Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Metro Employees: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

From reader Amanda:

Part 1:
On August 22 , around 1:30 p.m., my husband, 2-and-a-half-year-old, 6-month old and I drove to the Takoma Metro station to catch a Red Line train to Judiciary Square.

Normally, we’d walk, but it was raining a bit. I had to run into the station to get a farecard, but my husband had his SmarTrip, so he and the girls stayed outside and played.

I saw a sign near the farecard machines advertising delays between Takoma and Fort Totten, which I had expected.

To get the stroller to the train, you have to leave the main part of the station and go to the elevator. To exit the elevator area, you have to use your farecard.

The train was just coming into the station as we got there, but everyone got off, and passengers told us we’d have to take a bus to Ft. Totten.

To exit we had to use our farecards again to get back on the elevator and down to the buses. Of course, it charged us for a Takoma-to-Takoma fare.

I went to find a manager. No one was in the booth, but four Metro employees were standing around chatting.

I asked if I could talk to the booth person. She identified herself, I explained, and she said I’d have to speak to a manager. I asked who that was, and she pointed to one of the men standing there, who later identified himself as Phillip.

I again explained what happened. He basically told me it was my fault, that they couldn’t do anything since there is no information on the paper pass or SmarTrip that could prove I wasn’t just scamming them.

I assume when you have to shuttle to another station, they don’t make you swipe your card at the station you’re leaving or at the one where you re-enter, since that charges you.

In our case, since we had to use the elevators, there was no other way out of the station. There was no indication anywhere in the main station or on the elevator that we couldn’t go southbound by train.

If one of the four chatting employees had taken one minute to write a simple sign for the elevator, we’d have just turned around and driven to Ft. Totten.

As it was, we just ended up taking our car to Judiciary Square, since it wasn’t going to be worth all the extra fare charges, so I’m so thankful we drove to the station rather than walked.

I was and am extremely angry at the useless employees (and manager) and their pitiful excuses. Thanks, Metro.


Since the two-and-a-half-year-old really wanted to take the train (She made a wish for a train ride at a fountain.), I suggested she and my husband take the train on Sunday while the baby and I were at a baby shower.

They were going in the opposite direction from Saturday, so they figured there'd be no problems. They again took the elevator. This time there were employees up there to prevent what happened to us the previous day.

We like to think it was thanks to me and my mad letter writing skills!

Also, I got a call from Metro later, and they will be sending us two free passes.

That's half decent customer service, but I'd rather they have just done their jobs right the first time. I'm still pissed the manager tried to make it OUR fault. Right!

While Amanda had a run in with some bad apples, reader Martin had a different experience:

I had a pretty decent experience with a station manager over Labor Day. At the Friendship Heights station around 1 p.m., on Labor Day, my girlfriend needed to see the station manager for an issue with her farecard.

The guy was quick, attentive and friendly. No "hold on a second while I check my fantasy football scores" garbage. It almost made me think kindly of WMATA for the rest of the day, until I remembered the farcical track closings at the three stations.

So if anyone needs help at Friendship Heights and notices a station manager who looks like former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, don't hesitate to ask him for help.

Other items:
Metro employee dies from injuries (WMATA)
Thoughts on closing Metro's budget gap (GGW)
Is McCain out to scuttle Silver Line? (Streetblogs)

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Anonymous said...

I actually had a positive metro experience yesterday with a bus driver - taking the H1 during the afternoon rush, the bus driver greeted every single person with a sincere and energetic, "hello, how are you - have a great day." Just that little effort really makes a difference.

Of course, the bus driver later that evening that blew past my stop because she was doing about 40mph in a 25mph neighborhood to include absolutely flying off the top of a rather large speedbump - and then getting irritated with me when I yelled stop requested several times (I had pulled the cord, she just wasn't paying attention) kinda ruined my goodwill for the day. But at least there are a few good apples out there that are trying - and I applaud those that do.

Anonymous said...

I loved the bus driver who made a boy apologize to the passengers for his cursing. That was a nice moment.

Not so nice was the bus driver who wouldn't allow my dad* on the bus after he paid the discounted senior fare, because he had not provided proof that he was a senior citizen. The driver yelled at him in front of everyone. My dad was confused and went to sit down, and the driver yelled out after him. I asked the driver, in a calm voice, "Why were you asking him for more money?" He yelled at me, "HE NEEDS TO PAY THE FULL FARE!" I said nothing and paid.

*a disabled WWII vet, so he is pretty obviously over 65.

Dan Franzen said...

Had a driver on Tuesday who clearly had no idea how to operate a train. I'm well used to jerky-motion operation, but he slammed on the brakes repeatedly, maybe once every five seconds, so you could never relax, settle in, nothing. All the way from Dupont out to Shady Grove, for a good 45 minutes. Taking the train is supposed to be less stressful than driving, right? Oh boy.

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