Circling back to two comments made during this hour - both deal with walking. First; as always, tracks are for trains, not people. Don't use the railroad as a shortcut and don't cross roadway grade crossings until the signals deactivate.

The second; make sure you minimize distractions while walking. Text messages and emails can wait and your safety is the most important factor.

Thank you for another great hour of questions! If your specific question wasn't answered, please send it to where we answer emails within one business day.

Reminder that we do not operate service on Presidents' Day, February 20th.

Rich, Chris, et al.


  • Mike from Woodbridge asks
    Ive been a rider for over 2 years and want to compliment you on your staff. I have had few issues with the service on the VRE on the staff is always helpful. Quick question, last week when the Fredericksburg northbound trains had to use the opposite track, why was there no message alert sent? At the Woodbridge station there was only 1 announcement made over the PA system. Those of us who heard it had enough time to cross over but those arrived later really had to scramble to get up and over to the other side. Thanks.

    VRE Response
    Thank you for the compliments. We should communicate if we are operating from the far track with plenty of time to crossover. That said, the crews are aware that they are not operating on the normal track and will wait for the passengers that did not get the message. Lastly, this is one reason we ask you to be at the station at least 10 minutes prior to departure with a validated ticket.

  • Larry from Warrenton asks
    Ooh, RideTap sounds cool! I got off for the first time at Brooke station with the intent to walk to a main road for a friend to pick me up. I was STUNNED a PWC's lack of sidewalks and shoulders on either side of the road with tree branches right to the travel lane. I eventually chickened out at the narrow underpass and just waited. A slug type ride would have been ideal and infinitely safer.

    VRE Response
    Ride Tap should be a big help for situations like these.  Lyft is one of our partners.  Brooke is in Stafford County, and it is pretty remote.  Not really close enough to walk out to Courthouse Road or Route 1.

  • Dave from Woodbridge, Va asks
    I wanted to thank the conductors. In recent weeks they make "backpack" announcements asking passengers to not put them on until they de-train. I think it has made a difference. In the past I have seen some of the shorter people get abused by these growths on peoples backs when they turn around or move around. Thanks again.

    VRE Response
    Great to hear, Dave!

  • Debbie from Broad Run, VA asks
    I know this forum starts at Noon, but are you all not waiting until that time to start answering everyone's questions? I know the questions must start appearing in your system once the email sent out is received by everyone. If you all started answering earlier, maybe you would be able to respond to more questions.

    VRE Response
    Debbie, we do start answering questions early, and as of right now, this is the last question submitted. We have been able to get through all or most of the questions every month.  Some do not get posted either because they are duplicates or are inappropriate for public consumption.

  • joe from union station asks
    Kim? Kim? no help. no postings. incorrect postings. incorrect announcements from the vre box on the wall. oh, it's posted...but on the WRONG track, so we scurry back up the escalator and rush like idiots to the track the train is really on. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get some competent help. and stop the worthless announcements. very upsetting and confusing to those who are not regular commuters. oh, and Kim???? you have been wasting that paycheck

    VRE Response
    Easy Joe.  Kim does a great job for us there at Union Station, but even she can't resolve every situation.  On Monday, a train was posted as coming in on track 24, then changed to 27.  The train had an extra locomotive which made it too long for 27, so they took the train north and then brought it back in on 24.  It was simply one of those instances where Amtrak and Kim were trying to keep everyone posted on the correct track, but the situation kept changing.  It just happens that way sometimes.  Sorry for the confusion, but please don't use situations like this to make personal attacks on those who are there trying to assist.

  • Davin from Woodbridge, VA asks
    I am frustrated the Train #306 is frequently delayed in the morning because it has to so slow to Alexandria, Crystal City and into DC making us 5-10 minutes. Tell CSX to stop doing this. It should a priority that we get to work on time. This happened 4 out 5 days last week and Tuesday and Wednesday this week. We hear the conductor apologizing everytime and that we had other trains in front of us. But this morning, no announcements were made as to why were going slow. Also, didn't VRE write its schedule so that Fredericksburg Trains wouldn't get stuck behind Manassas Trains at Alexandria

    VRE Response
    With Fredericksburg and Manassas line VRE trains converging into Alexandria, as well as any Amtrak and freight trains in the area, trains reduce speed as required by the signals and rules for safe train spacing.

