From reader Charles:
I was in the back car of an inbound Red Line train that arrived at Gallery Place around 8:35 a.m. on Nov. 24, right at the height of rush hour. The platform was packed with people transferring from the Green and Yellow Lines. The train was full, but not packed.
The operator opened the doors briefly, long enough to allow about half of us who wanted to exit to get off. As the doors closed prematurely, people on the train threw themselves, their bags and their extremities between the doors in an effort to hold them open. This did not work, of course.
The operator opened the doors long enough to let people remove their arms and legs, but not long enough to exit.
There was no way that I could make it off the train, so I went to the intercom at the back of the car. I pushed the red button and said, “I’m in the last car and people are trying to get out. Please open the doors.” There was no response, so I called again with more urgency.
Me: Open the doors! People are stuck in the back car.
Operator: I don’t copy you.
Me: People are stuck in the doors and trying to get out. Open the doors.
Operator: I don’t copy you.
Me: Well, I ‘copy’ you, and I’m telling you to open these doors.
By now, the doors were presumably closed and the train was rolling out of the station toward Metro Center. I got back on the intercom.
Me: What is your name? I’d like to follow up with your supervisor.
Operator: This is the operator.
Me: I understand that. I’d like to know your name.
Operator: Just ‘Operator.’
I exited the train at Metro Center and made my way to the kiosk. Another passenger from this train was already complaining to the station manager. I asked the station manager if he could help me identify the train operator. I told him that I was in car 5125 on the train that had just left Metro Center for Farragut North.
The station manager said, “That car number helps tremendously.” He spun his chair around and looked at the kiosk computer, which shows a live picture of all trains in the system. The station manager told me that the train operator was one Mr. Willy Love and that the Train ID was 208. The station manager suggested I call in my complaint to 202-637-7000.
That’s exactly what I did when I got to my office. I waited on hold for 17 minutes before someone transferred me to voicemail. I left an incensed message and demanded that somebody call me back immediately.
I then started to fish around for any Metro phone number that would be answered by a human. After a few dead ends, I found the hotline for the Metro Office of Inspector General (OIG). I called the OIG on 202-962-2400. A human answered the phone and took a detailed report on the incident.
As I finished up with the OIG, a Metro customer service person called me back. She apologized about my 17 minutes on hold. She told me that there are only two people who take these complaints. I told this woman I had already filed a report with the OIG, but I would be happy to file it again with her.
In both of my reports I emphasized that this is a safety issue. Either the intercom was genuinely broken, or the train operator showed poor judgment by choosing to ignore a passenger’s attempt to contact him. I also expressed concern that this train operator declined to give his name.
The Metro customer service person agreed this was a problem and told me she would do two things: First, she would ask maintenance personnel to test the intercom on this train. Second, she would forward my report to the train operator’s supervisor.
I requested that the supervisor follow up with me so that I could be sure that this was being taken seriously. The customer service rep said that supervisors generally do not follow up with passengers. I said, “That’s the problem with Metro. You are not accountable to the passengers and you need to be.”
The rep promised to make a note of my concerns.
Nobody has followed up with me.
Original photo: charliepinto
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