News item: Metro interim General Manager Richard Sarles last week issued his first “vital signs” report on the transit agency’s performance, ushering in a new era of "openness." Metrorail, according to the tally, was on time 90.3 percent of the time. Neither the Washington Post nor the Examiner, which both ran stories about the report, saw fit to publish the report for their readers, and searches on the WMATA website were fruitless.
In this never-ending season of Metro’s discontent, the new GM has kept a low profile. But with his new report, Sarles has finally shown where he’s coming from:
Anybody who rides Metrorail regularly these days would rejoice at a 90.3 percent on-time rate. (90.3 percent is actually down from last year.) But we surely ain’t gettin’ it now.
Not with regular, 10- or 12-minute gaps between trains DURING RUSH HOUR.
Not with more frequent breakdowns and near-mutiny-provoking offloadings.
And not with the new stall-and-go system, where trains regularly hold at stations because ill-spaced trains have piled up miles ahead on the line. (The Ms. and I have seen trips extended by 10-15 minutes due to this alone.)
The problem with this bogus 90.3 percent claim isn’t just that it’s burst-out-laughing wrong. Or that it falsely gives the impression that things are basically OK with Metrorail and only need a little tweaking. It’s that it also appears to show that Sarles has been captured by the gravitational forces within Metro that seem, inexorably, to bend people away from reality.
It should be noted that Metro measures "on-time performance" using the following equation: "Number of Metrorail station arrivals – number of headways with >2 minute deviation or 50% headway deviation) / number of Metrorail station arrivals = Metrorail On-Time Performance End-to-End."
Maybe Sarles knows the number is BS, and he’s pitching it as part of the political dysfunctionality that passes for leadership at Metro – I don’t know. But IF he was committed to transparency, and IF he really knew what was going on, what he should have said to the minions who produced this work of fiction was: This is crap. Bring me the real deal.
Sarles has said he takes Metro to work. But that’s a short ride on the Yellow Line. Mr. General Manager, what you need to do is spend a couple of weeks riding the Orange or Red Lines – like so many of your passengers do.
Do that, and see if you think 90.3 percent belongs in this realm or an alternate reality where down is up. See if you think waiting 12 minutes for a train at Metro Center at 5:45 p.m., with platform crowds swelling to dangerous levels, cuts it. See if you think a trip from downtown out to the end of the line, which used to take 40 minutes, but which now regularly takes an hour or more, measures up.
Not hardly. And that’s what’s ultimately so disappointing about Sarles’ report. Meaning no disrespect, but this first missive shows that Sarles either doesn’t get it; doesn’t want to get it; or doesn’t know how to get it.
Any of which seem to now officially mark his tenure as yet another lost opportunity.
(But please, Mr. General Manager, I desperately hope you prove me wrong.)
Also by CS: