Friday, April 17, 2009

Rules Don't Apply?

UPDATE: Metro's response in the comments.

From reader "CS," an Orange Line rider.

I recently descended the stairs to the Orange/Blue lines platform at Metro Center. There, I found a DC police officer eating something (cookies/crackers, couldn't tell) right out in the open. Eating and drinking in the system really tees me off, so I approached the officer, and the following exchange occurred:

Me: What kind of message does it send to the rest of us if the police are eating down here?
The cop: The police are starving.
Me: I don't see anything in the rules that says, 'Unless you're starving.' How do you think it looks to the rest of us?
Cop: I don't know.
Me: Pretty lousy, don't you think?
Cop: [Says nothing].

Whereupon I walked away. I think the officer did stop eating, though.

I've also seen Metro employees violating the eating/drinking rules, too. If the authority figures don't act correctly, what kind of example does that set for riders?

We all know how Metro GM John Catoe stresses cleanliness above all else.

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Michael said...

Was the officer inside the paid area? The no eating/drinking rule is only once you've crossed a faregate. It sounds like it was.

Bad example I agree.

Anonymous said...

It's a stupid rule anyway. Double or triple the fines for littering or whatever, but get off the backs of people who actually take care of their trash/mess.

Anonymous said...

Its not a stupid rule, its a great rule that keeps the system cleaner. Even the responsible people who would take their trash with them are not going to get out whisk broom or a mini vac to get rid of the crumbs they drop when they eat, or the little bit of liquid that sloshes out when they are taking a sip on bouncing train. And I really don't need anyone spilling their coffee on me during the morning commute. Even if there is a stronger anti-littering enforcement, they aren't going to catch people who merely spill a little. The no eating/drinking rule establishes a nice clear line of what is acceptable and what is not.
Cleanliness on metro isn't perfect, but things would be a whole lot worse if people could or drink down there.

Anonymous said...

I've seen Redline employees with Starbucks and when I complained to Metro Management I got the runaround.

The rules don't apply to employees.

sps said...

@anon 2:33, Have you spent much time commuting in NYC? I'm not accusing, I'm curious. I spent the better part of the last 3 years up til Sept 08 doing so. If you haven't, I'd like you to justify your claim that a rider with a coffee in hand would obviously spill it all over you on the subway (I'd really like an explanation if you happen to be a VA resident, where one can still smoke in a restaurant or bar, which doesn't need an accident to cause annoyance).

You may make the argument that the NYC subway is dirty and therefore my question is moot; however, by doing so you'd ignoring the obvious: the NYC subway is open 24/7, 3/4 of a century older than WMATA, and over 4x as large.

Food and drink was never a problem for me or the people around me while I was in NYC. Littering is a problem, but of course, if that's your argument, then perhaps you'd like to ban eating and drinking on the streets, too.

Cleanliness is not godliness and having an uber-clean metro is the least of WMATA's concerns. However, considering most of the week the metro is closed for almost 1/3 of everyday, I think they have plenty of time to clean up the crumbs.

Jon - The DC Traveler said...

I think the stained carpet on many Metro cars is proof that people with coffee and other drinks can and do spill. It just make trains look grungy.

As to Metro employees eating on trains or while on duty is shameful.

It's another example of the old situational power rule -- they do it....because they can.

Unsuck DC Metro said...

We accidentally rejected this comment. Sorry ANON.

The NYC subway is dirty, grimy, and an aesthetic eyesore. It may be open 24/7 and older than the DC Metro, but that doesn’t excuse the litter all over the stations and platforms. I, personally, am happy with the no eating/drinking rule on our trains and I wish more Transit Police would enforce this rule. While it may be inconvenient to some, the rule does help keep the system cleaner of trash. Unfortunately not everyone picks up after themselves and with Metro already facing a budget shortfall, they cannot afford additional cleaning crews.

Ron Holzer said...

Thank you for posting the story “Rules Don’t Apply?”

