Friday, April 29, 2011

The Station Manager Point of View

Photo via

From someone claiming to be a station manager:
A station manager knows things about their stations that could potentially save thousands of lives in an emergency situation. We are trained in many areas.

You customers should try looking at station managers as people, not your servants.

We are not police, mechanics, revenue (we can't give you money back), we also don't set policy.

Our job sometimes SUCKS because of the attitudes of our customers.

If you are having a bad day, remember, it's not our faults. We are just supporting our families just like YOU. All managers are not jerks, so please don't generalize.

I love my job. I love helping people.

For the most part, they are very happy when I explain solutions to whatever issues they might have at the time. That fills my day with little moments of joy.

See, not all Metro employees are bad people. I concede that many are nasty, but not all.
Other items:
Track work this weekend (WMATA)
Two Metro workers "fired" (Examiner)
Metro slightly less screwed/chance to sound off about budget (WMATA)
Major work for Memorial Day (WMATA)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

$2.4 Million for Work Never Done

Over the past 5 years, Metro has paid out nearly $2.4 million in grievance back pay for work never done, according to documents obtained by Unsuck DC Metro in a freedom of information request.

Worse yet, a good chunk of that money has gone to people like the McGruff assaulter, and the bus driver charged with negligent homicide, both of whom were fired--for a period--and then rehired with back pay.

According to a source familiar with Metro's finances, some of the $2.4 million is paid out in labor "squabbles," for example when someone with less seniority gets to work overtime when it should have been offered to someone with more seniority.

But, they add, there are "serious outrages" hidden in those numbers.

A lot of cases, like the McGruff case, are "because someone didn't dot all of the i's and cross the t's," the source said.
During my tenure there, there were several cases of revenue collection people being caught on video filling their pockets with money from the ticket vending machines in the rail stations and then getting their jobs back after filing a grievance.

In my personal interactions with the fine folks from the Metro Employee and Labor Relations Department, it always appeared to me that they were 100 percent in the pockets of the unions; others were just plain incompetent and made up the rules as they went along.
According to the documents, "most grievances are settlements with local 689. There are very few with 922 and local 2."

According to Metro, ATU 689 makes up 69 percent of the workforce at Metro. Local 922, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, makes up 3 percent and Local 2, the Office and Professional Employees International Union, makes up 7 percent.

Other items:
DC to test ID card transit passes (Examiner)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Website Bloopers

This ad was running on the Metro site around the time an Orange Line train was stormed by some armed thugs. It's unclear if it's still in rotation, but given recent fights, perhaps "Fight Night" would be a big seller.

From Matt
Is this Metro's way of training us for when it is appropriate to call the police?

Is this the new thug virtua-trainer?

Also, should Metro be selling ad space to products which claim to be for mature users only?

Back at the end of March, the 9A's route was detoured. On the detours page, this is what Metro published.

From David:
Not sure which is worse, that they listed they listed the status as FUBAR, or that they butchered the spelling of FUBAR.
Other items:
WMATA poised to sell land along Green Line (GGW)
Two new websites help you measure Metro. SFW Version/NSFW version

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Woodley Park Rider Recounts Yesterday's Chaos

Photo: Daquella manera

An eyewitness account of the Woodley Park station in the wake of yesterday's stabbing at the National Zoo.

From Jay:
Yesterday, around 5:30 p.m. at the Woodley Park station, I observed
hundreds of teenagers rushing the faregates to get down to the platform.

There were so many that they were getting backed up on the [broken] down
escalator, and police officers were stationed at the street entrance barring
anyone else from coming down.

That effort was too late of course, as the throng of teens who had already
entered were so rowdy that they were shoving and elbowing everyone out of their
path to get to the fare gates. Some were jumping over the gates, and others
were waiting for exiting customers to use their farecards and then push through
the open gate, shoving the paying customer out of the way.

One boy tried to do this to me, but I kept advancing through the gate and
said "excuse me, it doesn't work that way," and he backed up.

I became worried when I saw the enormous mob of people on the mezzanine,
between the fare gates and the street escalators. All were broken and one was
blocked off.

It was hot, in the 80s, and there were people completely stopped on the up
escalator wheezing and grasping the handrails.

I saw customers of all ages getting jostled, and the teens were shouting so
loudly I thought a riot was about to break out. They began chanting something
that sounded like "jump the tracks," and it kept getting louder until the noise
was unbearable.

I ran most of the way up the broken escalator just to get out of there.

I saw one police officer planted on the mezzanine and two on the street
level, but they were not effective. There needed to be at least four or five
more doing something to a) keep the teens from jumping the fare gates, and b)
protect the other customers.

I would not at all be surprised surprised if someone was hurt during this chaos.

Red Line Communications Breakdown

From Dave Tucker:
On April 18, I was on a Red Line train to Shady Grove. I was in the 1st car, #6147.

We had to stop in the tunnel before we got to Tenleytown because of a train ahead of us. When we tried to start moving again, the train wouldn't move forward. We kept going 5-10 feet backward. The driver would stop the train and try again. This happened about 10 times, and the entire time the driver was attempting to contact central control for help, but either his radio didn't work, or central didn't respond.

This was over the course of 10 minutes or so, which was very concerning, especially as we could hear the driver yelling to himself because of the lack of response.

Finally, a police officer, either Metro Transit or Montgomery County, walked into our car and offered assistance to the driver, who told him that either his radio wasn't working or central wasn't responding.

