Thanks for another great month of questions. If we didn’t get to your question, please submit it to and place “Online Forum” in the subject line.

Service Reminder – VRE will not operate service on Monday, February 18th in observance of President’s Day.  Regular service will resume on Tuesday February 19th.

Have a safe and enjoyable month and we’ll see you back here on March 6th.

Rich, Chris, …et al.

  • Leena from Springfield asks
    With TriMet moving on from its e-ticketing app for a better customer experience, have you evaluated other alternatives to improve rides for your customers? The worst customer experience is the summons. Have you done a pareto analysis of why riders get summons and what you can do to reduce them? I don't like having my train delayed because someone gets a summons and then get belligerent. That delay is definitely avoidable.

    VRE Response
    TriMet is a very different service than VRE so some of their fare collection approaches will not work here.  We agree the summons experience is negative, but the ability to protect revenue in a subsidized operation is very important.  Passengers receive summonses for not having a ticket, not validating a ticket, riding out of zone, or presenting a fraudulent ticket.

    We have studied the reasons for summonses.  One finding specifically related to the second validation on a two-ride ticket led to the development of a Day Pass as an option for a round trip pass requiring only a single validation.

  • Joe from Rippon asks
    Not a question - just some encouragement. I've noticed somewhat recently many conductors have been stepping up efforts to keep passengers from standing in the stairwells. This is fantastic, it's one of the biggest annoyances in riding VRE to have to navigate around someone who chooses to stand in a bottleneck area like the stairwell. Please keep up the effort to stop this.

    VRE Response
    Thanks Joe.  Gerald will share your comments with the crews so they know their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

  • Matt from Burke asks
    Drivers regularly exit the parking garage via the entrance only causing near accidents. Is there away to install a entrance gate that will only open when a car is entering the garage?

    VRE Response
    We'll share your comments with Fairfax County.  We were under the impression this had stopped when the delineators were added along the entrance road, but if it is still an issue, we'll have it looked at.

  • Debbie from Broad Run, VA asks
    Quite often when we are riding the trains either heading into DC or when we are heading home there is a stop signal and we are made to stop and wait for an on-coming train to pass. The problem is that the train we are waiting for is usually "Empty". Why is it more important to let that train pass then to let our train continue and get the passengers on the train to their intended destination? It's rather inconvenient to be held up and late to wait for an empty train.

    VRE Response
    The dispatchers for our host railroads determine how trains are routed.  We do communicate with them throughout the service window to minimize any delays, but the reverse flow trains you see generally have to get back to Broad Run or Union Station to make another trip, and while they may appear empty, they are revenue service trains, with riders.  The goal is to keep the entire network moving while minimizing delays to all trains.

  • Rob from Woodbridge asks
    What is up with the SPAM response when trying to submit a question. Is this your way of saying you don't want questions or comments?

    VRE Response
    Sorry Rob, it looks like the bot filter is flagging some submissions.  The developers are looking into the issue.

  • Joe from Rippon asks
    Is it possible to run the longest train sets on the last few morning trains (particularly the final train) on days when the government is open on a delay? Or are there storage yard or other reasons this is not possible?

    VRE Response
    When we have enough warning we can make those changes, like we did last week.  On the Manassas Line there are some challenges due to storage and the fact that some train sets make multiple trips.

  • Davin from Woodbridge, VA asks
    During the frigid temperatures last week, Chicago set some of its railroad tracks on fire to prevent the switches from being frozen. Does CSX have switch heaters to keep the switches from freezing, so they don't have to light the tracks on fire?

    VRE Response
    Yes, CSX has switch heaters.

  • Jamie from Stafford, VA asks
    So you tell me to read your FAQ and the question about queuing says people are allowed to do it, VRE manages it. Nothing about standing means detraining? Did that fall by the wayside?

    VRE Response
    Standing Means Detraining is still the policy.  Passengers may stand, but if standing interferes with other passengers being able to detrain, conductors may get involved to manage the situation.  Check out our blog entry we made awhile back on the subject.

  • Davin from Woodbridge, VA asks
    VRE made on it on national TV: 2 Weeks ago on NBC's Chicago fire, while the 2 firefighter actors were in a savage yard, behind the scene I saw old gallery car painted Virginia Railway Express parked with other Chicago Metra cars. Here is a picture:

    VRE Response
    We saw it too, Davin.  Thanks for the picture.  Those were the Legacy cars we sold back to Metra when we received the new cars.

  • Amy from Rippon asks
    No question - Kudos: Many, MANY thanks to VRE customer service and the grounds crews who made the neighborhood stairs landing to the Rippon parking lot safe just in time for our icy snow storm a few weeks ago! Also, I'm extending a general thank you as my commute on VRE is one of the best parts of my work day. I've been riding religiously for 10 years, and the service from all involved (conductors, office staff, communications team, et al) has never been anything less than stellar and enjoyable.

