Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Va.: Commuter rail losing riders 

VRE Repairs, Tardiness Fuel Ridership Drop

By Nick Miroff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 17, 2006; A01

At a time when authorities are urging increased use of public transportation to reduce congestion, an unexpected loss of Virginia Railway Express riders -- many weary of delays and breakdowns -- is a major setback.

After adding at least 200,000 passenger trips a year since fiscal 2001, the Northern Virginia rail line recorded 120,000 fewer trips from July 2005 to June compared with the previous year, dropping its total to 3.64 million.

Every rider who forsakes a seat on VRE -- which runs two lines, one each from Manassas and Fredericksburg ending at Union Station -- adds to the growing congestion on Washington area roads.

The losses at VRE are "a recipe for horrendous gridlock," said John Townsend, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, who said he was "astonished and mystified" by the drop in riders. "We already have the third-worst traffic in the nation, and every single car that's added to the equation bogs down the system even more."

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