Monday, April 30, 2012

Reaction to Switch Malfunction Led to Derailment

What should have been a story about how things went right for Metro turned instead into a derailment, according to several sources familiar with the incident and subsequent investigation.

As the Washington Post reported, the operator of the train saw a red signal at the switch just inside the tunnel on the western end of Rosslyn station. In technical terms, the switch was "out of correspondence."

Correctly, the operator notified operations control center (OCC) which then ordered the operator to hold the train, perform a visual inspection of the switch and get assistance from "nearby crew."

That crew was was an automatic train control (ATC) technician who installed a clamp to the malfunctioning switch. The clamp, had it been properly installed, was supposed to keep the switch in the correct position and would have allowed trains to proceed without incident.

While the ATC tech may have felt the clamp was installed tightly, they apparently failed to notice a "small obstruction" in between the switch point and main track on the switch which prevented the clamp from "tucking" the point snugly under the main rail, leading to the derailment, said sources.

Here's how Metro's own internal reporting system described the incident:
At 2025hrs ATC Supervisor Craven informed MOC that switch 3 was clamped normal, but the switch was clamped with a 2 inch gap and was not tucked.
One source said it was possible that the gap was initially much less than two inches and may have looked OK. They said it's possible that the train wheels, as they derailed, forced the gap to widen to the reported two inches.

According to two sources, after installing the clamp, the tech was supposed to "check the point" to make sure it was properly tucked under the main rail.

"You have to inspect everything," said an ATC worker. "If anything like this happens, it's ATC's fault. The guy should have checked the point. He was just being lazy."

Other sources said that the obstruction in the switch was a "fluke" or "freak occurrence," but they agreed there is no excuse for the ATC tech or the operator not to notice something was still wrong even after the clamp was installed.

This particular tech, two sources confirm, has been written up once before for falling asleep in a truck.

According to Metro's own handbook, "Cranking and Blocking of Switches":
According to FRA specifications, a switch point must close within 1⁄4’’ of the stock rail. In some cases, the point may have a slight opening, but the tip is still under the head of the stock rail. This is perfectly fine.
If a switch point is not within 1⁄4’’ of the stock rail, it is not safe for the passage of trains. If a switch has been damaged by trailing or other accident, it might not be possible to get the switch point to tuck. In this case, train movement must not be allowed over the switch.
And, as with most Metro problems, things were only made only worse by operations control center's (OCC) disconnect from what actually happens on the tracks, said one source.

At first, said one source, OCC was "was under the impression the train was completely in the tunnel" when the majority of the train was actually still on the platform.

Furthermore, Metro's standard operating procedure for a derailment dictates that power is to be cut for both tracks. It makes sense in most places as the tracks are side by side.

However, at Rosslyn (and Pentagon) the tracks are not side by side, they're on different levels, meaning it would have been safe to single track through the area, causing less of a service disruption.

Since the staff at OCC apparently did not realize Rosslyn's configuration, they issued an order to cut power to both tracks and establish a shuttle bus bridge around Rosslyn.

This led to initial confusion for riders at the scene immediately after the derailment.

After about 30 minutes, with several pleas to single track form those on the scene, OCC realized it could single track safely through Rosslyn and the bus bridge was aborted.

"When sh*t really hits the fan, I have to trust my life to those people [at OCC], said one veteran Metro worker. "The only information is what I'm getting from them. That's a scary proposition.They just had a bunch of new controllers come in off the street. They don't know the system."

Other items:
Silver Line phase II in doubt (WaPo)
Advocates question elimination of peak of the peak (Examiner)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Metro: 'We got the Wheel'

And we're driving this thing over a cliff.


This is one of Metro's newest buses. It's definitely out of service, perhaps forever.

Meanwhile, while Metro is husbanding OUR resources so carefully, fares are being hiked--again!

Other items:
Fare evasion costs Metro $1.8 million/year if not more (Fox5)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Taking Jeter's Cue

ATU 689's president, Jackie Jeter, often speaks using highly charged words, and it appears her attitude trickles down to some front-line employees.