The driver attempted to move the train once more, but again it was unable to move forward. Finally, 15 minutes after stopping, the train slowly pulled into the station.

I'm not sure if the officer was able to establish communication with Central or whether the driver's radio began working again, but upon arrival at Tenleytown, our train was offloaded and most were able to board the next train, the lead car of which was #4037.

Obviously, mechanical problems happen, but it was extremely concerning that our train operator was out of communication with central for such a long period of time and that there was no back up communication plan in place. What would have happened had we not had the officer on our train? What if a medical emergency had occurred?

The entire experience left me with a sense that should something major go wrong with Metro, they will be extremely unprepared to deal with the problem and that bothers me much more than being delayed 20 minutes on a Monday evening.
Other items:
Riders save elderly couple who fell onto tracks (Examiner)
Va. governor calls for Dulles station reversal (WTOP)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Harrowing Account of Yet More Metro Violence

From an anonymous reader:
I have never been more disgusted or shocked by what I witnessed Saturday night at the Anacostia Metro. I went to pick up a family member at the Metro, and just as she was telling me about the fights (Yes, plural!) that happened on the Green Line train [between L'Enfant and Anacostia], we witnessed a group of 6 to 8 young black teenagers kick, stomp, punch and push a lone teenage girl.

I could not believe my eyes! I also could not believe there was not an officer in sight.

I had to lay on my car horn for over a minute before the assault stopped.

I called 911, and less than a minute later another fight broke out. Another woman was being assaulted.

Driving away, I finally had to go back up MLK and speak to an officer parked at Savoy Elementary school who headed over to the Metro.

On the way home, my cousin told me about her terrifying ride. She told me about young men punching the trains at L’Enfant, yelling at people, and pushing women. At no time did she see any officers step in.

When she got on the train toward Anacostia, a group of teenagers proceeded to verbally and physically assault a group of young women. One of the boys threw a bottle and another threw the contents of a bottle in one of the woman’s face. The assaults got so out of hand that some people landed on a woman and her baby.

The attacking group had the doors to the train blocked so people couldn’t get off the train. My cousin told me she was so scared that she hid behind some seats and pulled out the box cutter she used for work.

I am outraged. I can't believe a series of assaults would occur between L'Enfant and Anacostia and there would not be a single Metro or D.C. police officer on the scene!

This is not the first time I have experienced unruly teens on the Green Line, and it’s not the first time I have heard of assaults at the Anacostia station.

What are the police doing about this? It’s getting warmer, school is about to be out, and there should be a stepped up presence on the Metro lines at night.

People should not feel like they have to arm themselves to ride the damn train. Clearly, relying on Metro to keep its riders safe is a mistake.
TBD appears to have another account.

@SFBART vs. @metroopensdoors

@metroopensdoors, the official WMATA Twitter feed, is about the least fun feed on Twitter. It's a seemingly never-ending list of bad news, with virtually no interaction with customers. In fact, @metroopensdoors only follows four people, all beat reporters with local media. Over the past two years, since we've been following it, they've responded to customers via Twitter only a handful of times, if that. They have almost 9,400 followers. They don't even retweet the good tweets that do appear from time to time.

@SFBart, the Twitter feed for San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit, is not something you'd call extremely entertaining, but it's far from the gloom and doom of @metroopensdoors. With 12,700 followers, @SFBART engages, announces interesting facts, follows others and makes an effort to address customers' concerns.

We reached out to the PR department at BART to try to get a peek into the way they operate. They were very responsive and incredibly friendly. Here's what Melissa Jordan of the BART communications team had to say.

Do you tweet all BART disruptions?

No, we made a conscious choice and tried to educate our Twitter followers that our Twitter feed is not automated--it is run by humans, and we are here to do it during our business hours, generally daytime on the weekdays.

We put this explanation of our Twitter feed on our website, and we reinforce it with signoff messages, for example, at the start of a weekend reminding people where to go for official service advisories.

BART has existing, extremely reliable, robust channels for getting official services advisories -- through our mobile site, signups for email or SMS alerts or on-demand SMS. These are the places we want customers to go for the most reliable and timely information. They are much more stable than Twitter, even with fewer failwhales these days.

We have had some customer feedback asking for a separate, automated Twitter service advisory feed and we are looking into that right now. However, we would still want to educate customers about the limitations of that. An automated feed is not going to be the Twitter experience that many people expect -- for example, with interaction to be able to ask questions and get answers. An automated Twitter feed simply would be a mirror image of the information people already can get through our more reliable service advisory channels. It would have the same pros (doesn't sleep, doesn't take a day off) and cons (ignores you, doesn't feel your pain) of any automated feed.

How important a role is Twitter seen as having in BART's overall rider communication plans?

We have found Twitter to be very useful in communicating with riders, and have heard good feedback from riders that they like communicating with us that way. A couple of obvious areas where Twitter has been especially helpful are: 1) During rapidly changing breaking news situations, where we can post updates very quickly and easily; and 2) In the ability to quickly and easily point people with links to more in-depth sources of information that already exist on our website. One of Twitter's greatest strengths can also be a shortcoming -- the 140-character short-format message. We use it for brief bursts of information but often need to send people elsewhere for longer explanations with more context, such as our main website or our medium-format blog.

How do you add an element of fun to the stream? WMATA's feed largely consists of disruptions and links to press releases about upcoming disruptions.