    VRE Response
    Thanks Amy, we appreciate the feedback.

  • Nathan from asks
    Is that bridge slowing us down fixed yet?

    VRE Response
    If you are referring to the bridge on Track 1 south of Alexandria, it was replaced and back in service in mid December.

  • Lucy from Lorton, VA asks
    I enjoy seeing your RIDE magazines litter the seats, when is the new one coming?

    VRE Response
    You should see the new issue of RIDE within the next 7-10 days.

  • Debbie from Broad Run, VA asks
    On Jan. 29th, OPM released Federal workers 2 hours early due to the weather. The train, I rode on to Manassas was overly packed with standing room only even in the vestibule areas & the upper levels. It seemed to be unsafe for everyone to ride this way. What, I don't understand is why the conductors did not communicate with each other and the passengers as to where available seating was much less stop letting people get on the train since it was so packed. I recall receiving an email earlier in the day that said due to the weather that extra cars would be added to Fredericksburg trains, but nothing about the Manassas Line. Both Lines should have added cars to the earlier trains to accommodate the load , but the capacity that was reached should never have been allowed. Please prepare better for the next time.

    VRE Response
    Debbie, We do not have the ability to add cars, but we can change the order in which the longer trains operate to better accommodate expected larger crowds.  On the Manassas Line we have 5 train sets.  3 of those have 8 cars and make multiple trips, so we already had the longest sets on the trains which needed the space.  The issue was the fact that too many people showed up for a single train.  The conductors did a great job of being able to accommodate as many passengers as was safe to do so.  Other passengers were denied boarding and had to wait for the next train.

  • Marie from Manassas, VA asks
    1) Why are THREE cars now off the L'Enfant platform for train 328? It took long enough with the 2 southern-most cars and one northern car off the platform, but trooping through 3 cars to detrain is excessive. 2) Status of extending L'Enfant platform?

    VRE Response
    Marie, the placement of a signal at the north end of the platform requires the trains to stop shorter than they had in the past.

  • Stephen from Fairfax, VA asks
    Was in Baltimore and used CharmPass and it is pretty slick and elegant. You should get those people to help you with your app. Yours is getting a little long in the tooth, don't you think?

    VRE Response
    Thanks Stephen. Coincidentally, the developer of the CharmPass app is the same developer who did VRE Mobile for us.  The VRE Mobile app is scheduled to be upgraded to their new platform later this Spring.

  • Greg from Aquia asks
    Can you tell your conductors that I am allowed to take my bicycle on 308? According to your passenger tariff which governs your operation it specifically states I can take my bicycle on 308. I don't care what the website states, the tariff supersedes the website. Documents approved by your board still mean something, right?

    VRE Response
    Sorry Greg, looks like the train numbers were not edited in the Tariff when we added the Fredericksburg Line train.  The policy is to allow full sized bicycles on the last three trains in each direction, as well as on the midday trains and reverse flow trains.  On the Fredericksburg Line the trains should be listed as 310, 312, and 314.  We'll adjust the Tariff to the correct information.

  • Rick from Fredericksburg, VA asks
    Last week when the afternoon trains were standing room only, it was almost impossible to hear any announcements that the Conductor made over the PA including the automated ones about which station we were at. The people on the train are talking loud about standing around or something. The Conductor(s) appararently didn't know he/she was not being heard since they were in the closed vestibule where you can't hear the announcement anyway. I almost missed my stop because you couldn't even here any any announcements were being made, much less, which cars would not make a platform. This happens every time I can remember when the cars were overloaded. I'm not complaining about that because it is sometime hard to predict the number of passengers who will be on the train during periods on inclement weather. Can the conductors please make sure they are being heard? It would be better, I think, if they opened the door and asked for everyone's attention and then verbally announced the stops. That, or yell into the microphones. Just something to let us know what is being said. Thanks, Rick

    VRE Response
    Thanks Rick, we'll share with the Keolis managers and work with the crews to help improve the experience when the trains are crowded.

  • Jack from Stafford asks
    The snow removal team at Brooke consistently uses an excess of ice melt on the platforms. We could have 20 inches of snow and the platforms still would remain clear. All kidding aside, the ice melt gets tracked into the train cars and makes for a more hazard walking experience than the platforms are. Also, it's a waste of VRE and our money. The crews do a great job of alerting passengers to slippery car conditions.

    VRE Response
    Thanks Jack, we'll ask our Facilities Manager to address this with the contractor.

  • Braised in Broad Run from Bristow, VA asks
    On Monday and Tuesday, the half of the quiet car closest to the locomotive on Manassas Line 333 has felt like a furnace causing crowding on the non-furnace half. Why is this happening and when will it be fixed?