From Robert:
I wanted to share this email I sent to Metro this morning about my morning commute:

Dear Metro-

So, I’m wondering if any of your employees get customer service training?

I ask this because I am a follower of the blog, and it is replete with stories of ridiculously rude employees, and I had my own face to face with this ridiculous rudeness last Friday morning at the Dupont Station.

The employee had his name written in red marker across his yellow vest. I think it read “Wilkie” as his last name.

At 8:21:36 a.m., I used my SmartTrip card to enter the station.

I guess I was too close to the woman in front of me because Mr. Wilkie stopped me to ask to see my card.

Your cards are so ridiculously fragile (I’m on my third one.), that I have it in a credit card sleeve inside a taped/stapled name badge attached to a retractable string along with my office credentials.

He wanted me to unstaple and remove the card from the sleeve to show him the card, and I asked him whether he could just swipe it on the reader in the kiosk like I have had done on other occasions. A simple card swipe would satisfy any reasonable person’s inquiry as to whether I had just committed the crime of ‘fare evasion’ as he began accusing me of.

Well, this employee went into a tirade about how he was "not my slave," and that I should not take a condescending tone with him.

He went on for what seemed several minutes about my tone and using a slave analogy. Was he saying this because I happened to be white and he happened to be black?

I kid you not. He kept saying to me, "stop using that tone. I'm not your slave. Stop treating me like your slave." It was really mystifying that he was using that word.

All I was trying to convey to him was that to take my SmartTrip card out of the sleeve would take a few minutes and would force me to put it back into my wallet and risk be demagnetized again, and that I knew the kiosk had a reader.

And you can see that it is in fact a SmarTrip card in there because it peaks through the sleeve (which you can see in the pic I attached for you [above].) It was a really odd exchange.

Perplexed, I replied to him, "I have had other Metro employees pass my card over a reader without taking it out of this sleeve. Why can’t you?"

He grabbed my card and pulled it as far as the string would go, which didn’t quite make it to the reader from where I was standing.

I took one step closer to the manager’s kiosk, and the card reached the reader and swiped just fine.

The guy then said “OK- you're good.”

So, after all that there was no fare evasion.

So my question is what kind of professionalism training do your employees get?

When I call Verizon about issues with my wireless plan, no one has ever told me to stop treating them like their slave. So odd.

All I want is to ride Metro and make it to and from Dupont and Rockville in the posted 26 minutes. I didn’t need the extra four minutes of attitude from your employee.

All he needed to say to me was "I didn’t see your card register, sir, may I swipe it to make sure our machines are reading your card properly?"
Seriously, please continue to work to UnsuckDC Metro. You have a LONG way to go to MetroForward from where you are.
Other items:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Enough is Enough

via Timothy

With each Metro screw up, I get several emails saying we need to boycott Metro, and yesterday's "minor derailment" makes me think it's time to do something.

For almost three and a half years, I, along with many of you, have been publicly (and rightfully) shaming a "transit system" gone totally amok. Over and over again, the same stories gush out of Metro: more accidents, more waste, more theft, more obfuscation, more marketing, less reliable service, less safety and higher and higher fares.

And the cherry on top of this whole sh*t sundae is that no one--from the top to the bottom--is ever held accountable.

Nothing changes other than the fares.

The Board, which ostensibly is supposed to oversee Metro, has abrogated its responsibility and, like a junkie (and most of the media in this town), is totally dependent on Metro staff for all of its information.

This little nugget in a recent Washington Times article illustrates just how hoodwinked we all are about the Board's oversight role and why I'm pessimistic about real change.
Metro Board of Directors determines agency policy and provides oversight for its funding, operation and expansion, but its members declined over the past two weeks to discuss the series' findings, instead referring inquiries to Mr. Sarles or to Metro’s public affairs office.
Say what?

That's not the way it's supposed to work.

Here's what Metro's website says about the Board's role:
The Metro Board of Directors determines agency policy and provides oversight for the funding, operation, and expansion of transit facilities within the Transit Zone.
Seems like Metro has its governing board wrapped around its finger.