  • Sickening from Leeland asks
    I believe this has been covered before, but please provide the VRE policy on dipping/chewing tobacco on the train. I get queasy just thinking about it. It shouldn't matter if you swallow it or spit it out.

    VRE Response
    VRE does not have an official policy on chewing tobacco on the train. We ask riders to be as discreet as possible.

  • Winston from Bristow, VA asks
    I use ten trip tickets. It seems that at least once a month when I validate the ticket, I get an error message and the machine refuses to recognize my tickets. The ticket is then worthless as no other machine will recognize the ticket or how many rides are remaining. This is very annoying because I then have to track down a conductor, explain the situation, and have my ticket replaced with vouchers. Are you aware of these machine errors? Any explanation why the machines and/or tickets are having so many more problems recently?

    VRE Response
    We are looking into this issue and attempting to track it down to certain machines. In the meantime, if you have a smartphone, you may wish to try VRE Mobile. You can purchase, validate and display your ticket all on your phone with no need to mess with the traditional ticket machines.

  • Conrad from Washington DC asks
    I often see non railroad personnel (adults and teens) walking around the tracks while the trains are in motion. How far do the Amtrak/CSX right of ways extend from the tracks? Should we report people trespassing on the tracks and try to avoid someone getting hit by a train?

    VRE Response
    Great question. We work tirelessly to promote the mission of Operation Lifesaver ( in all of our communities but society and pop culture continues to downplay the risks of being on or near the tracks. It is dangerous and illegal. Always report safety concerns to your local law enforcement.

  • Holden Caulfield from Backlick Road asks
    It seemed like progress was being made on picking up the trash before/after the Backlick Rd station, but now it is starting to look like a landfill again. Who is responsible for cleaning the easements and controlling litter?

    VRE Response
    This has become an unconquerable problem. Norfolk Southern owns and controls the corridor and has made attempts to clean up the litter the surrounding community has thrown off the bridges, but the near constant littering has greatly outpaced any reasonable clean up attempts.

  • Rodger from Bristow asks
    The Wawa station at Piper Lane has really messed up an already frustrating light onto 28. I have had times where it has taken multiple lights to make it onto 28 from the Wawa intersection because people stop on the green light to let gas station traffic turn left into the station. What can be done, lane markings, clear stop lines "Don't Block the Box" type, or light timings to help VRE passengers avoid spending 10+ minutes trying to leave the station access road?

    VRE Response
    Roger, we understand the frustration, many of us deal with this as well. Prince William County is aware of the circumstances here and we think where we may be able to help is to remind many passengers heading to points west of Rt28 via Linton Hall Road to consider holding to the right lane and taking Hornbaker Road. This will help drain the line on Piper Lane somewhat quicker, reducing the need for people to hold back for people turning in and out of Wawa.

    ..But, since you brought it up, we might need to get back out there and review the situation....and maybe grab an Italian hoagie and some lemonade tea.


  • Ryan from Warrenton asks
    Love the Mobile App! Can you share any upcoming plans or features? Would be awesome to cache the schedule and other aspects of the Trip Tools section for the times when cell service is interrupted.

    VRE Response
    Thanks, Ryan. We are currently working to get real time arrival information into VRE Mobile, but you will need an internet connection for that since it is updated by the GPS on our trains. Also, look for RideTap, a feature that will help you solve the last mile portion of your commute.

  • Joey from Manassas asks
    I have noticed many new conductor faces over the past month or so, has a new class of conductors been released or is it schedule changes/rotations? On a similar note, can we look forward to more Meet the Conductor type articles or web stories?

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the question Joey.  We will continue to do "Spotlight On..." articles in RIDE.  There are a couple new conductors out there, but the crews can rotate as frequently as every month.

  • Anthony from Alexandria asks
    My work gives me a paper monthly ticket as part of our new employee commuting plan, but I would prefer to continue using mobile. Is there a way to transfer a paper monthly ticket to mobile at the King St service center?

    VRE Response
    The personnel at the Alexandria station work for Amtrak. If you wish, you can come to our administrative office on King Street to transfer your paper ticket into a mobile one.

  • Thomas from Shining Time Station asks
    I tend to ride in the same train car and was wondering why the train seems to stop in different places over time. Is there a "close enough" position that trains stop in or does the position move depending on other factors, like consist or something? For example, my afternoon car in Alexandria is now about half-3/4 a car length further south than it was last year. Not a complaint, just curious.

    VRE Response
    Where the train stops can be affected by several factors including consist length, passenger load, or the need to operate a wheelchair lift.  

