The next VRE online forum will start on Wednesday, March 4th at 12:00pm. Click on the "ASK" Button below to submit a question.
There are currently 27 questions waiting to be answered.
Welcome to another edition of the On-Line forum. In the studio today we have Chris Henry â€“ Director of Rail Operations, Jermey Flores â€“ Manager of Operations and Customer Communications and Brian Barton â€“ CSX Trainmaster for VRE service area.
We are monitoring another winter storm expected to come through tonight. Stay tuned for final decisions about tomorrow's service via TrainTalk, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Along that same note, our final Public Hearing on the proposed fare increase is schedule for tonight at Fredericksburg City Hall. If City Hall closes the hearing will be postponed one week.
Now on to the questions!
chirag from clifton asks:
What is a working day for the train driver like? Do they work in shifts i.e. morning or evening shifts. Or do they work a full day i.e. drive the morning train to DC and drive back the evening train back to Manassas. What do they do at work when not driving the train?
The work day for each Conductor/Engineer varies. The typical day may include operating a train in to DC and then back to the end of line stations. In between shifts train personnel have a mandatory rest period because of the total hours on duty. They are also responsible for completing paper work as it relates to their trip.
Andrew from Manassas asks:
I sent a message to email@example.com asking that something be done about the queueing on 328 (folks start to queue before the train leaves crystal city for lenfant, and will block people trying to get off at crystal city). They mentioned they would notify the crews to make them aware. Nothing has changed since, and I've even noticed conductors trying to push their way through the queue, and do nothing about them. I even sent another email mentioning this to gotrains and have gotten no response (feb 25). Can something be done about this at all?
Sorry for the issues. Train 328 is an 8 car set and Crystal City is a 5 car platform. Only 5 cars make the platform so if passengers are sitting in the other 3 cars they have to walk up and stand in the aisle in order to exit the train. The Transportation Manager for Keolis is aware and has asked the conductors to make announcements to passengers to let them know which cars will be on the platform at Crystal City and maybe the ones who exit Crystal City could sit in those cars.
If the issue is that Lâ€™Enfant passengers are queuing prior to Crystal City we will ask the conductors to be more vigilant in managing the situation.
Hal from Quantico asks:
VRE usually does a good job of clearing snow, but one place that needs improvement is the far side "platform" at Quantico. Most times it seems little to no effort is made clear that side.
VRE is not responsible for clearing the west platform at Quantico. However, we will try to do a better job coordinating with the responsible party.
Woodford Commuter from Woodford, VA asks:
In Nov you disagreed that subsidies contribute to price increases. Yet in Dec you said "VRE is advocating for increased benefits". Why are you doing this? Is it b/c its easy consummable public money? Answer may be obvious but it undermines your argument. Fuel prices have been decreasing for over a year. Yet you always seem to have a convenient excuse to increase prices, whether fuel costs go up or down. People arent protesting at your meetings-YET. The fact is-pull the subsidy plug and you watch and see a transportation rebellion tomorrow morning before 300 arrives at FBG! NO TO INCREASE!!
Thank you for your comments. All written comments will be accepted at Publiccomments@vre.org
Laura from Burke VA asks:
Will there be weekend service at some future date for the Manassas and / or Fredericksburg lines? Either Saturday or Sunday or both?
At this time we do not plan on operating on weekends.
Zulu from Falmouth, Virginia asks:
Why are the new cars so noisy from the HVAC system? It is like we are sitting in a wind tunnel. The old gallery cars are so peaceful and quiet compared to the majority of those wind machines. The fans are so loud you can't even hear the station announcements. Something has to be wrong. Can't you run them at 50 percent power? Should I start using ear plugs? Maybe you can make blue tooth headphones to broadcast station announcements.
The HVAC on the new are cars are operating as designed and we cannot reduce the noise.
Noah from Stafford, VA asks:
When will the new train schedules be known to VRE riders? Will there also be a opportunity for riders to voice their opinions and concerns about the new train schedules before they go in effect?