Are there other groups that might offer hope? The NTSB? Nope. TOC? Nope. FRA? Nope.

As one retired Metro worker says, it's like Metro is a 51st state, with its own rules, answering to no one.

It's all the more frustrating when Sen. Barbara Mikulski from Maryland, someone the media calls, one of "Metro's toughest critics," praises Metro's leadership for bringing a "new day" when we all know it has been business as usual at Metro ever since the New Jersey regime took over.

No one who can effect change is listening to us.

So what can we do?

You could sign a well-intentioned petition. But if nearly three years of constant shaming doesn't make a difference in how Metro operates, I don't think a petition will either. Still, sign it. What the hell, right?

A one-day boycott is an option many throw out there, but I'm not sure it's the right way to go. I'm not sure it's wrong, either.

Mass fare evasion is another idea some have offered up, but I see a lot of downside to that as well.

Many said they'd toss in a few bucks to buy an ad on Metro that would humiliate them, but Metro is immune to shame. They have none.

Frankly, I think we need to do something, but I've thought a lot about it, and I'm stumped about what the best course of action would be.

What could we do to attempt to force the fundamental change that's needed at Metro and the way it is governed before someone else dies under a morally and financially bankrupt system?

Share your ideas in the comments, and let's come up with a plan.

Other items:
McDonnell, Kaine spar over Dulles funding (Examiner)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rush+ Hinges on Three Things Metro Does Poorly

Via @Danr

Via @bbarasky

According to Metro's video explaining Rush+ (spending more money marketing it here, here and here), there are three crucial items necessary for its success.

1. PIDs with correct information
2. Well marked trains
3. Clear operator announcements


How's that going to work out?

Other items:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Driven to Drive

From J.T.:
Last season, I went to a lot of Nats games. I took Metro every time.

By the end, the whole experience was getting so unpleasant, but it wasn't until one evening being offloaded, getting sardined with a bunch of strangers on a hot August evening and then yelled at by Metro police that it finally dawned on me: "Why am I doing this?"

Like so many others, I'd just blindly thought that just because Metro went to the stadium, it was the best way to go. Go Metro! Go Nats! right?

Not by a long shot.

Via @unncola #wmata post nationals game no trains /cc @unsuckdcmetro

This year, I've been driving. I go with the same group of friends nearly every time, and it has never been a hassle.

None of us are big drinkers, so there's no worry about drinking and driving. (And if you're getting drunk paying ballpark beer prices, you can probably afford a cab.)

The parking is cheap and plentiful, and the congestion to get in, from Arlington, and out clears up quickly.

I never timed my Metro trips, but I'm pretty sure I get home faster driving. I know it's a hell of a lot more comfortable with a lot less stress.

I'd like to be green and all that, but Metro needs to come a long way for this decision to even be close.

Go Nats, but don't go Metro is what I now say.
Oh, and if you were thinking about seeing the Nats play the world champion St. Louis Cardinals (Yes!) over Labor Day weekend, L'Enfant will be closed for track work. (h/t Janet).

Other items:

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Metro Phenomenon

Metro's slick Rush+ video premiere was certainly spoiled by news that a passenger's life might have been saved had Metro bothered to check the battery charges of its defibrillators.

I'd say I'm shocked, but I'm not. I mean look at this litany of consistent, borderline criminal honeybadgerism:
Metro reacts, they're not proactive--ever.

"Sh*t happens" seems to be Metro's guiding principle.

And you want to know why?

Because in their eyes, nothing is ever their fault.

For example, look at the language from their Rush+ press release (It's also used in the video.) They describe overcrowding on the Orange Line as a "phenomenon." (A fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, esp. one whose cause is in question.)

A phenomenon? Seriously? They must think we're pretty dumb.

There's nothing in question about why there's an orange crush. It's actually pretty simple: The trains are poorly spaced, and the headways are too long.

It's not a phenomenon. It's ineffective, lackadaisical management.