Metro takes its no eating or drinking law in the Metro system seriously. Food and drink attract rodents and increase the amount of litter and trash left on trains, buses and in Metrorail stations. Some of that same litter and trash is responsible for track fires that cause delays in the Metrorail system.

Nobody wants to sit in a sticky seat or have a beverage spilled on them. Spilled food or drinks also can result in a customer slipping or failing in a bus, train or inside a station.

The Metro Transit Police Department has an authorized strength of 450 sworn police officers who have jurisdiction and arrest powers throughout the 1,500 square mile transit zone that includes Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. They are responsible for a variety of law enforcement and public safety services on the Metrorail and Metrobus systems. Transit police regularly patrol buses, trains, 86 Metrorail stations and their parking lots, and other Metro facilities such as bus garages and rail yards. Their top priorities are protecting Metro riders and employees, looking for criminal or suspicious activity, and crime prevention.

As you can see, enforcing Metro’s no eating or drinking laws is just one small part of a transit police officer’s duties, and at times a lose/lose situation for us. You may recall the negative publicity we received from several instances of our enforcement actions. While these incidents have not slowed down our enforcement, we feel that peer pressure is our best weapon to combat the problem.

Should you ever see a Metro employee eating in the system, we hope you would point out to them that it is against the rules as the writer did to the DC (and not Metro, we’re happy to say) police officer. You also have the option of reporting that employee to our customer service department – you can do this on-line with our Customer Comment form at or by calling our Customer Assistance Line at 202-637-1328.

In 2008, transit police issued 584 written warnings and 52 citations for eating or drinking. So far in 2009, transit police have issued 104 written warnings and 14 citations for eating or drinking. It is much more common for police officers to give verbal or written warnings to customers, especially during tourist season, when more people who might not be aware of the rules are using the system. Transit police issue written warnings most often to juveniles who aren’t old enough to receive a citation.

Typically, police officers issue citations for eating or drinking as a last resort for blatant violations or people who refuse to comply with an officer’s request. And just to be sure you know, Metro does not get any money from the payment of a citation. That money goes to the jurisdiction in which the citation is written.

In addition to police enforcement, Metro has taken a number of steps to increase awareness about these laws. New signs that alert Metrorail riders of prohibited items in the Metrorail system were placed at all Metrorail station entrances in December 2008. (See Similarly, we have increased announcements in trains and stations on this same topic.

This summer we expect to launch a reinvigorated effort, including a marketing/educational campaign that will use humor, to discourage eating and drinking in the Metro system.

Transportgooru said...

Ron Holzer,
Thanks for your kind response and as a metro rider I am happy to know that Metro takes such violations seriously.

BTW, I wonder what is the action you have taken against this particular "violator" in your system (by now you probably have figured out who that officer was on that particular day at the specified location)? Would you be kind enough to articulate what the public can expect from Metro after such a violation is reported to you in the future? One thing is for us to know that you and the management staff at METRO love to hear from us about such rule violations happening in your system but wouldn't that be nice to know what happens after such a complaint is received? Would you be kind enough to open up your reprimand/redressal process via a customer complaint tracking system on the Metro website?

That way, we can formally file and track our complaints rather than to call and waste your time. I am sure Metro loves transparency in its operations, which also includes customer complaints., right?

Anonymous said...

for the transportgooru: that's kind of an unfair comment to make toward ron holzer. i don't understand how in the world mr. holzer could possibly pinpoint the suspected dc police officer, considering the dc police do not regularly patrol metro stations.

and the violation was not reported to metro but to a blog not officially associated with WMATA. mr. holzer is not obligated to act on a "third party report."

nevertheless, i applaud mr. holzer for at least being responsive to a comment made on a website that has nothing to do with WMATA's official website. it shows WMATA is at least making a proactive effort in trying to stay in touch with the common masses that care to share their personal experiences with public commuting in the DC metro area.

i find your comment to be pretentious and unrealistic and would encourage you to use your articulate nature for more constructive purposes.

Anonymous said...

