Freight train strikes could also knock out commuter services

Arlington, Virginia – September has shaped as a good month for commuters on the Virginia Railroad Express outside the capital.The service offers 30 days of free rides to bring back riders lost during the pandemic. increase.

But now, freight train strikes threaten to bring VRE service to a complete halt, as do many other commuter rail services across the country.

“I don’t want to drive to Crystal City,” said Chris Barbagalo of Bristoe, Virginia, Wednesday afternoon as he waited for the train home.

To avoid the area’s notorious traffic jams, he’s about an hour’s train ride from the suburbs of Prince William County. VRE has said it will be forced to suspend services if the strike begins, and there are few viable mass transit alternatives for long-distance commuters.

The threat to services comes from possible strikes by freight rail workers across the country.U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh met with both sides on Wednesday We’re trying to broker a last-minute deal, but the strike could start on Friday.


Some commuter routes will be affected. Others do not. It varies greatly depending on whether the commuter line owns its own tracks or uses tracks owned by a transportation company.

The largest commuter rail system, all in metropolitan New York, is unaffected, but Chicago’s Metra system is expected to experience disruptions on at least four of its 11 lines, beginning after Thursday afternoon’s rush hour. He says it is possible.

Commuter rail services in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Areas are also affected. Sounder systems in the Seattle area are being forced to shut down. About 5,000 people board the Sounda train every day, down from about 20,000 before the pandemic. In the Minneapolis metropolitan area, transit agencies planned to offer bus service to replace the commuter rail service that would be forced to stop at the smaller Northstar service.

The American Railroad Association, which represents the freight rail industry, estimates that half of the nation’s commuter rail system depends, at least in part, on tracks owned by affected railroads.


John Klein, director of government relations for the Commuter Rail Coalition, an industry group, said there are 36 commuter rail lines in the U.S. and the impact on each would be “potentially catastrophic.” He said that there are things that can be ignored.

He said commuter lines that own their own tracks could be affected if strikers set up picket lines at commuter sites and workers there decide to respect it.

Cline said there had been no indications of plans for a secondary picket site so far, but said that “everything is possible” if a strike actually took place.

In the meantime, there’s little the commuting system can do, and we’ll wait and see how it performs.

“We are like innocent bystanders,” he said. “There are no seats at the table. We are not negotiating these contracts.”

Virginia Railroad Express could strike as service offers free rides in September to boost passengers who have never recovered from the pandemic. It’s also the time riders are using VRE to replace six stations in Northern Virginia that are temporarily closed in the United States.


VRE spokeswoman Karen Finnukan Clarkson said preliminary data from September showed average ridership per day approaching 10,000 one-way trips during the freeride promotion. That’s almost double his average of 5,125 rides in August, but he’s well below his pre-pandemic rides of more than 18,000.

On the other side of the Potomac River, the Maryland Department of Transportation notified users of MARC commuter rail service that in the event of a strike, service would be suspended on the Brunswick and Camden Lines, but service on the Penn Line could continue. did.

At the VRE’s Crystal City station, Woodbridge commuter Thomas Good said he was enjoying free rides with the service running toward the more expensive side during September. He’s not looking forward to driving, but he’s ready to adapt.

In recent years, “flexibility has become the word,” he said. “I think we can figure it out.”



Associated Press writer Sarah Brumfield is in Silver Spring, Maryland. Roger Schneider in Boston’s Steve LeBlanc. Gene Johnson of Seattle. Roger Schneider of Chicago. Olga Rodriguez of San Francisco and Doug Glass of Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. Freight train strikes could also knock out commuter services

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