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the feedback.  We have shared your concerns with the mechanical crews to address.

  • Mario from Haymarket, VA asks
    VRE personel are enforcing people to remain seated after all passengers have detrained at Crystal City station, even when no one additional is boarding. They are asking passengers already in line to go back which is kind of rude, if anyone wants to stand it is his/her decision. This is a kind of a ridiculous rule, just imagine that the train is full and passengers are standing what they would do, nothing. VRE needs to operate according to METRO rules, where the line is formed because some passengers may take more time to detrain at L'Enfant than others. Can you please revise this "new rule" and be more practical? Thanks.

    VRE Response
    It is not a new rule Mario. We have always asked passengers to remain seated until the train has departed the station prior to your destination.  This is to ensure passengers who want to detrain at the current station have free access to do so.  If the conductors are focusing on specific cars when managing the queueing issue, it is because we have received complaints of passengers not being able to get through and detrain at their destination.

  • Mari from Gothenburg Sweden asks
    Hi, I wonder who I shall contact regarding film permit for a train journey of yours? Best regards, Mari

    VRE Response
    Mari, we forwarded your earlier request to our Public Relations group.  We'll ask someone to follow-up with you this week.

  • Anon from Manassas VA asks
    If I can get WiFi on an airplane why is it impossible on the VRE.

    VRE Response
    The dead spots throughout our service area which you experience when trying to use your cell phone would create an inconsistent, poor quality WiFi experience.  We'll look at WiFi when a viable solution for the poor coverage can be found.

  • Dave from Spotsy asks
    Will VRE ever consider moving the 300 Express departure time 10-15 minutes earlier?

    VRE Response
    No plans to move the train earlier than the current 4:54 departure from Spotsylvania at this time Dave.

  • Matt from Burke asks
    Not a question but a Plea. I have limited mobility since I have 6 screws in my ankle and 4 screws in my back. I need to sit in the handicap area or the isle seat next to the area. The isle seat is better for me. PLEASE PLEASE if you can, do not sit in the handicap area or the first seat next to the area. DO NOT take up two seats with your stuff. Save these seats for those who need the space due to physical limitations. I struggle to sit and struggle to get up. I have to stretch out my legs so to reduce pain. I even had someone complain to me why I was sitting in the first row. He got all huffy and left.

    VRE Response
    Thanks Matt. We'll add your concerns to our rotation of courtesy reminders.  If you are unable to utilize the designated seating, please see a conductor and they will be happy to assist.

  • David from Woodbridge, Va asks
    How much did the furlough impact VRE's revenue for January? I read that Metro was losing approx. $400K a day.

    VRE Response
    Not sure yet about the impact on revenue David.  We do know ridership averaged around 15,000 per day, down from an average of @18,700 - 19,000.

  • Jane from Manassas asks
    Are there any plans to put a cover over the LED bulbs in the light pole at the broad run station (4the from the end closest to piper lane). It appears the cover that goes over the bulbs is gone on this pole and it makes the light blinding if you are stand under or near it.

    VRE Response
    Thanks Jane, we'll ask our Facilities Manager to check it out.

  • Bob from Woodbridge Virginia asks
    On train 307 there is a problem with passengers congregating in and around the vestibules. Even when seats are available these passengers stand in the doorways and stairwells. The train crew does not ask them to sit in available seats. Could the crew be asked to clear the vestibule areas of these inconsiderate passengers.

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the feedback Bob.  We've asked the Keolis Transportation Managers to address your concerns with the crew of the 307.

  • Annie from Fredericksburg, VA asks
    Can there be a standard script(s) written that each conductor uses when making announcements? I ask b/c I notice some conductors struggle with what to say, knowing which direction we are going in, etc. Seems that would be easier...

    VRE Response
    Many announcements are pre-recorded and can be used for the more common situations.  Conductors need some flexibility when announcing specific station stops if certain cars will not make the platform, or when making announcements about train traffic or other issues which may delay the trip.  We work with the conductors through training and coaching, but if you notice specific instances please drop us a note at and we'll address it with the individual conductor.

  • David from Bristow asks
    Any lessons learned from 1/29?

    VRE Response
    Thanks for asking David.  Because we do not have the option of changing our schedule to accommodate late starts or early releases by the Federal Government, the best we can do is change which trains operate in each time slot, making sure we have the longest trains in the busiest slots.

    On 1/29, we were told the early release would be structured so everyone would be simply leaving two hours earlier than their regular schedule.  So, we adjusted train lengths accordingly.

    On the Fredericksburg Line, we expected the midday train (301) to be busy, so it had 7 cars. This is consistent with what we do on the Fridays before a holiday weekend. The first two afternoon trains (303 and 305) operate only 15 minutes apart, so we had an 8 car and a 6 car.  That left the remaining 8 car set for 307.