  • Steven from Midland asks
    I've heard that there are new train schedules coming; when will they be active? Will there be any fare changes coming as well?

    VRE Response
    We are waiting for final approval on the new schedule from our host railroads. We will soon be holding public hearings on a proposed fare increase to take place July 2017. Stay tuned for more information.

  • Larry from Bristow Station asks
    I've been a daily rider for around 18 months so far and just wanted to say thanks for taking care of the bulk of my commute. I have been talking it up at the office and have gotten one of my coworkers to switch over as well. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

    VRE Response
    Thanks Larry, and welcome aboard. Glad you are finding the service to your liking.

  • Manassas from Manassas asks
    I have a question in regards to the monthly ticket grace period. Does this apply to both the paper monthly ticket and the mobile or just the paper?

    VRE Response
    The grace period applies to both, though we have heard the VRE Mobile version did not extend through today.  We're addressing the issue now with the developers.

  • Dave from Fredericksburg, VA asks
    1. Would it be possible to add more illumination to the Fredericksburg station stairs serving the Track 2 side? One lamp is not enough. 2. Would it be possible to add any lamps to the Fredericksburg station stairs and ramp serving the Track 3 side? Illumination from lamps near the stairs and ramp are not sufficient.

    VRE Response
    Dave, we are working on a platform rehabilitation design, and have some other station improvements in the scope.  One of the improvements involves replacing the existing lights with an LED version.  We have asked the project manager to look into adding fixtures as necessary.

  • Monica from Fairfax VA asks
    First, thanks for great customer service calling me back to see if I found my misplaced VRE ticket! Is it possible to install hanging straps in the folding chair areas. Often trains are crowded and it is difficult to stand there without holding onto something. Also, can something be worked out with the shopping area across from Backlick parking lot? One row from their large parking lot would accommodate busy Tuesday-Thursday days when often Backlick is full.

    VRE Response
    Glad we found your ticket Monica.  We can't put hanging straps by the fold-up seats, but each row of seating on the aisle has a designated handhold to accommodate standees.

  • Linda from Woodbridge, VA asks
    At the Rippon Station, they rebuilt the elevator and it is looking super nice! Thank you. We all can't wait for it to open again. So far the weather hasn't been too bad for icy conditions re: 4 flights of stairs. Also, thank you for fixing the drain spot in front of the walk way to the station. Super nice job. My question is, what is that additional stair that goes down from the platform to the ground area next to the right side of the elevator? Are you planning another parking area on that side or something? It looks like there's a ramp like area there too. Just curious. Thanks again for the good work in the stations improvements.

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the nice comments Linda.

    The other stairs accessing the ground are intended to provide access to the wildlife area.

  • Rich from Fredericksburg asks
    Will there ever be an express train from Union to Spotsy?

    VRE Response
    We have no plans at this time to add a southbound express train.

  • Tim from Woodbridge asks
    during the January forum, it was stated that the new schedules were being printed and would be available in the next couple of far we have not seen them on the trains. Is there a problem? There was also a statement that the Leeland Road canopy would be extended - would you please give a little more info? Like it will cover the entire platform or it will be extended by 1 inch or whatever it is. The vagueness of some answers is quite disrespectful to those of us who are able to understand when we are being brushed off.

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the comments Tim.  We share the information we have access to at the time of the Forum.  The pocket schedules have been printed and are ready to roll-out, but the schedule will not go into effect until we get the final approval from the railroads.  The schedules have been discussed in some detail above, but we can't actually publish those schedules to the public until we have the updated agreements.

    The Leeland platform comment from last month was simply that a planned platform extension would allow us to extend the canopy.  Exactly how much additional canopy has not been finalized in the design, but we will share more when we have accurate information.

  • Mark from Lorton, VA asks
    I asked this question last month and nothing was done. Starting to wonder (just like a lot of people on here) if this forum does any good. Here is the question, again: "Can you ask Fairfax County to pick up the trash at and around the Lorton VRE station? The grassy areas of the parking lot looks like the Lorton Trash Dump. The trash cans constantly overflow with trash, which easily blows around when it is windy."

    VRE Response
    Mark, we asked our Facilities Manager to follow-up with FFX County and received the following:

    "We have contacted our maintenance folks and asked for their help with this issue.  They are going to address this with the Community Labor Force that empties the trash at this location and look into having a contractor clean the grass islands in the parking lot."