We are still finalizing the new schedule. Once we do we will make it available to our riders. We are always open to our customersâ€™ opinions and concerns.
David from Haymarket, VA asks:
Left turn signal to Piper Lane on Rt-28 should turn on for every cycle. It turns on only if you can make it to the left turn lane before it turns red.
We will pass your comments along to VDOT.
Debra from Woodbridge, VA asks:
There is a generator at the base of the stairs at the Woodbridge Station, and many days when 305 arrive it is running and filling the stairwell with toxic diesel fumes, can the generator be program to cut on during off peak times?
The generator should only come on when power is disrupted at the station. If you notice that the generator is operating frequently please notify us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime our facilities manager will also monitor.
Chad from Fairfax, VA asks:
Can you provide an updated list of fares, assuming that the fare increase happens in July?
We have our proposed fares listed on our website at http://www.vre.org/feedback/publichearing.html. At the top of the page there are links to both Fredericksburg and Manassas proposed fare increases.
Gerald from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
The subject of providing Wi-Fi service onboard VRE has been brought up over the years; however, this service is still not available to date that Iâ€™m aware of. What is VREâ€™s plan to provide basic Wi-Fi service that supports general web browsing? If itâ€™s not possible, what are the obstacles that canâ€™t be overcome? Itâ€™s understood that high bandwidth actions are problematic but basic W-Fi service is commonplace in transportation modes to include aircraft, public bus, and Amtrak.
Currently, VRE has tested devices with the current cell technology on both lines. There are still significant areas that do not get a signal. We hope to be able to include Wi-Fi with other operations upgrades.
Slim from Manassas, VA asks:
What is the amount of snow that would preclude operation of the trains.
When determining whether or not to operate trains other things are taken into consideration. We do not rely on snow accumulation solely. Safety for passenger and crew members to travel to and from stations is vital as well as expected ridership. Those are just two examples of several factors taken into consideration when determining what level of service to offer.
Sven from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
With the pending opening of the Spotsy rail station will the rail schedule change for the F'burg line? (e.g., will the 304 still arrive/leave the Leeland Rd station at 5:47 am?).
We are still determining what the schedule will be.
Linda from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
I take the VRE from Fredericksburg to L'Enfont 5 days a week at 0505. Recently I was late to catch this train. It was very dark at the station this particular day so I could not read the schedule card. I looked on the station's platform and in the little room for a wall size schedule and could not find one. I did not know the only place for this larger schedule was at the entrance on the ground level. My question is simple why can't the schedule be hung where you buy the tickets? A simple remedy for a small need for your customers.
Thank you for the suggestion, we will ask our facilities manager to look into this.
Dave from Gainesville asks:
announcements are very loud, any way to turn down the volume? I use headphones and it's still loud; maybe you can do a decibel check
We do regular decibel checks. If you find an issue in the car that you are riding please report that particular car and train number to http://www.vre.org/feedback/mechanicalconcerns.php.
Dot from Fredricksburg va asks:
Why is the Fredricksburg 6:30 train always late arriving in washington DC?
We havenâ€™t noticed a trend but we will look into it.
Francis from Haymarket, Va asks:
The Men's Room at the Old Town Manassas train station is almost always a stinking, filthy mess. The cleaners never use ammonia. Floor often urinated on. Most barns smell better.
They need a new cleaning company, that takes pride and uses disinfectant cleaning agents.
Any chance for relief? Thanks.
We will pass this concern to the City of Manassas.
Adam from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
Still wondering about VRE service on at least the Fredericksburg line on weekends? Is it ever going to happen?
At this time we do not plan on operating weekend service.
Bob from Woodbridge asks:
First, thanks for the great job VRE is doing during this winter.
Second, train 303 consistently slows down just after it leaves the tunnel after Union Station (before getting to L'Enfant. Is this a scheduling problem with other trains? It happens so frequently.
There have been maintenance workers in that area and Conductors have to receive permission through the work area (safety precaution for the workers) before they can proceed.
