DC Metro riders petition to stop service cuts

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Riders of Washington's Metrorail subway system are petitioning to stop service cuts that are planned for the agency's Blue Line later this month.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is planning to reduce service during rush hour on its Blue Line to every 12 minutes to accommodate trains from its new Silver Line extension in northern Virginia.

Trains on most other Metro lines currently run about every six minutes during rush hours.

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A petition launched on the website www.change.org argues that the cutback is unfair to Blue Line riders because other service levels on other Metro lines will remain unchanged.

"Thousands of riders take the Blue Line to and from work every day, but Metro is cutting their service to have just one train every 12 minutes," the petition reads. "This will cause a major inconvenience for the many people who rely on the Metro for their daily commute, while only providing minimal additional benefits to other riders in the system.

"After this change the Blue Line will be the only line in the DC Metro system without enhanced rush hour service," the petition continued. "We request that Metro respect the needs of the many Blue Line riders and stop the planned service cuts."

The Metro Blue Line service cuts are scheduled to begin on July 20, which is one week before the agency's new Silver Line will open.

The Silver Line, which is one of the largest public transit construction projects in the nation, is scheduled to originate in Reston, Va. Trains on the new line will share tracks in downtown Washington with Metro's existing Blue and Orange lines, however. 

Metro officials have said the Blue and Orange lines have already maxed out the number of trains they can send through an underwater tunnel that connects Virginia to D.C., so they have developed a plan to shift some Blue trains to the Yellow line that crosses a separate bridge into Washington.

The agency had already began cutting back service on its Blue Line during the "Rush Plus" initiative that was launched in 2012. That service saw every third Blue Line train become a Yellow to begin alleviating traffic in Metro's Potomac River tunnel in advance of the Silver Line's completion. 

The opening of the Silver Line has been highly anticipated among transportation observers. The line, which is scheduled to open on July 26, was built in part with $900 million from the federal government.

A second phase of the Silver Line is planned to extend Metro service to Washington's Dulles International Airport, but that portion of the railway is not scheduled to open until 2018.

This story was corrected at 3:09 p.m.