  • Mike from Spotsylvania asks
    For the second month in a row since signing up for mobile VRE ticketing, I've gotten confirmation from Metro that my SmartBenefits had been credited to VRE Mobile Ticketing. Last month, I couldn't buy tickets. VRE told me I had to work it out with Metro because I wasn't on "the list." Metro assured me that, consistent with the email they sent, I had my benefits assigned to VRE Mobile. It was a huge headache getting a remedy for the problem in January, but I was assured it had been fixed. It's not. This is a crazy system, where your customers get pinched between two bureaucracies denying accountability. Why can't VRE call Metro and work it out? I've been a fare-paying rider since 2003. I can't fix this problem on my own and in fact the only role I can play is to properly designate my benefits and point out the problem. Which I've done. Please fix this.

    VRE Response
    Mike, we agree the process of getting SmartBenefits properly allocated from WMATA (Metro) to VRE Mobile is confusing and frustrating.  Give Jen a call at our office 703-838-1001 and she'll get it straightened out for you.

    We apologize for the frustration.

  • Tim from Woodbridge asks
    we received multiple texts and emails re today's forum...seems to be a little overkill. then when we signed onto to ask a question, it is also reflected twice on the top of the page and again in the notices.....seems the IT folks are asleep at the wheel. and the repeat e notifications of something that is not related to a snag in service can be quite irritating. since all of the double vision, we have forgotten our original inquiry.

    VRE Response
    Sorry Tim. The link in yesterday's reminder email did not work properly, so we fixed the issue and resent this morning. Unfortunately, on the resend, the email still referred to the Online Forum as happening tomorrow, the third reminder corrected that oversight. If you remember the question or comment and can't get it in here, just let us know at

  • Aaron from Fredericksburg, VA asks
    Why is 302 constantly late leaving Spotsylvania? It used to leave right at it leaves at 5:07-5:09 and no explanation as to why? Is the train going to be on time for a solid week ever?

    VRE Response
    No reason for the train to be late out of Spotsylvania, Aaron.  As mentioned above, the challenge is the travel time between Spotsy and Fredericksburg which will be addressed with the new schedules. We'll check with the train crews to see what issue, if any, they are having getting from the yard to the platform.

  • Carter W from Fredericksburg, VA asks
    Has VRE considered organizing a group of regular riders for training to be aid to first responders. At some point there will be an emergency situation where a volunteer force of VRE riders on the train can be of help to rescuers rather than just being in the way to VRE and civil authorities who are working the issue? It better to know what to do rather than do nothing. Thanks.

    VRE Response
    VRE already has a program like this. Law enforcement officers who don't wear marked uniforms receive training from us and are placed throughout the system to support train crews and provide a measure of security.

  • Georgetta from Broad Run asks
    Bringing the trains up to the platform – Please tell us again why your crews have adopted the 'Just in time to not be late' philosophy, the all-time favored philosophy of Amtrak. You and your predecessor have both previously advised us that your crews would make every attempt to bring the trains up much sooner than this. Was this a promise you have no intention of keeping? Please don't tell us about your crews completing their checklists mumbo jumbo again.

    VRE Response
    Georgetta, the crews bring the trains down to the platform as early as they can.  They do have the responsibility to go through a job briefing which may include some operational testing.  Those responsibilities are safety related and will not be altered just to get the train to the platform a few minutes earlier.  While the practice may have been to have more idle time at the origination station, our primary objective is the safe and on time operation of the trains.

  • Clifford from Broad Run asks
    You have announced that a new schedule will be issued soon. As a Manassas rider, dare I ask whether – at the Alexandria chokepoint – Manassas trains will be given priority over Freddy trains for the first time in living memory? It would seem that Manassas passengers have sustained their second class status long enough. Please advise.

    VRE Response
    Neither Line is given priority over the other Clifford.  The schedules are designed to allow the dispatcher time to route every train down to track 3 for the trip between Alexandria and Crystal City.  Sometimes if there are delays or traffic considerations, one train or the other may have to wait as the signals time down.

  • Dave from Manassas Park asks
    When schedules are adjusted will any of the Manassas Southbound lines times be moved sooner? Currently 327 doesn't depart until 345. Right now there are two Fred lines that depart before it (after the 3pm time frame). It would be nice if the 327 line could get flip with Fred 305.

