Friday, October 28, 2011

Lemon Lemon

Sarles in Charge

Yesterday, the Metro Board finally addressed Metro's reckless and inexcusable response (and here, here and here) to the Oct. 11 Clarendon suicide.

Sadly, there was a more thoughtful discussion about, of all things, station names.

Seriously, Board, I realize that without properly pithy station names, passengers might die, but even that discussion led to nothing more than kicking the can down the tracks.

One of the biggest takeaways of Rosslyn debacle discussion was that Metro graded itself on the handling of the incident, and they gave themselves pretty good marks! The Board seemed to buy it and move on.

And that's it! No one else can come in and call them on their B.S. That's that for yet another Metro fail--until next time. Everything, for now, is neatly swept under the rug with all the other forgotten miscues, cover ups and recklessness.

Metro's way: Hunker down, let it pass. Don't change anything. Never be accountable, not even to its own Board.

Here are a few choice quotes from the whole ridiculous affair (Sorry, I don't know which Board member was speaking in most cases as I listened to the recording.):

Barbara J. Richardson, assistant general manager of customer service, communications and marketing (Stessel's boss):
  • "The in-system announcements were sufficient."
  • "The takeaway is to try harder to promote e-alerts."
Below are Board members asking questions. In my opinion, Metro gave absolutely no good answers to any of these issues.

Board member:
  • "I don't understand who the accountable Metro official on the ground is. Is there a process for a senior enough manager at an incident like this to have an on-the-ground person who's accountable?"
  • "Is there a current ops (operational) plan for every major rail station for incidents like this that is worked through with the jurisdiction responders?"
Unknown Board member:
  • "After a couple of incidents [like this], WMATA set up a team to be dispatched. I guess that twas abandoned for some reason. It was a response to exactly this set of issues."
Mary Hynes, Board member from Arlington:
  • "There were many many Arlingtonians who were very, very frightened by what went on in Rosslyn, and there were issues at Ballston that haven't risen to the top about egress from that station onto the street level by the way things have been built out."
  • "For Arlington, the fastest way to alert our emergency response system is to call the emergency communications center. I suspect that's true in most jurisdictions. That was a call that didn't happen. That would have putt police fire and traffic all on alert. When does that call get made?
Unknown Board member:
  • Basically, Twitter is good for a segment of the population, but "[I] was watching it on TV in horror. What is really happening? Why are people so confused? I would have liked to have seen that person of authority speaking there."
  • "If you have a chief spokesman, it seems that the chief spokesman should be speaking." (He did later here, which shows perhaps why Metro didn't want him at the scene.)
Unknown Board member:
  • "We should have evacuations plans for the stations, particularly where we know there are issues like that. We should have something thought about ahead of time."
Unknown Board member:
  • "I didn't even know there were e-alerts! How do you tell a friend to tell a friend?"
Finally, it was pretty evident that Metro GM Richard Sarles has a temper.

When pressed ever so slightly about whether he, or another senior Metro official, should have been on the scene, he got downright testy as he stated that higher up Metro officials should stay back at fortress Metro,where, it would seem, EVERY decision about EVERYTHING Metro does is made--remotely--without any sense of what is happening on the ground.

It's the first time I've ever heard him lose his cool in a public forum. Maybe he's starting to feel some of the frustrations the people who pay his $300,000+ salary have. Enjoy, buddy.

What is he going to do to prevent another meltdown?

Probably nothing.

Who can make him?

The same people who don't even know there are e-alerts.

There was something even more revealing said at the meeting, but I've got to do some more reporting on it. Stay tuned.

Oh, and if you're wondering what "lemon lemon" means, it's code for overcrowded platform.

For you Metro geeks, here's a list of other codes that used to be used at Metro but have fallen by the wayside:

amber amber = fire
gray gray = smoke
lemon lemon = crowded platforms, crowd control
purple purple = jumper
tan tan = bomb threat
white white = hostage situation
silver silver = police situation
black black = collision, derailment

Other items:
Virtual Farragut tunnel opens today
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