Josh from Stafford, VA asks:
At least once a week I miss my bus connection from 306 train at Franconia/Springfield because the train is behind schedule. The transfer window is very tight at 5 minutes. I know you are doing everything in your power to stay on schedule, but is there a way to work with your transportation partners to mitigate missing bus connections? The transfer window for bus 335 is at or under 5 minutes for VRE 306, 308, and 310. Any help would be appreciated.
We will look into this.
Sandy from Fredricksburg VA. asks:
If VRE is federally funded, why would VRE raise cost by 4%?
2. When VRE is late arriving, why is it reported that the VRE is on time?
3.why would the Step up tickets go back to $5.00 when it seems like more people are riding the Amtrak?
1) VRE receives some federal funding. However, VRE is responsible for at covering at least 50% of operating cost with fare revenue. State funding has been reduced and local funding will not be increased this year. For detailed information you can go to http://www.vre.org/feedback/publichearing.html. 2) A train is considered on time if it arrives at its final destination station within 5 minutes of its scheduled time. 3) The step-up ticket cost VRE 10 dollars. A few years ago we decided to subsidize half of that cost to give our passengers more options for their commute. We then received an additional 2 dollars per ticket funding from VDOT and The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation while the I95 express lanes were being built. That funding expired at the end of 2014. So we are proposing that step-up price return to 5 dollars for passengers.
Dave from Woodbridge asks:
Will the new Fredricksburg Train we have been hearing about for a year ever be added? Initally it was suppose to start in Oct 2014.
We are planning to add a Fredericksburg line train this summer. You are correct that our initial plan was to be able to operate it as early as October 2014.
David from Manassas asks:
With heavy snow forecasted for tomorrow, Fed Govt most likely will be closed. Time and again, VRE says that Fed Govt closing does not dictate when they run or not, yet it lately seems that within the hour of the govt closing, VRE closes down too. I understand a large majority of riders are fed employees. But, there are the others, and those fed employees who must report no matter the weather, and we rely on VRE to provide that safe transportation. What percentage or riders are Monthly ticket holders? so you have our money already. Just wish that VRE would opt for an S schedule more often
As mentioned earlier expected ridership levels is only one factor in determining service level. In the past there have been occasions when VRE operated an â€śSâ€ť schedule despite the Federal Government being closed. We will continue to take all factors into consideration with each incident
Margaret from Fredericksburg, VA asks:
There should be serious consideration to operate service on the weekend. Starting with one trip each way to see about ridership would benefit to the area. I95 is a parking lot and for people who live here and visitors would benefit taking the VRE to the city. There are many times I attempted to drive to WDC only to turn off due to the congested traffic.
We have no plans to operate weekend service at this time.
GS from Burke asks:
It seems that lately, we have a fare increase every year, while our colleagues who ride MARC have not had a fare increase in about ten years. Can you comment?
We did not have a fare increase in 2014.
Jay from Burke asks:
To the rider on the 4th car of 328 this morning, who was playing a video game in which it sounded like the phone was redialing every 10-15 seconds: It is COMMON COURTESY to MUTE YOUR PHONE when on the train. Making your fellow passengers Listen to that perpetual dial tone for 45 MINUTES is NOT POLITE NOR ACCEPTABLE, quiet car OR NOT!
Courtesy Announcement from a fellow rider.
GS from Burke asks:
I recognize that there are numerous factors taken into consideration when deciding whether to operate train service during a snow storm. However, I canâ€™t help thinking that primary among those reasons, is whether the Federal Government is open or closed, since a large percentage of your ridership are government employees. The private sector is not as quick to shut down for the day when it snows, and there is an expectation that employees get into the office. For those that might not have a job that is conducive to working from home, that means we have to find an alternative way to get to work.
Beyond convenience, ease of commute, and cost, one reason people might ride VRE is because of safety, particularly in a snow storm. By deciding to not operate service, you force your non-government ridership onto the roads in a snow storm. Being forced to drive in the early morning hours of a snow storm is a far less safe alternative as plows may not have been down secondary roads, and the sun has not yet had an opportunity to do its job in clearing road surfaces.