Explaining overcrowding as a phenomenon is just Metro showing that it really never accepts responsibility for anything, and really, when you boil it all down, that's what's wrong with Metro.

Anything bad that happens is just a phenomenon. The wise people running Metro had nothing to do with it. It just happened.

Frankly, I'm pleasantly surprised the defibrillator press release didn't read "due to a battery fatigue phenomenon ..."

Dan Stessel did, however, tell WUSA 9 that it was "unfortunate" the defibrillator wasn't charged.

Is that progress?

What's the next Metro "phenomenon" going to be, and who has to suffer because of it?

Footnote: Fox5 said Metro is acting proactively to check the defibrillators. Ha!

Other items:
More Silver Spring transit center drama (Examiner)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sick of Marketing

From Rav:
With Metro about to raise fares--again, why are they hiring a director of marketing for up to $182,188 in annual salary? The PR arm of Metro is already bigger than the safety arm!

Furthermore, why do they need a new marketing director if they already outsource marketing campaigns like the brilliantly lame Metroforward?

Speaking of Metroforward, it's starting to look like they're the only ones willing to advertise in Metro.

Am I the only one sick of Metro becoming more of a marketing entity than a transit agency?

I don't want to fill out yet another survey (a particularly intrusive one, I might add) that asks for my address!

I don't want gimmicky contests and lame prizes like a "poster combo pack."

What I want is affordable, reliable and safe transit in DC.

Let the performance speak for itself. Use all the PR and marketing money to help make Metro work!

All the marketing in the world is not going to cover up what a woeful and super expensive system Metro has become.

Over marketing and constant spin is the last gasp of Metro's death spiral.

Here's my slogan: Rediscover the bike, the walk, the carpool. Anything but Metro!
Other items:
Silver Line takes a hit (WaPo)
Monthly passes "years away" (Examiner)
Silver Spring transit center may have to be rebuilt (Examiner)
127 Hours Metro style (WaPo)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Your Safety is Metro's Top Priority

From Joey:
I commute daily to Navy Yard, and I noticed the camera. It has been this way for over two weeks.

I know the Metro police can't be everywhere, but I thought at least there are cameras to catch any crime.
Other items:
DC bill targets Metro gropers (Examiner)
Metro yanks fiery buses (WMATA) (Examiner take)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rider Reports Truly Bizarre Incident at Rockville

From Michael:
While walking up to the Rockville station, there was a girl in a skirt simply lying on the sidewalk outside the steps to the Metro—right near where the buses pull up.

It was confusing to see this person just on the ground, limbs akimbo. I actually wondered if she needed help or was OK, since she was kind of squirming about flashing everyone.

My wondering stopped once she leaned up onto her hands and knees and did some sort of weird rhythmic bouncing.

I have never been more enthused that I could absorb myself into playing Words With Friends and try to ignore what was going on in front of me.

Unfortunately, to get into the station one had to pass by whatever the hell was going on before me. While I walked by, the girl stood up and then used one of the Metro sign poles as a makeshift … well, pole.

It was then that you could actually make out the attire of the girl: somewhat short plaid skirt, black top with crests and seals and the like. Clearly, she was wearing the outfit of some sort of Catholic/private school. Oh, and she looked very young. Awesome. There was an underage girl doing some sort of bizarre striptease outside the Metro.

Once in the station, waiting for the Glenmont train, one can see down to where the buses pull up. The girl was still out there doing some weird booty dancing, her skirt around her waist, twirling about like this was some 2 Live Crew video gone wrong. Again, just gazing at this was such so bizarre and awkward, I again glued myself to Words With Friends and hoped the five minutes until the next train would come quickly.

Minutes passed, still no train. I looked up to see the time for the train to arrive and take me away from whatever the hell was going on below. Of course, the girl was still out there “dancing.” Only now she had her shirt lifted up and tied around her neck. She also was pounding on buses, flipping them off, and running about. So clearly, what originally possibly could’ve been done as some dare or bet now has turned into “this girl probably has something mentally wrong at the moment and needs help.”

