Monday, July 26, 2010

Opening Up at Metro

From contributor CS:
"I don't want to hide problems. That's the worst thing you can do." -- Metro interim General Manager Richard Sarles
Anyone who follows the continuing saga of Metro knows the transit agency has been almost a complete flop when it comes to providing information about itself to the public it serves. From routinely fumbling what should be simple communications with riders, to an allergic reaction to being transparent about its operations, Metro often appears Kremlin-esque in what it doles out to the public. (Yes, Metro has made some legitimate progress in recent months, but there is a long way to go.)

So we’ve decided to try and break some of the logjam. Unsuck DC Metro has filed several public record requests with the agency, in areas that are crucial to riders but where Metro has had very little to say publicly. (See a consolidated copy of the requests here.) These requests focus on:

-- Door problems. How much anger and despair have been born of Metro’s maddening cascade of door problems? How can it be that, more than 30 years on, Metro still hasn’t figured out how to reliably open and close its doors? Door problems may be the single biggest fail of the Metro system, and yet the agency has had virtually zero to say about this issue.

-- Automatic Train Control. Following last year’s fatal Red Line accident, Metro dumped automatic control of the trains, and it has been a rider disaster ever since. For reasons that aren’t clear, the system simply staggers under manual control, in a way that was never seen when the trains were forced into manual operations about a decade ago. Again, Metro has said virtually nothing about this collapse.

-- “Bellying” the 1000-series railcars. After the fatal accident, Metro reconfigured trains to put its oldest railcars in the middle of trains, because that accident, and others, showed the cars ride up on top of each other in a collision. Was bellying just a gimmick? Has it actually made braking and maintenance problems worse? Once more, Metro has had little to say.

Thus, these public record requests are an attempt to pry out of Metro information that is of vital interest to Metrorail riders, as well as the hundreds of thousands of non-riders whose daily lives are also affected by what Metro does or doesn’t do. Given the stakes, we’ve asked for expedited treatment of the request.

Keep watching this space – we’ll provide a count-up clock to let you know how long it’s taking Metro to respond. Metro has said it’s committed to being more open, so we hope the agency will pony up the records without delay, in accordance with its own policy.

But here’s a prediction: Don’t hold your breath. If history is any guide, Metro will delay, stonewall and temporize, throwing up all manner of obstacles to avoid disclosing the information. What should take weeks will drag on for months and maybe even years.

So how about it, Metro?

Also by CS:
Other Items:
What if the Blue Line gets re-routed? (WaPo)
Red Line crash cause to be revealed (Examiner)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Site Meter