It would seem to me, that most of the cost of daily operations is an already sunk cost. So, with the exception of fuel, there doesnâ€™t seem to be any costs savings associated with cancelling service. And since fuel is most certainly a budgeted expense, thatâ€™s essentially a sunk cost too.
Certainly, your crew are entitled to the same safety as your riders, but you likely have operational plans that include alternative housing arrangements (i.e., at the train yard) for morning train crews.
So, I hope in future storms you will be more mindful of your non-governmental ridership, and their needs to get to work.
guest from Fred, VA asks:
Our Reduced fare ID are takinig too lopng to process....We were informed of a new Reduced fare ID's...can you provide why we have to show infront of a panel?
We are in the process of shifting staff responsibilities to better fulfil Reduced Fare ID requests.
robert from potomac shores asks:
are the proposed rate available online? I'm curious to know how the propsoed increase will actually affect my costs. Also, can you please remind V-DOT to take care of the Rippon lot this time if we do get snow!
The proposed fares are on-line at http://www.vre.org/feedback/publichearing.html. We will remind those responsible for clearing the stations do to so.
Greg from Bristow asks:
I've missed a train, or have been delayed getting home a number of times by Norfolk Southern trains which are stopped and blocking the Wakeman Dr entrance into the Broad Run station (crew changes?).
While we may not be able to prevent this, there must be a way to coordinate with N/S so that a text blast can be sent out alerting riders that they should plan on alternate routes (much like you do with flooding on Piper Lane).
We will work with Norfolk Southern to see if we can resolve this issue.
Betty from Manassas asks:
I've noticed that more people are playing games with the volume up during their commute. Does the same headphone policy apply to the people playing their games? If possible can a courtesy reminder be created to announce this?
Yes, anyone using electronic equipment should use headphones. We will issue a courtesy reminder.
Concerned from Stafford asks:
There have been several "assults" at Brooke station recently. One passenger was pushed up against parked cars by a passenger rushing through the parking lot trying to get to his car. The same passenger that did the pushing also pushed the rear of a car that was waiting to get out of the parking lot. Actions like this will eventually lead to a confrontation. I know people want to get home, but WOW! It happens so quick. How should we handle this behavior?
We will work with Stafford County with this issue. But remember, in any event where you feel your personal safety is at risk contact law enforcement.
Manssas Rider from Manassas Park asks:
There was an incident recently on the Manassas line where the 'station announcements' were wrong, causing some passengers to miss their stops. Some 'quiet' car riders were rudely 'shhing' the folks that were confused and trying to figure out where they are...while it is 'the quiet' car, people need to practice some patience.
We apologize that there were issues with the station announcements and agree that there are times when quiet car rules do not apply. In those instances we ask everyone to practice patience.
Matt from Rippon, VA asks:
You probably heard about the Metrolink accident last week. Sadly, the engineer died yesterday. Metrolink has Postive Train Control installed, but the new cars they bought were reinforced to make them more crash resistant. Are VRE's new Gallery cars also reinforced to be crash resistant?
All our equipment complies with FRA crash worthiness standards.
Tim from Woodbridge, VA asks:
We had some extremely cold nights in February. Does VRE leaves it's engines on overnight so that they don't have trouble starting them in the morning?
During extremely cold weather we do leave the engines on overnight to ensure there are no delays for that issue. Otherwise we do hook them up to ground power to conserve energy.
Devin from chesapeake, va asks:
Can you all go all the way and start service in norfolk va
At this time, we do not have plans to extend service further south than Spotsylvania.
Dan from Haymarket asks:
Seems to me that 328 is pulling in for bording after 0625. Am I correct? I know that pulling in earlier was a nice feature when Keolis took over from Amtrac.
We do try to pull the trains up early at Broad Run so that passengers don't have to stand on the platforms in inclement weather. However, there are times that is not possible.
Devin from chesapeake, va asks:
do vre trains ever get put on a siding track
Devin from Chesapeake, va asks:
can you please try to do 24 hr service you all would do great
We do not have plans to operate a 24hr service.