    VRE Response
    The adjustments on the Manassas line are really geared at making the northbound mid-line station departure schedules more accurate.  The current schedule has too much dwell time at Rolling Road, so we have taken that extra time to add a minute at Manassas, Manassas Park, and Burke Centre, while also moving the departure from Rolling Road another couple of minutes early.  Southbound schedules will remain the same.

  • John from Broad run asks
    Your contractors for spreading salt this year have had issues with broad run parking lot. They are leaving so much excess even heavy rain couldn't clear some of it away. If they are intending to leave the excess for friction I suggest they use a mixture of salt and sand. Thanks

    VRE Response
    We'll let them know, John.  Probably just an effort to make certain no slippery areas remained.

  • Abi from Woodbridge, VA asks
    Not a question - just an FYI. The ticket machines at Rippon are stamping the validation mark out of sync. I ended up with rides 5, 6, and 7 all being stamped on top of each other. Hope this can get fixed! Thanks!

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the feedback Abi.  We have passed this info on to the technicians who service those machines.

  • Robin from 3,825 Lbs of Absolutely Right! asks
    Could we remind pedestrians, that they might want to STOP looking at their phones and WATCH where they are going when walking to their cars? Yeah, drivers 'might' be able to see them; and maybe the drivers are 'rude' too...but at 3,825 lbs; my sports car makes your 'being absolutely right' look like you being 'absolutely dead'. WAKE UP and watch where you are walking. 'Squeezing' between 2 cars when one is moving is kinda stupid too. Pedestrians never consider that their momentary 'pause' to be sure a car sees them could be the difference between getting home safely; and 'going home'.

    VRE Response
    Situational awareness is very important! Good reminder to passengers.

  • Ajit from Alexandria, Virginia asks
    You need more trains going North Bound on the Manassas line. There is never any seats available by the time the train gets to Backlick road in the mornings between 6am and 7:30am.

    VRE Response
    See previous answer.

  • Mike from Manassas, Va asks
    I have been riding the VRE since 2011 and wouldn't commute any other way. I get on at Manassas and get off at Crystal City. Since metro started safe track there have been more riders on the VRE in the morning and afternoon. In the afternoon when I get on at crystal city, I have to stand until the VRE reaches Rolling road or Burke center. When is the VRE going to add more cars? I feel that if I buy a ticket I should be able to sit and not stand.

    VRE Response
    We have 9 new cars on order to allow for the lengthening of trains which will add seat capacity.  We'll keep everyone posted on expected delivery dates. 

  • Mike from Franconia asks
    What happened to Ride? There's nothing worth reading in there anymore?

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the feedback Mike.  Our editor moved on to a new job, so we are in transition right now.  We'll take a fresh look and work on getting more meaningful content into the Ride magazine.

  • Dave from Woodbridge, Va asks
    When will the schedules be adjusted? Each day the 300 express is 5-10 minutes behind.

    VRE Response
    We are very close to finalizing schedule changes with our host railroads.  Look for the new schedules in the next few weeks.  In short, though, the only changes to the Fredericksburg Line schedules is a 3 minute adjustment to the Spotsylvania AM departures and PM arrivals.  By making the trip time between Spotsy and Fredericksburg accurate, the trains should be able to maintain schedule the rest of the way up the line.

  • Shamin from Alexandria, Virginia asks
    I am new to the VRE and I prefer it to the transportation methods in the area that are unreliable, over-crowded and slow. However, the VRE can do more for its customers. I take the VRE from Backlick Road Station, in the evenings I often see shady characters hanging out looking into cars. I am not sure what they are doing there, but you really need to light up the parking lots much better in that Station. The area is not exactly the best in terms of safety. Thank You

    VRE Response
    Thank you for the comment Shamin.  Welcome to the VRE, we're happy you have chosen us for your commute.  We'll ask our Facilities Manager to check the lighting and as necessary, work with the owner of the lot, Fairfax County, to see if they have plans to enhance the lighting.

Thank you for joining us for another edition of the Online Forum, where senior VRE Operations Management, Rich Dalton, Deputy Chief Executive Officer/Chief Operations Officer and Chris Henry, Director of Rail Operations, answer as many service related questions for the next hour. Also joining us in the studio is Kim Combs, the Amtrak Station Manager for us at Union Station and Brian Barton, CSX Trainmaster for our service area.

If you are in the construction business, be sure to come to our VRE Industry Day where you can learn about our six year plan and how contractors play a part of improving our service.

With that plug out of the way, on to the questions!