We try to add an element of fun, when appropriate, by interacting with our riders and facilitating the sharing of their experiences. Public transportation is a big part of daily life for a lot of people. Transit riders are a community of people with shared experiences. There are good days and bad days. I think a lot of our people who follow us on Twitter do it because they can relate. The warm fuzzy when someone tweets about seeing a random act of kindness on the train, or shares a photo of a gorgeous sunset over a station. The "I'm not alone" feeling when someone else says they are dog-tired after a long day of work and really wish they could be home with their family right now, or cannot believe that person next to them is really clipping their fingernails on the train. We've all been there. Of course, there is nothing "fun" about a delay or a serious incident, so we have to exercise the right tone to match the particular situation at any given time.

WMATA follows only four people--all transportation beat reporters with local media. How does BART benefit from following people?

Following people has practical benefits and also seems to be a big part of bringing that humanizing element, knowing your audience and interacting with them and not just one-way broadcasting. In particular you can't exchange direct messages without mutually following, and sometimes you need to DM (direct message) -- for example, exchanging email addresses or dealing with a really specific, individual issue that not everyone wants to see. Following others creates a richer stream of public transit riders' life experiences to draw from, instead of the picture you would get if you only saw messages sent specifically to you.

What other duties do you have, and how long per day would you say that you spend on Twitter, either reading tweets, or tweeting?

I am one-half of a two-person website team that runs all of our online operations (web, mobile web, opt-in email and SMS messaging, open data, social media) and is also integrated into a communications department handling broader non-online communications duties. I probably spend about an hour each day in total on all social media including Twitter.

How much leeway are you given--for example do your tweets have to be approved before being sent?

Our tweets aren't approved by anyone else. We have probably four decades in communications experience, and we've established a record that we use good judgment.

Do you have any data/anecdotal evidence that your forays into social media are effective in bolstering BART's reputation?

By having regular, honest, timely, credible communications on Twitter, I think it supports the case that we are trying to communicate with customers in a direct and real way, overall. I don't have any hard data on that although we have many positive anecdotal remarks of the kind I sent in the screengrabs.

Our Marketing & Resesarch Department does a Customer Satisfaction Survey every two years, and it has an open-ended section where people can add comments. One of the verbatims that a customer gave was the following; it's anecdotal but nice to see:
"I follow BART on Twitter and find it really useful! It's good outreach and information. Keep it going!"
As a communications staff, how much access do you have to information within BART?

We have very good access to information within BART, in general. Usually, our customer services department is my liaison to other departments such as operations when an issue comes up, and they look into the matter so we can respond quickly and effectively to the questions that are brought up by customers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rider Hall of Shame: Seatard

Photo from Eric

See other Hall of Shamers here.

Other items:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DC Strives to be Like NYC (NSFW)

Kinda similar to this.

Thanks to "Grip X" for the tip.

WTF Happened at Woodley Park?

Photo: Mieko Yamaguchi

Update from Metro: "We received a call from the Zoo Police regarding a group of youth who were fighting and headed toward Woodley Park. The youth did enter at Woodley Park and were disruptive. They were contacted at Gallery Place, warned by Transit Police and sent on their way."

This makes you wonder what many Metro stations would be like in a real emergency.

Twitter was abuzz (sample) about a clusterfrack at Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan. It was hard to tell what happened, but there certainly were broken escalators and unruly teens.

A friend texted from there at 5:43 p.m. that "Woodley Park Metro escalators, up and down, just came to an abrupt halt. Super crowded."

Here's a later perspective from Karen:
I got off the train at approx 6:25 p.m., and the platform was packed with hundreds of teenagers, pushing and shoving each other to get on the trains (both tracks had trains that had just arrived)

I saw one Metro cop standing at the top of the first, shorter escalator looking down at the train platform, presumably seeing all the pushing and shoving, but he did not come down or say anything. He just watched.

I got past the farecard reader, and it was pandemonium on the upper level platform. That is because NONE of the three escalators were working.

People were jammed trying to decide what to do.

There was a large crowd at the elevator and hordes of people streaming down the escalators.

That also made it difficult for passengers to go UP because people were walking down all three broken escalators.

Teenagers (mostly boys) were pushing and shouting and being basic, unruly teenagers.

Mix that together with tourists, strollers, a man in a wheelchair and rush hour commuters, and it was extremely chaotic.

During my wait for the elevator (at least 4 trips went up and down before I could get to the front of the crowd and board), a few Metro cops came down the escalators and shouted at the kids to stop loitering and either board a train or get out of the station.

That did little to thin out the crowd.

The real issue was the broken escalators.

Even if there were not hundreds of teenagers there at rush hour, you would still have had the normal evening commuters, and they would have had to walk up that extremely long escalator. I am young, I don't mind walking but the tourists with strollers cannot.

It's Easter and Passover week and spring break, so how can the station that services the National Zoo have no working escalators?

This is the second time this week - on Monday (I think), there were no down escalators, just one going up.
If you can add any other information, please do in the comments.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is Newspaper Garbage Worse than Food Garbage?

@bdennisr Hoarders: The Metro Episode @unsuckdcmetro

Via @empresspam Pigs @ (@ King Street Metro Station)

Via @kazahel
Jackass just left this on the seat next to me.

Curious about what other riders think.

From T.:
I know you've posted a lot about eating on the Metro and the resulting garbage, but to me the bigger problem, in terms of filth on the Metro, is all the newspaper refuse left behind by lazy, unthoughtful riders.

