Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Blogger: FixWMATA, Tracker of Hot Cars

A couple more choice tweets from Metro: here and here

From FixWMATA (Twitter/website):

Here's the thing - I don't WANT to track WMATA "hot cars!" I'd rather these cars get fixed and WMATA have a plan in place to address them in a timely manner when reported.

I would LOVE for this problem to become history.

The problem is the hot cars are getting worse, and the communication from WMATA has mostly come to a full stop, despite an overly advertised "aggressive social media campaign" to keep riders informed.

When I started tracking hot cars this year, I sat down with Dan Stessel, Metro's chief spokesman, and had a very friendly chat about the problem and what he intended to do about it in his new role.

He said he would use my website to communicate the reported hot cars to maintenance each night so the problem would get addressed.

I loved this attitude and decided that, unlike last year, I would be on his side and try to have a spirit of cooperation this year.

Over the next few weeks, I would ask Dan for a list of cars that were "fixed" so I could note it in my database and give them proper credit for handling the situation.

I never once got that list!

Furthermore, I saw the problem with hot cars getting worse.

Did Dan give me lip-service?

I hope not.

But in any case, after I pursued the issue more aggressively with him, the communication stopped.

Other than the occasional message about using the intercom to report a hot car, the Metro Twitter account has stopped mentioning hot cars altogether, despite a torrent of reports from riders.

So what's happened?

Has Metro found they CAN'T fix the hot cars and decided that instead of admitting that, they will just go silent on the issue?

Did Dan get an unhealthy response from maintenance and can't report results to us, but doesn't want WMATA to look bad?

Does Dan have a personal beef with me and therefore is ignoring the issue I'm championing and thus putting his personal issues above "potential health issues" facing customers?

We may never know.

So, yes. I do have a salty, snarky, bitchy attitude right now.

This attitude comes out of frustration at the lack of a response from Metro after I put forth a good-faith effort to work with them to solve one of THEIR issues.

WE the riders continue to do the legwork in identifying hot cars, and I continue to provide the lists they need to fix the problem.

But it remains unfixed.

WE the riders continue to sweat every day on our commutes.

Where do we go from here?

Can WMATA do an about-face and address the issue?

Do I stop trying to champion the issue on behalf of frustrated commuters?

Do we continue to shout into the dark?

Will the media catch on to the frustration and get Dan's attention on the issue?

I will continue to hope for a day that we can all work together to make WMATA better, but right now these conditions don't exist.

I'm open to suggestions.

If you want to know the extent of the problem, here are hot cars by the numbers:

These are the HotCar record results for 2011 as of July 23, 2011. These records have been kept to the best of my ability since May 24, 2011.
  • Number of days on record: 61
  • Number of records: 673
  • Average records per day: 11
  • Number of records more than last year: 467
  • Number of individual Twitter users reporting: 374
  • Twitter user with the most reports: @seauxbrown with 10 records
  • Number of unique WMATA rail car numbers reported: 338
  • Total number of WMATA rail cars in fleet (per 2011 budget report): 1106
  • Percent of all WMATA rail cars reported as hot car: 31% (that means almost 1 in 3 WMATA rail cars have been reported)
  • Car reported most: car 5037, reported 11 times this year (on 6/21, 6/28, 7/8, 7/11, 7/18, 7/19, 7/21)
  • WMATA rail line with the most records: Red Line - 232 reports
  • WMATA car series with the most records: 5000-series (37% of all reports) - note: the 5000-series makes up only 17% of the total fleet)
  • Percentage of total 5000-series reported: 61% (113 unique car numbers reported out of 184 total 5000-series cars)
Other items:
Interesting take on Metro's eating/drinking law (Overcriminalized)
MetroAccess growth slows (Examiner)
Metro to will abandon @metroopensdoors, use @wmata instead, finally
Meet the voice of Metro (TBD)
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