Thursday, September 1, 2011

Been to Bizarro Land?

From CS:
On a recent Friday, the western end of the Orange Line turned into Bizarro Land, with trains running backwards in what one long-time rider said was the most unusual thing he’d seen in 25 years on Metro.

The episode also featured what seemed to be at least dissembling, if not outright lying, by Metro, and showed once again that despite its big talk, Metro still hasn’t learned how to communicate with riders when something goes wrong.

Here’s how it went down:

Just short of Dunn Loring, my Vienna-bound train came to a halt. After about 10 minutes of sitting there, the operator came on, saying something about a disabled train. Vienna and Dunn Loring were closed, she said, and we were returning to West Falls Church, which we had just left.

That sounded odd – two stations closed because of a disabled train?

So the driver walked through the cars to the opposite end of the train, and we reversed course, heading for WFC, going inbound on the outbound track.

As we approached WFC, another train was headed outbound to Vienna, on the inbound track. It was an interesting sight, watching two trains pass by each other, moving in the wrong direction.

On the ride back to WFC, visions of an hour-long wait for the shuttle bus popped into my head. The operator said nothing about what we should expect upon arrival.

Up and down the car, the cells phones were humming, as riders broadcast the news to their rides, dates, etc.

Then, Metro miracle of miracles – after I had become resigned to losing my entire Friday evening to Metro hell, and just as our backward journey to WFC ended, the operator said we would reverse course again and resume our journey to Vienna. No need to do anything but sit still! And so we did, relieved, if not perplexed.

That was the bizarro part.

Next came the suspicious part, as reported by the Ms., who had been trying to get home earlier. For her, it turned into a three-offload commute (which, alas, was not her first). On the first leg of her trip, she got offloaded on the Red Line at Dupont Circle. After finally transferring to the Orange Line and reaching WFC, she got offloaded again. “Mechanical problems,” the operator said, even though there had been no evidence of anything amiss to that point.

Along came another Vienna-bound train. The offloadees piled on. Scarcely had the doors closed when, with no explanation, they were told to offload again. So they piled off once more. Next up, they hopped on my train, which was completing the return leg of its round-trip to almost-Dunn Loring. By this time, tempers were running hot. As the offloadees streamed onto my train, one of them did that incredibly rude thing where people take up residence at the doors and proceed to read a book. A shoving match broke out, and one guy went flying out the doors to fall face-first on the platform. I didn’t see how it ended.

Regular Orange Line riders will tell you that Metro seems to have been making an increasing practice of terminating trains at WFC, presumably so they can head to the nearby Metro barn. While this hasn’t happened to me, it’s a regular occurrence for the Ms. I can’t prove it, of course, but I suspect that Metro wasn’t coming clean Friday about those two WFC offloads. I think, as did my 25-year-rider seatmate, that Metro was just pulling the trains off the line, and there weren’t really any “mechanical problems.” Bolstering this theory is that last Friday was the start of a WFC-East Falls Church weekend shutdown for track work, and this incident happened only hours before the start of that project.

Finally comes the communication part. Not once through this sequence of events did anyone from Metro explain what was going on. I still don’t know why we pulled up short of Dunn Loring, and I never got any e-mail alerts on the problem at all.

We did finally get to Vienna. But before we pulled in, as so often happens, we had to wait for the platform to clear of other trains. So much for Vienna being closed.

Anyone else experienced a journey to Bizarro Land?
Other items:
Another Metro suicide (Examiner)
DC drivers ranked worst (WTOP)
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