It's not uncommon to see entire cars strewn with discarded Expresses and Examiners--less so other papers, I assume because people actually pay for those.

Not only are this unsightly, but over the years, I've seen them used to hide more serious piles of shame such as bodily fluids.

Don't get me wrong. I like having the papers available, if only for the sudoku, but I have a few questions about the arrangement between Metro and Express/Examiner.

Does Metro get any benefit or money by allowing these companies to freely distribute their for-profit products on Metro property?

Do these companies help pay for the man hours Metro must spend to clean up the garbage?

Does Metro get a break on advertising in these papers?
We asked Metro, and, in short, the answers are as follows:


Here's more:
"No, we do not get any compensation from the papers for cleanup. The Washington Post did provide the recycle bins which are located in the mezzanines. We have posted signs and the train operators ask customers repeatedly to take their papers and belongings with them.

The decision to allow the hawkers was because we felt it was a value added service for our customers."
And speaking of the recycling bins:

From Chris:
The other afternoon, I was in Union Station about to enter through the turnstiles in the middle of the platform, and I saw a worker collecting the trash from one of the bins.

I then watched as they continued to the newspaper-only bin.

They dumped the contents in with the trash that was just collected.

Why are they going through the effort of setting up special bins and asking us to recycle when they just throw the contents away with the trash?
Other items:
Nationals' greed may hinder Metro's ability to take fans home (WAMU)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Metro Parking Guide

Photo via thisisbossi

Metro offers parking at nearly half of its stations. (Here's data on usage.)

Some of you use parking every day, others only from time to time.

A reader suggested a user-generated guide to parking at Metro, so here's your chance to sound off about what's good, what's bad and to share any tips you might have for a particular station.

You know, stuff like "get there before 8, or you're screwed," or "hide all valuables." What are the Kiss & Rides like? How's the reserved parking? Whatever you think needs to be said.

I've seeded the comments with the names of stations that have parking, according to Metro's website.

Make your comment about a particular station by using the reply feature.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Soggy Bottom


Here's a real pic.

Original peep pic

"Like Cattle"


Addition: this post sheds some light on the doors closing issue.

From Stephen who says he reported this incident to Metro:
On April 13, at Wheaton, we boarded, and then the doors closed on someone's bag behind him. It was caught, and he was struggling to pull the bag in but couldn't.

Instead of doing something about it, the operator made an announcement that the person who was holding the door open was delaying people.

This is not the first time I've seen a driver refuse to release a bag, so I got on the intercom and told her that SHE was holding things up by not releasing the doors.

We got into an argument that ended with her threatening to call the police.

A few weeks ago, I complained that a Metro train door had snatched a woman's purse away from her and taken it away, leaving her on the platform.

Last December, Metro doors closed and separated a woman from a child in a stroller.

In 1999, Metro separated a woman from a very small child. The child panicked, tried to go in the direction of his mother, and WAS KILLED!

No doubt, Metro would blame it on the child's poor judgment.

It's the same attitude they exhibited a couple of years ago, when a Metrobus hit and killed two women crossing the street in a crosswalk, on the walk signal.

Metro's response was to install blinking lights on the fronts of their buses and add a talking alert to warn people that they're coming through!

Metro's solution is to blame the passengers.

How many people does Metro have to kill before it shapes up, does things right and stops treating us like cattle?
Other items:
How will new VA seat on Metro Board shake things up? (Examiner)
Officials invited to discuss Dulles rail station (WaPo)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rider Hall of Shame: Doorman

From Alex:
This guy got on the Green Line to Greenbelt on the evening rush from Chinatown. He proceeded to sit there and make people walk around him, even when the train pulled into numerous stations. What I didn't grab a picture of was that he also put his feet up and blocked people's path. Can you say fire hazard?
See other Hall of Shame members:
The Encroacher
Wide Stance
Arm Barber!
Fetal Seat Hog
Don't Mind me
La-Z Boy (or Girl)
Super Mega Fail
Ottoman Empire
Happy Thanksgiving from Metro
Your move
Full-On, 4-seat Fail
Everybody cut, everybody cut
Cheekhanger II: Revenge of the Cheeks
Anger Management
Metro Employee Chillaxin'
Cheekhanger III: Pole Strikes Back
Party Down

Other items:
Major track work this weekend (WMATA)
Illegal Metro parkers busted at Twinbrook (NBC4)
More trouble for Dulles rail (Examiner)
Board outlines ways to trim budget (WTOP)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Meet Service Pit Bull

Here he/she is. You may remember him/her from this post.

@crackacraig recalled seeing the dog in a sweater, and @BRAatDC said the dog was well behaved.

Thanks to @BRAatDC for the photo.

Yet Another Perv


If you've been a victim of this guy, contact Investigator Lang at rlang[at]

From Jess:
I wanted to alert everyone to another sleazy guy on the Metro. I have contacted Investigator Lang from having read the other grope articles, and below is what I wrote:

I want to report an issue on the Orange line.

I got on at Court House at around 5:30 p.m. The train was already packed.

As the doors were closing, a man forced his way in behind me.

Within seconds, he was pushing himself up against my back with his very obvious erection pressing into my hip.

The more I tried to lean or move away from him, the more he pressed himself against me.

As soon as the train arrived at Clarendon, I moved away from him, but he followed me.

