Monday, June 7, 2010

Does Anyone Really Buy This?

From CS:

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:


Anonymous said...

It isn't just the trains. I take the bus to the metro station and back home again everyday and hoping the bus is "on time" is like playing Russian Roulette. Most days the bus is extremely late, which I can handle because at least the bus is coming. (Nextbus, by the way, is a joke.) I get more annoyed when the bus is 10 minutes early and I have to wait 30-40 minutes for the next one, making me much more late than if the bus was just a few minutes late.

Of course, the worst is when buses just don't show up. I've waited for the T18 at Rhode Island Ave, during RUSH HOUR when the buses are supposed to run every 20 minutes and yet, crowds and crowds of people stand around for 50 minutes before a rickety bus without AC pulls in and fills way beyond capacity.

Anonymous said...

This really contradicts what Sarles has been saying, which is that Metro is not in a good state of repair and that it needs to get back to basics. That assessment sounds sort of like a D as opposed to and A.

Kara said...

I am going to guess that the low ontime rate at rush hour (when people count on ontime) is offset by a much higher rate during non-rush times (although 90% seems a bit high even for them). Since we are talking two totally different situations (mornings are crowds that have a schedule to keep) averaging the two numbers is a meaningless statistic.

Anonymous said...

What a crock of crap. Even using that equation, it STILL doesn't come out anywhere near 10% on time for the orange line during rush hour. I am late every day going both ways. THAT is the only reliable thing about it - I am guaranteed to be late. Sarles, you are such a disappointment. An extreme disappointment. How "Metro" of you!

Anonymous said...

The 3Y didn't even show up this morning. It's like Metro doesn't think people ride these things TO WORK.

Is THIS what "90.3 percent on time performance" looks like?

Anonymous said...

while we're at it, can we make sure that all metro cars have air conditioning? might prevent a "sick passenger" situation and would make everyone a lot happier! i couldn't get off the sauna train fast enough this morning.

DC ParaTransit Info said...

If they're trying the same fudges they do with MetroAccess, they're probably considering trains that are offloaded, or taken out of service, as being "on-time" if they still manage to reach a station.

The offloading, train being taken out of service, or anything similar won't be factored into the definition of "on-time".

It'll just be if the train got to the last stop *it* made within its window.

There are lies, damned lies, statistics, and WMATA statistics.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I missed any commentary on benchmarking in the past year or so - comparing DC Metro with other, higher-performing counterparts around the world. But what is it with these exemplary systems that puts them in the rare, "already unsucked" category?

Valknut said...

In the past year the Metro system has seen 9 people die, countless people injured, dead people left on trains, trains going into a state of disrepair so badly as to have to be taken off the line during rush hour, derailed trains, cars with doors that will not open or close, cars in the middle of trains dark and inoperable, elevators not working, escalators never working and on some very long hills (dupont this morning) delayed trains, inside of trains so dirty as to remind you of a trash bin. And to top it off higher fees. An A, really? are you kidding me

Anonymous said...

>Not with regular, 10- or 12-minute gaps between >trains DURING RUSH HOUR.

it ain't late since they have quitely cut down service and 10 minute gaps are now scheduled

Anonymous said...

Absurd. Even 6 minute waits at rush hours are unaccepable. This stat is certainly due to the "better" performance during off-peak times. Also, I was on 3 different trains in a ROW last week where the AC was not working and temperatures in the train were sweltering - high 80s at least. Worst subway system i have ever used, hands down.

saber_saw25 said...

I agree that the yellow line and blue line, which hardly ever have delays, could be offsetting the statistics.

Was on a train this weekend where the heater was on.

Anonymous said...

Also, remeber that the train is only late if it's dispatched. Thus if a train isn't sent out that train can't be late.

Anonymous said...

A better statistic would to compare the time that a person enters FARRAGUT WEST (insert station) and exits WEST FALLS CHURCH (insert station).

Then you would compare the time it actually took to the time it should normally take.

(Could be issues with tourists who get on wrong train and have to backtrack or those who just wait in the station for some reason...say they want a seat and are willing to wait. But the tourists thing could be fixed largely by just looking at SMARTRIP cards only.)

Anonymous said...

Does this new article posted this afternoon on WTOP qualify for extra brownie points in that stellar performance calculation? Do extra cars help them reach the destination faster? I mean, they ARE longer so they REACH farther, thus, get there sooner, right?

Long ride on Metro blamed on 10-car train
June 7, 2010 - 3:13pm

Anonymous said...

Why would metro even bother to announce such foolishness? Do they really think that we are that stupid? Yes, they do. We are all captive prisoners and they know it. Raise the fares with some crazy system-we don't mind! Filthy, late trains, suicides, dead passengers, fighting, theft! bring it on! We're metro riders-the most educated, passive, craziest transit riders in the nation!

Homer said...

Public transit is for _____________ and _____________.

Come on blogging commenters, shout out your answers!

Anonymous said...

I think this is great news and a wonderful report. Based on the remarkable 90.3% 'on time' status of the Metro rail system, I see no reason for the Metro Board to continue to move forward with its massive rate hike. Clearly things are working so splendidly on Metro -- what with the 90.3% on time status and all -- that the need for additional revenues in the form of rate hikes are unnecessary.

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