    We carried 5700 passengers up during the morning commute.  When more than 2500 showed up for 301, we simply did not have the capacity to board everyone.

    The challenge is everyone showing up for a single train.  From a lessons learned standpoint, we will be more proactive in our messaging about the potential for crowding and more explicit in communicating the constraints we have in not being able to simply run more trains or alter our schedules.

    Hope that helps.

  • Tim from FBG asks
    I've asked twice previously so I'll change my tactic...Lot E, Fredericksburg, potholes that feel like craters... who should I sue if/when I injure myself walking to/from my vehicle or if I damage my vehicle in one of these pits? And this morning, backing into my space, a branch from a tree that was once just a weed scraped the top of my vehicle!! You can blind us with platform lights but a little parking lot maintenance here is a priority....

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the follow-up Tim.  The lot owner has committed to meeting with a paving contractor tomorrow and will visit the site today to address the landscaping issues.  Our Facilities Manager will continue to work with the owner to make sure repairs are made.

  • Jennifer from Mt Vernon asks
    Where is the agenda for the board meeting? Isn't it next week?

    VRE Response
    The Operations Board meets on the third Friday of each month, so the next scheduled meeting is February 15th.

  • James from Manassas asks
    Sorry to hear about Don. Will you have a permanent replacement for him? When I really need a ticket, I don't feel like the bus is there. And I ride into Union where there hasn't been a vendor there for years. Seems like you have trouble setting up ticket vendors. Is this done on purpose to force us to use the app? We need fair and balanced choices.

    VRE Response
    Thanks James.  We hope to have a new vendor option open on February 19th.  Just working to finalize the agreement.  We'll announce details as soon as we wrap up the agreement, but it will give riders on the Manassas Line a 24/7 option to purchase their fare.

    We have also been working on an agreement with Amtrak to sell our tickets at both Union Station and the Alexandria station.  We'll make an announcement as soon as the agreement is finalized.

  • Chase from asks
    When will your TVM upgrade be complete? I feel like my card will be defrauded by your system.

    VRE Response
    The current system is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant for data security standards.  We have all of the new equipment onsite for the upgrade and are just waiting on some software updates.  We should be able to begin transitioning to the new, upgraded TVMs in the Spring, making the system compliant to the Europay Mastercard Visa (EMV) standard.

  • Bryan from Woodbridge asks
    So did you keep the receipts on that parking counter project? Doesn't seem like you got what you paid for.

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the feedback Bryan.  The manufacturer is onsite this week fixing the issues which have presented challenges at several sites.  We hope to have all the issues resolved shortly, and we will have the web page updated.

  • Jessica from Woodbridge Virginia asks
    Can we have more trains running at different times? Why does it stop going into DC at 8:25am? Also why is there such a large time break between 7:12am to 7:57 we need something in between. Also why does it stop coming back in from DC so early? It should at least run till 9pm or 10pm. Thank you.

    VRE Response
    Thanks for the questions Jessica.  Our current schedules are set-up to match the peak demand for commuters.  While we are always reevaluating the service, we have not seen enough demand either later in the mornings for inbound service, or later in the evenings for return service.

  • Juanita from Fredericksburg, Virginia asks
    What about overuse of cell home of loud and lengthy conversation

    VRE Response

    Cell phone use is permitted on the train, but we do ask passengers to keep the conversations short and voices low to be polite and considerate to other passengers.  If you are experiencing a specific issue, please check with a conductor as they may be able to address it with the offending party.

  • Benny from Anywhere, USA asks
    Very often when I do a question on the online forum, I have to do them multiple times as I get "this is spam" when I "submit" and then have to enter my question 3 or 4 times before it will "take". It doesn't matter if I do this from my work computer, my home computer, my tablet or my iPhone -- what gives?

    VRE Response
    We forwarded to the developers.  There is a filter to screen out bots, but not sure why the filter is triggering on your submissions.  We'll work on a fix.

  • Mick from Spotsylvania asks
    The links seem only to take me to the "Archives" or "Ask a question." How can we join a forum in progress? And can you make it so that it will not validate a seond ride on the app unless you specify multiple riders? I validated twice because when the conductor checked my ticket, it looked like I hadn't validated (It was asking if I was sure) but what happened was, I accidentally tapped another ticket when I opened the app or before I closed it. Thanks.

    VRE Response
    Mick, if you accidentally validate a second ride/ticket, just call our office at 703-684-1001 and one of the Communications Specialist will look at your account.

Welcome to February’s edition of the Online Forum.  Joining us in studio today are Gerald and Paul from Keolis representing both the train and mechanical crews, Brian from CSX, and Kim from Amtrak.

We’re all hoping this week’s nice weather is an indicator of the end of Winter and an early start to Spring.

Let’s get on to the questions!