The train was still incredibly packed, so I didn't have a lot of room to move.

I was able to block myself with my purse, and at the Virginia Square stop, I told him to stay the f*** away from me. I said it loud enough for others around me to hear.

Then, I jumped off the train and onto another car.

I think he got off at Ballston.

He was tall, around 6' with tan skin. He could be Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian, or Spanish.

He was wearing a track suit--maybe green and black--and a chain (not sure if it was gold or silver).

His face was scruffy and looked as though he needed to shave.

He had dark short hair, a little wavy with a bit of gray.

He had dark eyes and a longish face.

He kind of reminded me of John Turturro, the actor, think Mr. Deeds.

I'm not sure if this description has been reported before.
Other items:
Ridership down (WMATA)
Metro seeks to staff up at $3.95 million price tag (WMATA)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Great NBC Folo on Parking Abuses

View more videos at:

The metastatic employee is priceless: "Whose problem is that?"

Unsuck has asked GM Sarles what will be done. Stay tuned.

Update: Sarles issues reminder to employees (WMATA)

Operation Blue TIDE

Click for larger.

Here's the flier Metro is handing out to PG County residents as part of Blue TIDE.

Metro Employees Abuse Parking at Huntington

Some nice cars, and even what appears to be a transit cop.

From anonymous:
Grab a vest or make a copy of a parking pass, even a cap will do, and you can park free at Huntington Metro. Happens every weekday at the North Kiss and Ride Lot.
Other items:
Train traveling at no more than 19 mph in rail yard crash (Examiner)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Learning the Metro Ropes

Catatonic Driver

From Michael:
My partner and I got on the S2 on April 7 (bus #6466) at about 6:25 p.m. in front of the Capitol Hilton (16th and L stop).

My partner swiped his card, and the machine beeped. Nothing. He swiped it again. Nothing.

He asked the bus driver if he needed to add money.

The driver mumbled something incoherent.

My partner and I looked at each other like, what the hell.

So he swiped a few more times, and then asked the driver for help in adding money.

The driver just stared off into space.

Finally, my partner put a $10 bill in the machine, which registered, but didn't get added to his card.

My partner asked the driver again for some help.

The driver continued to stare off in space.

He was wearing sunglasses, by the way.

We looked to the other people on the bus, who were also wondering what the hell was going on.

Some of them looked like they are blaming us, but the ones in the front and who could see the rear view mirror could see that the bus driver was catatonic.

Finally, we took seats, since he clearly was not responsive. At this point, I was unsure if he was going to be able to drive, but he did, and it was fine.

At the next stop, more people got on, and one more person needed to add money to their card. She tried to work the machine, to no avail, and asked the driver for help.

Again, no response. Just more staring off into space.

She finally asked someone for some coins, put in some money and sat down.

The people in the front of the bus were just looking at each other, wondering what was going on.

We took the bust to our stop, and there, at 16th and U, we saw a police car. We explained the story to the officer, told him the bus number and the driver's name. He immediately, turned on the lights and stormed up 16th St. Minutes later, 5 more squad cars tore up 16th.

It must have been about 6:40, and I would think the cops would have caught up to him around 16th and Euclid.

I don't know what happened after that, but would appreciate if anyone else knows what happened.
Metro had no report, they said.

Other items:
Metro spared budget axe, says Post
"Peak of the peak" doesn't change riding habits (Examiner)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Burnin' the Midnight Oil

From Jenny:
Unfortunately, I had the pleasure of taking the Metro from Vienna to Clarendon in early March. I usually never take this route, and little did I know there was track work--on a Friday night--right when a Caps game let out.

It took me two hours to go six stops after waiting forever for the initial train, then transferring to a shuttle bus at West Falls Church and waiting at East Falls Church for almost 45 minutes.

I looked over at the end of the East Falls Church platform and what do I see? A bunch of WMATA employees milling around the “construction office,” which was essentially a desk, chair and lamp underneath a passenger shelter.

Just had to share.
Other items:
Plea hearing in alleged Metro bomb plot (WaPo)
After nine years, bus lanes will connect Arlington/Alexandria (Examiner)
Metro operator derailed train after 9-year medical leave (Examiner)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dealing with Troublesome Riders

Video contains explicit language

Several comments yesterday suggested the best way to have handled the rider with the pit bull would have been to take the bus out of service, call Metro cops, tell the woman the cops were on their way, explain to riders what was going on, give them their options and then apologize for the delay.

One former bus operator we spoke with said when they used to drive in rough part of town, there were certain riders who expected a free ride and could present a major danger if denied what they thought was a right.

"People used to ask me how I never got stabbed," they said. "The reason is I just let them on the bus and never confronted them, and if they needed transfers, I gave those to them, too. It' s not worth getting stabbed or beat up."

We were curious about what kind of official training Metrobus drivers receive, so we asked Metro. Here's what they said:
The instructional materials and techniques we use to help Bus Operators deal with customers in general and also difficult customers include:

Basic customer service standards, understanding customer expectations, what transit customers want, how to avoid confrontations, listening skills, the importance of greeting customers, body language, and the importance of positive language.

We teach techniques on avoiding confrontations, how to recognize angry people, how to know the operators own personal triggers, how not to retaliate and how to de-stress after difficult encounters.

We use interactive video and role-play situations where students practice using these strategies and techniques for situations that might arise on the bus, along with more emotionally charged situations where they practice keeping hostility from escalating.