I APOLOGIZE if my comment doesnt fully relate to the principal article,but
after becoming a visual witness of the previous statements made by the various bloggers on this page, i would like to make a request to the public in order to understand the INTENSITY of the violation i made as i rode the metro:


Im a high school student, and after school is over i head to community college, therefore my time is highly limited and the only opportunity i have to consume food through out the entire day is on my way from high school to college. Im a 17 years old and im a responsible teen, my social status doesnt allow me to purchase my own personal vehicle of transportation THEREFORE i ride metro, my intentions were not negative in any manner, however my citation is near and i dont know how to explain this to the judge...

Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

I can understand the no eating/drinking rules on trains, esp. the Red Line, that disgusting mess. But enforcing these on the platforms, in my opinion, is taking it a step too far. Drinks should be allowed. Food bans make sense, it leaves much more of a mess. but I bring water with me a lot because I heat up easily, and Metro stations can cook during hot weather. I _always_ clean up after myself, and I haven't seen much littering at all.

Anonymous said...

It's a ridiculous rule. NYC actually sells food in their system. It has a "real" quality to it, plus it vastly superior in it's mission - getting you to where you are going. The DC area seems a lttle too precious and prissy for my tastes. I want Metro to WORK, period. Point A to point B in an efficient manner.

Anonymous said...

It's not a ridiculous rule. There is a real cost involved. Extra custodial services and car cleaning, etc. Not to mention the rodents and insects food draws.

Also, no one mentioned the fact that it's a "no eating or drinking" NOT a "you can't bring food or drink into the sytem" rule. You can CARRY food and your starbucks without penalty. So, the next time you see an employee carrying a starbucks long as they don't actrually drink it, they are not breaking the rules. That goes for your fellow customers as well.

Stupid, huh?

Anonymous said...

well the rules said no eating or drinking because 85% of the public leave cups, bags, food, drinks etc on the bus or property then turn around and say how dirty metro is none any one can tell me you seen one metro employee leave trash???????????

Unknown said...

There are plenty of back rooms, outdoors, and places for officers to go and eat. If they don't know where these places are they can wake up a station manager and ask them. They would be more then happy to tell them where they are.

Stephanie said...

The signs need to be larger. On almost every train I ride and see someone eating/drinking on, I don't actually see any sign other than the tiny little one on the metro map. Yes, there are signs as you pass through turnstiles, but once on the train, the signs aren't always very visible. I know the rules, but a tourist might not.

I almost sat on someone's banana peel the other day. Some people are just gross.

Anonymous said...

the transit police does a great job with the number of officers they have on the streets. these officers have to deal with robberies,theft,lost property,fights,disorderly people ,etc Its not hard to see they need more officers. as far as eating on the train it not on the top of their list.


Anonymous said...

Back in the 80's the metro police stripped searched a woman after she was caught eating and earlier this decade they arrested a poor teenage girl. I think that deterred a lot of folks from eating and drinking on subway.

Anonymous said...

@Anon May 8, 11:41

I suppose that means you don't eat breakfast nor lunch. Maybe that's not based on socio-economics but rather your own choice. Last I checked most schools provide lunch (for pay) and have programs to support those that can't easily afford the meal.


Anyway, as stated earlier you can have food and drink you just can't be consuming each while in the station or on the train.

Lastly, I once came across an elderly lady on the Dupont Circle platform who was smoking!!! Now THAT is bold. Bravo Granny Black-Lung!


peruser said...

Do the "extra custodial services" for cleaning up extend into Metro parking areas as well? The reason I ask is the inordinate amount of cigarette butts on the sidewalk. Might metro BAN smoking on Metro property? What a concept for those of us who don't smoke and don't want to even smell cigarettes. The property would be cleaner as a result. Furthermore, secondhand smoke is a REAL health risk factor, and if you can smell it, you've been exposed. Might someone argue that in allowing smoking on property, even if not in the station proper, Metro allows, by omission, risks my health. I'll get off my soap box now.

Anonymous said...

get over it, people. wtf. let people eat if they want to eat and get over your power trips.

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