Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Communication Breakdown

Metro's communication abilities are already suspect, particularly at the front line level, and the snowy mess hasn't helped things.

From JG:

Saturday night, my girlfriend and I were planning on going to a late dinner and drinks in Chinatown/Gallery Place. I saw Metro was closing rail service at midnight instead of 3 a.m., since it was clearly posted in stations and on their Web site.

Metrorail is the best way for me to get home to Silver Spring, but there are plenty of bus options.

But the press release made no mention of buses. Not wanting to get stuck downtown late at night, I decided to call Metro and ask their customer service agents to clear things up.

The employee I spoke with was friendly, but didn't seem to know the answer. She reasoned that if it wasn't posted on the Web site, then the buses must be running normally. At best, it sounded like an educated guess, so I figured I would ask the station staff on my way downtown.

At Silver Spring, the people in the kiosk seemed genuinely annoyed I had interrupted their conversation. They opened the door, told me they didn't know the answer, and closed the door to resume their conversation.

I had never seen a Metro employee smile so wide, and they seemed to take real pleasure in their inability to answer my simple question.

Maybe they were just having a bad night, I thought, and decided I would ask the Metro staff when I got to Chinatown.

This time, the person in the glass booth told me they 'figured' if Metrorail was closing early, the buses would close early as well--the opposite of what I'd been told before.

Again, it sounded like a guess, so we decided not to take any chances and ended up taking the train before midnight rather than hoping for a bus that may or may not have come.

Closing early wouldn't have been a big deal had they been able to give me an answer or even treated me decently if they couldn't answer the question.

Imagine if they had said something like "I'm sorry, but I don't know. Let me call headquarters and see if I can find out ..." or "I'm not sure. Why don' t you try..." instead of making up answers and/or being rude.

What a novel idea!

Going home a few hours early was hardly a tragedy, but lately I've found myself taking extra steps to accommodate Metro rather than the other way around.

Oh, and I never did find out about the buses.

Other items:
Snow deepens Metro budget gap (Examiner)
Metro's e-communication could be better, too (GGW)
Many Metro parking lots still snowed in (WaPo)


Anonymous said...

that's our metro!

matthewvb said...

Anyone know how to get on the board for metro? I'm about ready to run and overthrough the way things are now so the can:
a) function
b) function correctly, and
c) function nicely

I'm sick of metro not caring about the customers - knowing they can abuse use cause we have no alternatives.

If I can't get a seat on the board, perhaps it's time to build our own, new metro. Anyone else wanna chip in? I got $5 to get this going -- that'll at least buy, well, coffee at a planning meeting.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Metro! You scamp!

Anonymous said...

I don't think there was a single answer last week as to when bus service stopped. It was different by route depending on conditions and was probably decided on the spot by a supervisor talking to drivers at the line terminus. Hardly something you can publish hours in advance.

Anonymous said...

Would phoning that "next bus" thingie or whatever it's called have worked? Don't know how much the snow and the lack of plowing would affected it (probably A LOT!).

Anonymous said...

anon 9:47
the point, i think anyway is that no metro employee took any initiative to try to find out.

Anonymous said...

I'll give an example: I take the 2 bus home from Ballston a lot. It should either be 6:20, 6:40, or 7. The 6:40 is usually sooooo late that the supervisor who works the bus booth (who is very friendly BTW), has taken it upon himself to sometimes draft a free driver to take any available bus and run people as far as EFC station. This usually happens around 6:45 when it's obvious that the 6:40 is way late (he checks the NextBus system in his booth). Now, this phantom 6:45 bus is never on any printed or online schedule, and sometimes displays a "SPECIAL" or "EXPRESS" message.

The point being, the supervisors on the ground are ultimately in control of the schedule and nobody you call or talk to in the booths downstairs can give you all of the information.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Downtown Silver Spring for nearly a decade, very near the Metro Station. Until a couple years ago, I took Metro nearly everywhere. Now, it's just as cheap, convenient, and safe to drive instead. Next time, drive down to Chinatown and pay to park. Bothering with Metro is too much of a headache.

Golden Silence said...

I am so sick of Metrobus and Metrorail right now...

This morning I was waiting for the 38B towards Farragut, and none came. I saw two Ballston-bound 38Bs. I hopped on the 4B and got off at Rosslyn, and saw two more Ballston-bound 38Bs. So I saw four 38B buses towards Ballston within a 40-minute period, but none towards Farragut. When the ones towards Farragut finally come, two of them come clumped together and the one I board gets crowded quickly. I ended up being an hour late for work. I was not happy about that. I'm lucky my job's lenient with Metrobus/Metrorail-caused lateness, but others aren't as lucky. One woman calling in late to her job sounded like she was nearly in tears, and said she was ready to give WMATA a piece of her mind.

WMATA doesn't explain anything. There was no reason given as to why so few Farragut-bound buses were running, and calling Next Bus was useless because it just announced the Ballston-bound buses.

I am honestly tired of this nonsense.

Meg said...

Checking Next Bus or the Web site is useless. I have tried both in the last week, as Metro has instructed. Next Bus says they don't have available information. Metro's Web site says everything is fine. In three separate instances, the WMATA Web site has lead me astray.

1. Imagine my surprise this morning when I get to the station at Cleveland Park and in fact there are major delays.

2.I tried taking the G2 at Dupont going toward Georgetown University yesterday morning, only to be told once I got on the bus that it would stop at Wisconsin Ave. I was surprised, because I checked the Metro Web site before I left - no mention of any bus issues. When I got home that night, I found the information on the snow emergency route. Very helpful for my Tuesday morning commute to post this information at 3:30pm on Tuesday.

3.I checked over the long weekend for service information on another line, didn't find any disruptions, and got on the bus (H4 from Tenleytown going toward Columbia Heights). Coming back, two different bus drivers told me they were stopping service at 16th St.

Look, I get we just had an epic snowstorm, and it's going to take time to dig out. All I'm saying is that when I make the effort to check WMATA's own Web site, and it tells me things are fine, and then I start my trip and have horrible delays and frustrations, that's where something's gotta give. I'm seriously considering buying a car just so I don't have to use Metro anymore.

Anonymous said...

I agree that many metro employees give off the vibe that answering even the simplest of questions is a huge inconvenience for them.

I picked a family member up from the airport the other day, and there was initially a 15 minute wait for a yellow line train. Not wanting to wait that long, we went back to the airport and grabbed lunch. When we returned, there was a 19 minute wait for the next train. Just then, we noticed a metro employee exiting his fortress of solitude. I asked how often the yellow line was supposed to be running. He stopped for a second and grudgingly answered, "every 12-14 minutes." I then asked if the sign was right, as it indicated a 19 minute wait. But this time, he just kept on walking.

Anonymous said...

This post is excellent constructive criticism. If an employee doesn't know the answer to a reasonable, topical, important question a customer asks, that employee should take it upon him/herself to FIND OUT. Is there somewhere the employees can find out what their own company is doing? Is there? Hello? Metro?

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