To make matters worse, there were Metro employees outside of the station. None of them did anything to stop the surreal scene. By any means, I’m not some moral guardian who thinks any indecent act leads us on a slippery slope to anarchy, but is a Metro stop really the place for this? Really, considering this girl looked 16 and was dressed in the garb of a high school student, is there any place for this?

Finally, what looked like a Metro employee from my vantage point (blue outfit, patches, etc.) approached the girl. In a rational world where the Metro works like it should work, you would expect him to get her to stop. Nope. Instead the man walked about ten feet behind the girl, took out his camera phone and started recording/taking photos of what was unfolding before him. Obviously, filming a half naked teenager took precedence over doing his job.

The Red Line train arrived, and he was still just recording, the girl still bouncing all over in a state of undress. I expect some issues on the DC Metro, but seriously, this is the first time I’ve rode the Metro where I had to go home and make some herbal tea, listen to Tori Amos, and cry about the state of the world.

Thanks Metro!
Other items:
Study says Silver Line with $386 million in taxes (Examiner)
A story about a bus driver driving with one hand (Examiner)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Add your Voice

From Kurtis Hiatt:
Dear Unsuck readers:

I was recently the victim of an assault on the Metro. A man who was screaming "F--- the white man!" head-butted me and punched me--completely unprovoked, and during a 7 a.m. commute, no less.

What was more troubling than the assault, however, was Metro's response.

The conductor ignored it, the station manager did nothing while he watched the assailant walk by him, and, because of an ineffective Metro Transit Police dispatcher, an officer did not respond until 15 minutes after I called 911.

This is detailed in an account I wrote for The Washington Post.

Beyond the police report (the assailant was arrested and charged), I've filed a formal complaint with Metro, requesting an investigation into the situation and a review of its emergency policies. I haven't heard back yet.

Many comments have already been posted from people with similar experiences, and past posts on this blog tell similar harrowing stories of safety issues on Metro.

So this is where I could use some help.

I'm going to send another complaint to the Metro board, and I'd like to make it stronger by adding more personal accounts from riders who have had safety issues on the train, particularly if you were disappointed in Metro's response. The more details about the situation, the better.

Please add your complaint in the comments and cc, and I will add it to the formal complaint.

When/if you email, please include your name and at least a phone number or e-mail in case the board members ask for contact information.

Thanks for your help!

Other items:
DC council members concerned about Metro's hiring practices (Washington Times)
Long-distance riders bear brunt of fare hikes (Examiner)
Post on Silver Line funding (WaPo)
Half-hearted open data hurts everyone (Raschke on Transport)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Welome Aboard Metrobus

Illustration from this Flickr

From Mark:
Two P6 buses arrived at the Rhode Island Ave. Metro at approximately 7:35 p.m. Tuesday evening.

I had been waiting since 6:25.

Upon boarding the bus (number 2412), I asked the operator about the delay.

He not only got annoyed with me for questioning him, but he ordered me off the bus in a very threatening manner.

He stated he was not moving and that I was "getting off of his bus."

I ran to a Metro police officer I had been talking with, and told them what happened.

They asked the bus operator to take me as long as I did not say anything to him.

Last time I checked, I have a First Amendment right to free speech.

From now on, I will record every bus operator I ask a legitimate to.

Metro, you need to get your act together and stop hiring THUGS!
From Sean:
While in Silver Spring around 5 p.m. on April 5, I was on my bike crossing Georgia Ave. at a pedestrian crosswalk.

I had the light.

Though I was already around halfway through the crosswalk, the driver of the Metrobus made a right turn onto Georgia Ave.

He made no attempt to slow down and would have hit me if I didn't stop.

Despite the fact that I had the right of way, and it was his responsibility to yield, he yelled at me to wait as he passed by.
Other items:
Here come fare hikes (Examiner) (WaPo take)
Metro always eco-friendly (Connection)
DC's escalator nightmare (

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Safety Department Shell Game?

