our fellow riders.

  • Mark from Manassas, VA asks
    What is the status of the Crystal City Platform Extension/Station Relocation Study as it intertwines with the design/construction of the four track between and Alexandria and the Potomac River(Atlantic Gateway) and High Speed Rail EIS(DC2RVArail) projects?

    VRE Response
    VRE staff have worked on conceptual layouts for the Crystal City Platform Extension/Station Relocation and will coordinate these efforts with other design/construction in the service corridor.

  • Dave from Springfield, VA asks
    Can we get the Fairfax Connector buses to stop blocking the empty parking spaces at Lorton Station? This is becoming a real issue with the construction taking place.

    VRE Response
    We'll get with the Fairfax Connector and see if they can address this.  The platform extension and parking lot expansion projects are going to make things pretty tight there for awhile. We appreciate everyone's patience as we make these much needed improvements.

Welcome veteran and new riders alike to our monthly Online Forum we, VRE operations management (Rich Dalton, DeputyCEO/COO and Chris Henry, Director of Rail Operations), answer as many as your questions as we can in one hour. We know we get a lot of new riders in September as people relocate, start new jobs, and realize getting stuck in DC traffic is not the happiest way to spend your commute. Feel free to ask us anything. There are no dumb questions! We are here to help you feel comfortable and safe during your time on VRE.

Our crews and long time riders are sure to show you the ropes and you yourself will be a veteran rider in no time.

With that, on to the questions!