We also cover these same types of customer situations in the context of customers with special needs.
Other items:
Metro considers ways to close budget gap (Examiner)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pitbull, Bus Standoff

DCist first reported a version of this story. Here's another, along with pics.

From Timothy:
At about 8:30 a.m. April 6, at the corner of 3rd and E streets NW, a woman attempted to board bus # 2389 on the D-6 route with a pit bull, apparently claiming it was a service animal.

The dog had a harness and a red vest, but the woman could produce no papers.

When the bus driver refused to allow the woman and dog to board, she and her dog stood in front of the bus, refusing to move.

The bus driver then moved the bus forward attempting to push the woman and dog out of the way!

Metro and DC police were called to the scene, and the bus was off loaded. An ambulance was called, but it was not clear if the woman was injured.
Other items:
McDonnell gets Metro Board seat (WaPo)
Airports Authority recommends underground Dulles station (WTOP)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Metro During a Shutdown

From Metro:
You may be hearing about the possibility of a temporary federal government shut down and wondering how it would impact Metro services.

In order to continue to serve more than a million commuters and visitors traveling daily to work, schools, and hospitals, as well as retail, entertainment venues and sporting events, the Metro system would continue to operate on a normal schedule, but may make adjustments to the number of rail cars in service to match demand and conserve budget resources.

We estimate that the temporary shuttering of certain federal government offices could reduce ridership from 5-20 percent, depending upon the decisions made to continue some federal operations and essential services. In the event ridership decreases to levels of federal holidays, we may operate fewer 8-car trains.

Another Groper

1999 "Don't be a pervert" poster from the Tokyo subway. Via Timothy

From anonymous:
I have been groped three times by the same person. The groper is a male Caucasian, about 5'10", heavier build, around 50 years old.

The last time this happened was late February. I'm sorry I cannot provide a specific date, as I guess I tried to suppress the incident. It was on a weekday at Shady Grove between 7 and 8 in the morning.

He gets on at Shady Grove, and I believe gets off or switches trains at Gallery Place. He always had a blue Jansport backpack.

On all occasions, I would sit on the inside of an empty 2-seater, and over a span of a year, maybe year and half, he has unfortunately sat next to me.

He would attempt to surreptitiously touch my leg with his hands that were beneath his backpack.

I have tried calling Metro police in the past regarding this matter, but the woman who picked up was of no help. She would not log any of the information I had fresh in my head at the time and insisted I go meet with an officer at a station.

If this can be somehow relayed to and taken seriously by Metro police or anyone who can be of help, I would feel so much more comfortable dozing off at times on the train.

Thank you.
Other items:
Metro hires consultant to make business case (Examiner)
Development begins along Silver Line (Fox5)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Nobody is in the Metro" Auto-Tune Remix

The original has been viewed over 150,000 times

Area Man Aims to Write a Song about Every Metro Station

Alexandria resident Jason Mendelson has set out to write a song about every Metro station, starting with those along the Blue Line. You can listen to what he's done so far here.

If you want to hear them live, he'll be at Eastern Market on April 10 from 10 a.m. to noon.

What inspired you to do this?
I just moved to Alexandria six months ago from Tampa. Mass transit is not so great there, so I really enjoyed riding the Metro for sightseeing and going to job interviews. I was very active in the Tampa music scene and basically had to start from scratch when I moved here, so I thought doing something with a local theme would both help get me acquainted with the region better, and make my music a little more interesting to local listeners.

What do you hope will come of it?
I hope to raise awareness and appreciation for rapid transit, in addition to just having fun writing, recording, and performing the songs. Of course, sometimes I feel like WMATA isn't exactly helping!

Have you played the songs live before?
I have played most of the songs live at open mic nights in the area. Some people probably think I'm a little nuts for being inspired by something as mundane as the trains they take to work everyday.

Are you a regular Metro rider?
Kind of. My wife rides everyday to and from work. I ride as often as I can, which usually amounts to about two round trips per week, usually for sightseeing and fun stuff in DC. I'm starting to try to use it for gigs, too. I recently rode from Braddock Road to Georgia Ave-Petworth with my keyboards and gear for a gig with Down Wilson at the Blue Banana. That was quite a night!

Are you professional musician?
No, I am a senior tax analyst for AOL. I dabbled in the double life for a while, doing taxes by day, and moonlighting at popular piano bars and playing in rock bands in Tampa at night, but now I prefer to keep music as something I think of as fun, on the side. Plus, I can't function on four hours of sleep a night, like I did when I was 25!

Do you plan to make an album of your songs?
I'd like to finish the Blue Line first, as a collection. I don't know if I'd call it an album. It's both sad and exciting to see that medium slowly drift away. My last band in Tampa, It Rhymes With Orange, released two albums on CD and electronically. It was very rewarding to have that tangible product, but also very involved. A couple months ago, I said I wouldn't be surprised if I never made an actual CD again, given the popularity of electronic delivery these days. I also think it's fun for people to put the songs in the order they choose on their portable music player.

What's next?
I definitely would like to finish all Metro stations. If I can finish Blue Line by the end of 2011, I'll be pretty happy! My self-imposed goal of not duplicating the same genre twice is starting to get tricky, though. I'd like to involve other musicians, too, like I did with DC blues guitarist Chris Polk on "Van Dorn Street." That will certainly help-with the creativity and writing aspects of it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Orange Line Fire

Via @Zerkaboid @unsuckdcmetro A front row view of this evenings #wmata #orangeline fire, enjoy:

Transit Cop Patrols Shifted to DC, Away from MD, VA

Unsuck DC Metro has learned that the Metro Transit Police Department has been detailing patrols, normally assigned to Virginia and Maryland, to DC in order to increase presence in pervasive trouble spots like Gallery Place and L'Enfant Plaza.

