Cheverly resident Aimee Olivo said she was lucky June 1 to carpool with neighbors out of Washington, D.C., after a fallen tree on Metrorail’s Orange Line tracks caused hourlong delays.
But she wondered if her fellow neighbors were just as fortunate in finding escape routes from the District.
Wanting her neighborhood commuters to be able to locate others to plan a similar exit during Metro emergencies, Olivo started the ChvOrangeLine email listserv on June 4 for Cheverly’s Metro Orange Line riders three days after the June 1 thunderstorms that caused commuter delays.
“My idea for this is it would only be used in these sort of extreme or emergency situations,” Olivo said. “This is our go-to listserv. We would get all the messages automatically. It’s not moderated.”
As of June 11, there were 13 members, Olivo said. The listserv is open to residents willing to drive to the District to pick up stranded riders, inform residents about alternate bus routes and inform those who haven’t left the office to stay away.
An average of 1,534 people boarded the train at the Cheverly station daily in 2011, according to data from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority website. The station is within walking distance of the town limits and a little more than one mile from the Cheverly Avenue entrance to the town from Route 202. There are 6,173 residents in Cheverly, according to the 2010 census.
Unlike the Cheverly Exchange, a Cheverly-area listserv with more than 600 members, the ChvOrangeLine listserv will not have a moderator to approve each message and subscribers will get the emails as they are sent, Olivo said.
Abraham Bonowitz, another Cheverly resident who is an administrator for the ChvOrangeLine listserv and works in the District, said he could recall at least four times he has ridden in the past four years where there were delays, such as a sick passenger, that stopped train service. He said he does rely on email alerts from WMATA on what is causing the delays.
“If you’re on a train when something happens you’re kind of stuck,” Bonowitz said. “I do appreciate the alerts and I use them, but sometimes they don’t come frequent or soon enough.”
Bonowitz said Metro did a good job on June 1 in sending out alerts and getting the line back open, and it wasn’t its fault that the tree fell, but that that’s where the listserv can step in.
“It’s just unfortunate coincidences,” Bonowitz said of the Metro delays.
Olivo said she was unaware of any other municipalities near Metro stations with listservs that coordinate rides or information sharing for commuting emergencies.
Andy Carruthers, a Greenbelt resident and participant in the Greenbelters listserv, wrote in a June 7 email to The Gazette that he likes Olivo’s idea but said on June 8 that Cheverly is closer to the District border and he could not envision Greenbelt residents on the listserv volunteering to drive through District traffic to rescue stranded riders.
One of Carruthers’ suggestions was a “slug line,” which is used in northern Virginia cities like Springfield and Woodbridge. Drivers create a slug line when they pick up passengers at designated locations to meet the High Occupancy Vehicle passenger requirement in order to drive in an HOV lane, according to Slug-Lines.com, a commuter website that coordinates slug line pickups.
“But my hat is off to the good people of Cheverly. That said, better transit planning, management and resources seem in order,” Carruthers wrote.
Dan Stessel, chief spokesman for WMATA, said the ChvOrangeLine listserv is the first he has heard of in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area that is specific to Metro emergencies. Stessel said it reminded him of Clever Commute, a listserv created for commuters on New York’s Long Island and in northern New Jersey to send each other emails.
Stessel said he sees the ChvOrangeLine group as a complement to the MetroAlerts riders can receive specific to their stations or bus routes via email or text message. He added that the information sharing ChvOrangeLine members seek happens to an extent through Twitter — a social media site where users send messages in 140 characters or less as events happen throughout the day.
“When you overlay that with crowd sourcing and have people helping each other, that really builds a sense of community and provides real-time information,” Stessel said.