Bob from Woodville, VA asks:
You are having many hearings on upcoming rate increases. They are going to happen. Aren't the hearings a waste of your time and the taxpayers' money?
We are required by our Tariff to hold public hearings about this issue. In the past we have changed our proposals based on public comment.
Mark from Woodbridge, VA asks:
I board Train #306 in Woodbridge and take it to DC. Lately, I've not seen a conductor come through and check tickets. However, a conductor does a count later.
Thanks for the heads up. We will follow up with Keolis.
Randy from Lorton, VA asks:
Last week when the government had a 2-hour delay, why was MARC able to delay a train and VRE can't? Is it because that one MARC line is not CSX tracks?
MARC only delays a single train on a single line. What we have been doing is placing our longer trains last so we can accommodate the late arriving crowds.
Dave from Springfield, VA asks:
Any update on the long delayed Lorton platform extension?
stay turn to our Capital Improvements Projects page for updates.
rob from gainesville, va asks:
Recently on the 6:40 am Manassas line there has been a constant phone dialing sound coming through the sound system in the quiet car. It sounds like the old internet dial up noises and occurs every 30-60 seconds. It's been brought to the attention of the conductors but they have either ignored or not been able to do something about it. Can something please be done to address this? It kind of defeats the purpose of the quiet car.
Over the past couple of weeks we have been moving the remaining Legacy Cars to our Crossroads facility. When the old cars are linked to the new cars the phone dialing noise is a byproduct of the two systems working together. This is temporary for this train while we move cars.
Chris from Clifton, VA asks:
On days when the Federal government opens 2 hours late, it is often done for safety reasons. Due to the last train departing Broad Run before 8am, many are not given the option to wait for safer conditions. Would it be possible to delay 330 for 90 minutes on selected days to accommodate those who cannot get to a station until driveways and roads are plowed or ice can melt?
We do not have the flexibility to change our schedule. However, what we have been doing is placing our longer trains last so we can accommodate the late arriving crowds.
Dee from Gainesville VA asks:
One irritating issue is the VRE schedule. We need a train that leaves between 1:26 and 3:57 from Crystal City. Sometimes where there is a work release due to inclement weather, etc., it is a long time to wait until 3:57 to get home. Can you please schedule a train sometime between 2:00PM and 3:57? Also, the last train leaving Broad Run in the morning is at 7:40. It would be nice to have one leaving at 8:00.
We are currently working on schedule adjustments due to the addition of the Fredericksburg line train. We will keep all comments in mind as we go through this process.
kEVIN from Burke asks:
What happens if we get 8 inches tomorrow after you've delivered everyone to work? Will you commit to a full evening schedule?
If we run a full schedule in the morning, we will run a full schedule in the afternoon/evening. The one exception could be train sets on the Manassas Line that are used for multiple trains. We may have to make adjustments for those trains.
Eric from Spotsylvania asks:
I always wonder what I should do if I see a problem on a passing train while I'm on the platform. Should I call you?
Thanks for keeping focused on safety. On the Fredericksburg Line, call 1-800-232-0144 and on the Manassas Line call, 1-800-453-2530. These are the railroads public safety numbers.
David from Manassas, VA asks:
How many of the new cars with the "glass" ceiling in the center section do we have? Are there plans to get more?
We currently have 8 cars in service with the glass ceiling. 12 additional cars are on order and 9 more budgeted for fiscal year 2016. Retro-fits to existing cars are planned but we do not have a time-frame for when they will be done.
Thanks again for spending time with us.
Again stay turned for decisions about service and the Public Hearing scheduled for tomorrow.
Remember the weather is expected to be very bad tomorrow. Regardless of VRE's operations, be safe. Don't dive right into shoveling without stretching and know your limits. This is likely to be a heavy spring snow, otherwise, known as cardiac snow.
If your question wasn't answered please submit them to email@example.com.
See Tracks Think Train!
Have a great St. Patrick's Day! See you next month.
Chris, Jeremy et al.