Riders we talked to had mixed feelings.

"I understand there's more crime in DC, but there have been plenty of crimes in Maryland, including a full-on brawl in Bethesda and a recent assault," said one rider. "I don't know if it's fair that the tax money I pay to Maryland goes to solving DC problems."

A rider in Virginia echoed those sentiments and wondered if criminals would just move to where the police are no longer present.

Another rider said that while they lived in Virginia, they changed trains at L'Enfant and generally agreed with the move.

A source close to the MTPD didn't criticize the move, but they wondered how Virginia and Maryland riders would feel about moving cops normally assigned to patrol Maryland and Virginia to DC.

"This is more a simple lack of resource problem," they said. "The jurisdictions need to step up and realize that if you want services you have to pay for it."

Metro would not "discuss publicly the specifics of deployment of our law enforcement resources," but added that it's important to "keep in mind that the riders of our system travel across jurisdictional lines. For example, a customer of City/County A may work in City/County B and need to pass through high crime station X, so that customer is actually benefiting."

Mary Hynes, Arlington County Board member and Virginia principal member on the Metro Board had the following to say:
The safety of riders in the system is paramount - whether it is in Virginia, DC or Maryland. Recent incidents in some of the DC stations have the potential to discourage Virginia riders from using the system to access their jobs or other activities in the city. I think that Metro police are doing the right thing to aggressively interrupt the climate that has contributed to the recent incidents.

I have been assured that MTPD regular patrols in Virginia have not been reduced. It's my understanding that MTPD specialty units are being appropriately deployed to respond to this critical regional problem.
The source close to the police department said a major problem on the force is that a lot of resources are tied up at the top and are being used in ways that don't necessarily help prevent crime.
[The Metro Transit Police] have well over 420 “sworn officers” but that includes four or five Deputy Chiefs. DC police has about the same amount of deputy chiefs, and they have ten times as many officers. MTPD’s deputy chiefs sit around the office getting coffee for one another and talking about how they are doing a great job at preventing terrorism. Taborn added one a year or two ago that he calls the “executive officer.” It’s like Taborn thinks he’s running an aircraft carrier.

They have another 20 to 25 captains and lieutenants. Most of these are not people who are actually managing police patrol operations. Think about the money tied up in bureaucrats for such a small department A deputy chief makes about $120,000 per year.

They also have 50 sergeants. Only about 25 of them are actually involved in police work. A few more do things like run the training programs and manage the K-9 crew and the SWAT team. The others get coffee for the deputy chiefs. And they are really good at it!

But, wait, there’s more! They have about seven retired police officers who came back as civilians to do the same jobs they did as police officers, except now they get a pension AND a salary.
The source wanted to add that riders should give the officers they see on patrol a break, adding that complaints that officers are sometimes seen hanging out together.
I dare someone to find me one workplace in the entire city where employees don’t spend a small portion of the day talking to co-workers for a few minutes- maybe about what’s going on at work, maybe about a little gossip. They are police officers, not robots. The complainers don’t seem to talk as much about the good work the officers do; instead they just complain that they saw a handful of them talking. For how long? Five minutes, even 10? Is that really that big of a deal?
Other items:
Metro launches first retail (WMATA)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Metro Announces New Proposals to Decrease Expected FY12 Budget Deficit, Public Hearings to be Scheduled

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), facing a 72 million dollar budget gap at the start of the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011, will hold public hearings throughout the region this spring to gauge public opinion on a variety of proposals that will help the agency maintain a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The proposals were approved yesterday by Finance and Administration Committee of the Board of Directors. The schedule of pubic hearings will be officially set at the next board meeting and released shortly thereafter.

The highlight of the new budget balancing measures is the “Fair Fare Fees” (FFF) program, which the Board of Directors, at the recommendation of the WMATA staff, hopes to implement for the start of the next fiscal year. “After the introduction of the peak of the peak fare last year and the accusations from some members of the public that we were unfairly targeting rush hour riders with the burden of additional fees, it only seemed right that we create additional fees so that riders at all times of day can partake in as many parts of our fare structure as possible,” said Board Chair Catherine Hudgins. “The proposed FFF program will achieve that goal. Additionally, implementing FFF will create additional revenue for the agency without raising fares, and riders will now be able to selectively choose to only pay for the parts of the system that they use or cause to experience wear and tear. Finally, WMATA has always been at the forefront of innovations in the American public transit industry, and we will remain at the forefront of revolutionizing fare structures to meet the needs of our current economic conditions.”

