Friday, February 11, 2011

Metro's Second Worst Decision Ever?

Do their points have any merit?

From "R.," who claims to be retired Metro:
I know I'm going to get bashed for being pro earlier closing since your poll says 57 percent disagree with me, but what the hell. I doubt you'll even print this since you'll probably have a rant against how stupid the idea of closing Metro earlier is.

At least let me start out with a bash of my own.

Metro's decision to operate trains as late as they do on the weekends was the second most misguided decision the authority has ever made. It was a cave in to politicians on the board who know nothing about rail and want nothing more than to spout platitudes to their constituents that they live in a "world-class city."

World class in some ways, maybe, but Metro? Hardly.

Metro was never conceived to be a "world class" subway, at least according to what we think world class is in 2011. It was conceived to bring workers downtown in the morning and take them home at night. Sorry to break it to you, but that's how it's built.

Yes, it can do more, some, but at its core, it's a two-track system, which is the most misguided decision the authority ever made. That will forever remain the biggest impediment to making Metro into a 24-hour subway people seem to really want. And there's literally no way around it.

A third track is not as sexy as, say, the Dulles extension, however. So the pols keep spreading the Metro thinner and thinner and no one, until now has seemed to question this.

The long operating hours have made it extremely difficult to do the kind of significant track work and maintenance required of a transit system now nearly 40 years old. Shoot, that work would be required on a relatively new system. It's common sense.

Ask any tech, and they'll tell you that it's almost impossible to take on big jobs in the short windows that Metro is not running. It was mentioned in yesterday's meeting that Metro has people it's paying for track workers doing other things in the yard because there's no access.

In an environment like this, work is constantly getting interrupted and is often partially, sometimes poorly, done. Slapdash is what I'd call most of it.

And this neglect has been going on for years. It's just plain stupid.

A past board, which pushed Metro into operating so late at night, was wrong to ever give the public hope that Metro could open doors until 3 a.m. They were dumb not to offer up buses as an alternative.

It is a smart, if temporarily unpopular move, to close Metro at midnight, and they should never let it run until 3 again.

You haven't seen what I've seen in those tunnels. Believe me. It's scary, and the schedule Metro runs now normally allows only Band Aid fixes for problems. The same screw ups happen again and again and again. (See Red Line.)

In all honesty, to really get at some of the root problems, and dig out from the maintenance hole Metro is in, it'd probably be smart to close down entire lines, or segments of lines, for extended times, but that will never happen. Maybe some extended single tracking would work, but that is fraught with danger, too.

And you Red Line riders know what I'm talking about. You suffer weekend closures for "improved reliability" only to have your commute stink nearly every day.

Would you rather have Metro be open until 3 the one night every couple of weeks you stay out that late, or would you rather have a smooth commute EVERY weekday? Besides, Metro probably loses money late at night for a service most of its customers don't even use. I never had access to those numbers.

Yeah, yeah. I know. "There'll be more drunks on the roads." Should everyone suffer crazy commutes for the sake of a relative few late night weekend drunks? Drink earlier, don't drink as much, walk, get a cab, have a designated driver. Do what you need to do, but don't cry for Metro to come to your rescue. It's your responsibility. Metro's at the end of its ability to keep operating they way you want unless you're willing to fork over billions in taxes to drill out third tunnels.

I think this "controversial" floating of an idea by the new Board is a long called for, brave first step in leveling with the riding public about what Metro is capable of, where limits need to be drawn and where to set expectations.

And to those of you who will no doubt still cry "no service cuts ever," stop and think for a moment about recent weekends and look at the maintenance schedule for this whole year.

Over the past weekends, I've taken Metro to various events and to run errands. It has been a clusterf*ck every time. I'm done with that bag.

What we have now is a hodgepodge of closures, delays, single tracking and disruptions that literally requires a spreadsheet to keep track of, and that's just the "scheduled" ones.

Unless you're blind, it's easy to see that service has already been cut, but it's the worst kind of service cuts: unpredictable, seemingly random and always infuriating. Worse yet, it's doesn't allow the things that need to be fixed to get fixed they way they should be.

Metro's a commuter system, and an old one at that, and while that may not be what you want to hear, that's what it is. Don't let a politician lead you to believe otherwise.
Other items:
Board debates bag inspections (WaPo)
Metro to study interoperability of light rail and streetcar projects (WMATA)
Funny Tom Toles cartoon
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Site Meter