The following are the proposed fees that would be implemented under phase one of the FFF initiative:

  • Peak of the Off Peak: A 15 cent surcharge will be charged for all trips during the midday rush at lunchtime between 11 AM and 1:30 PM weekdays
  • Peak of the Overnight: In order to maintain consistent branding for the entire “Peak of the…” program, the regular fare period after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays will be renamed to be the “Peak of the Overnight.”
  • Peak of the Peak remains unchanged
  • Elevators will be charged at a rate of 15 cents for the elevator from the street level to mezzanine level and at a rate of 10 cents for the elevator from the mezzanine level to the platform level. The elevators between platform levels at transfer stations will cost 10 cents to use. A Smartrip card will be required to call the elevator. Senior & Disabled Smartrip cards will not be charged this fee. Passengers with large amounts of luggage, baby carriages, and the like who wish to apply for a waiver may do so by presenting themselves to the station manager, either before or after elevator use occurs. The station manager has the sole authority to determine whether a waiver should be issued. If the waiver is granted, the passenger must fill out the form provided by the station manager and send it to the Smartrip Regional Service Center by mail. It will be recommended that passengers who expect to request waivers should allow an extra 30 minutes at both the entrance and exit locations of their journey to locate the station manager, in the event he or she is not in the kiosk, engaging in socializing with fellow coworkers, or otherwise not accounted for. Passengers who do not have Smartrip cards will not be able to call the elevators. Additionally, infrared technology will ensure that the number of people who board the elevator is equal to the number of people who called it through the use of their Smartrip cards.
  • Air conditioning will only be available in the first, second, and fifth cars of 6 car trains, and in the first, second, seventh, and eighth cars of 8 car trains. A 20 cent rebate will be provided to passengers who ride in one of the cars without air conditioning, made available through Smartrip targets that will be installed in each car and activated in the appropriate cars. No refunds will be provided for riders who do not claim their rebate on board the train.
  • Seats will cost 10 cents per use. Spikes will be installed on all seats; these spikes will only be lowered after a Smartrip card has been used to pay the fee. Senior & Disabled Smartrip cards will not be charged this fee. In the event someone with a Senior & Disabled Smartrip card needs a seat, when that Smartrip is touched to the target for the seat the rider wishes to use, if it is occupied, a spring will eject the passenger who is occupying the seat. For riders who voluntarily give up their seat in the judgement of the Senior or Disabled rider, a 5 cent refund will be given to the passenger who vacated the seat. For riders who involuntarily give up their seat, no refund will be given. Passengers who wish to have guaranteed access to the railfan seat may join the WMATA Railfan Seat Club for a monthly fee of $10, an annual fee of $105, or a lifetime fee of $4200. Passengers in the WMATA Railfan Seat Club will be able to eject non-club members from the railfan seats on each train in the same manner Senior and Disabled passengers will force regular riders out of seats they wish to use. Other perks may be provided to members of the WMATA Railfan Seat club at a later date, and club members will not have to pay the application fee for MOBOOP, which is outlined below.
  • Due to the fact that all the fare charts on the farecard machines in each station will need to be printed in size 2 font in order to list all the new fees and possible fares for each station, souvenir WMATA magnifying glasses will be on sale at all stations for 5 cents. It will be recommended that riders save their magnifying glass for future use to avoid having to pay this fee more than once.
  • Riders who are discovered to post negative things about WMATA to online social media, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, message boards such as DC Area Transit Zone and Subchat, or blogs such as Unsuck DC Metro and Greater Greater Washington, before, during, or after traveling on Metrorail, will be charged a libel fee. Libel fees will be a minimum of 10 dollars per offense, but major offenses or repeat offenders may be charged up to 100 dollars. Riders who post complimentary things to the same types of social media listed above may be eligible to win waivers that will exempt them from some or all elements of FFF for varying lengths of time, depending on the level of the praise. These charges and waivers will be issued under the sole discretion of the Media Relations Office.
  • For those who do not wish to participate in our new security initiative, “Metro Opens Bags”, a one time fee of $362.73 can be paid to join the “Metro Opens Bags Opt Out Program” (MOBOOP). Passengers in MOBOOP will have to pass a background check before being allowed to participate, at which time they will be issued a special Smartrip card that will indicate to the Metro Transit Police officers and Transportation Security Administration agents that they are exempt from Metro Opens Bags. Passengers who fail to pass the background check will still be required to pay the fee to cover the administration of the background check and other logistics involved in processing the application to join the program, even though the application was not successful. Although this capability will not be added to Smartrip cards until the next generation card is developed and issued, the Board of Directors plans to approve MOBOOP as part of FFF. It should be noted that a 5 dollar fee will still be charged for the purchase of the next generation Smartrip card, in addition to the one time MOBOOP fee.

Once the public hearing schedule is set and the official docket is released, instructions on how to submit public comments on FFF will be made available through a press release. “We look forward to hearing what riders have to say about the exciting innovations that we plan to implement to the fare structure next fiscal year,” Hudgins said following the meeting. If phase one of FFF is deemed successful, phase two would expand FFF to include Metrobus and Metroaccess, in addition to other aspects of Metrorail that are not included in phase one. The full Board of Directors will take a vote at its next meeting on whether to approve the recommendation of the Finance and Administration Committee.

Via: (h/t @perkinsms aka @smartpasses)

April Fools' Arrives Early on Metro

Via @jameslosey What's wrong with this picture? @wmata metro #fail

Metro was uncharacteristically ahead of schedule--this time for April Fools'.

On March 30, one operator gave lunchtime riders a scary view of the third rail at Farragut North when they opened the wrong side doors.

Don't lean on those doors since you never know where you might get offloaded.

Safety is the top priority indeed.

Other items:
Metro's budget woes continue (Examiner)
Metro mulls new downtown stops (WaPo)
Rider discovers farebox flaw (Examiner)
NBC4 on Metro groper's arrest
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