Metro loves to brag about how they've upped the staff of the safety department, and local politicians extol Metro for putting extra emphasis on safety, but when you hear stuff like this, it makes you wonder if it's little more than a shell game.

From a source familiar with Metro:
I know a senior budget manager who had clashed over some big items with senior management and their tendency to fudge some numbers depending on the prevailing winds of local politics. (see story about Metro "finding" $16 million)

He suddenly found himself second in command in the Safety Department!

Now, I know first hand that he has as much experience in safety as I have in brain surgery, so that should show you what an emphasis Metro places on safety.

And that isn't the first time that has happened. There were other cases of people with absolutely no experience in safety being assigned to that department for some on-the-job training.

One of them has done a very good job - when he's not involved in his other career, Army Reserve major and in Afghanistan.

The others? Not so good.
Other items:
Surprise, surprise, Metro's AC sucks (Examiner)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blind Adherence to Rules

Metro sources all tell me Metro likes to write blanket rules that are to be followed blindly, no matter what the situation. The rules are largely written by people who don't ride or don't bother to get out of their cozy offices to take a look at the real-world implications of the rules they make.

Here's an example where pulling to the end of the platform, ostensibly because automatic train operation is still science fiction at Metro, doesn't make sense.

What are some others?

From Paul:
I don't know how many other platforms are like this, but it's completely ridiculous to insist on having all trains at all stations pull all the way up to the front of the platform regardless of the situation.

For example, it is causing turmoil at Fort Totten.

There is only one set of escalators and one set of stairs down to the Green Line platform. Both of those leave you short of the train--if it's a six-car train in the direction of Branch Ave.

I've done this transfer enough to note that the Red Line train to Shady Grove and the Green Line to Branch Ave. arrive at just about the same time every morning at approximately 7:58.

Every day, there is a mad rush to get to this train.

So people are not only running down the escalators, they have to run another car-length or so to get to the train, and then there's this mass of humanity all looking to cram themselves in.

And then they yell at people for holding the car-doors open.

Six-car trains plus platform stairs at the rear-end of the train plus train pulled all the way forward ... You don't have to be a math wizard to figure out this equation.

You can argue that these folks should all be patient and wait for an eight-car train, but why is Metro even putting people in this situation to begin with?

You would think there would be room for some common sense in certain situation.

Oh wait. This is Metro. What am I saying?
Other items:
Fairfax County backs Dulles rail (Examiner)
Station manager likely to get paid vacay for preaching over PA (Examiner)
Silver Line names proposed (WTOP)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Coast is Clear, or is it?

From Ryan:
Last Saturday, my girlfriend and I were on the Orange Line heading toward New Carrollton. At Landover, the operator let us know we would be holding on the platform as a "man and stray dog" were out on the tracks. We sat and waited for roughly 10 minutes when the operator announced we would begin moving again.

Now, you'd assume that meant they knew the man and dog had been cleared, gotten through a fence, that Metro cops had apprehended the man and trespassing canine or that the situation was remedied in some other fashion.

You'd assume.

A couple minutes later we came to a stop. Being in mostly empty front car, I moved forward and looked out the window to see what was going on.

I saw the man and the dog were still out on the rails.

Our train, and a train heading the other way were stopped. The other train let out a few honks as the clearly intoxicated man rambled around with his pants around his knees.

He then picked up the dog and hurled it over the barbed wire onto a lower set of tracks. The throw over the fence was horrific enough, but the other set of tracks was easily another four to six feet below ours, meaning this dog was tossed roughly 12 to 15 feet.

After rolling on the ground and failing to climb the fence several times, the man mounted the barbed wire and threw himself over.

Was there an aftermath? Did the operator seem to care? No.

A simple "train is moving" announcement came on over the speakers, and we carried on as another passenger on the train comforted his girlfriend who began sobbing once the dog was thrown.

At least there wasn't a delay? Right?
Other items:
Metro tweaks fare hike proposal (Examiner) WaPo take
Upcoming track work schedule looks pretty rough (WMATA)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Just havin' a Smoke

Some NSFW language

Other items:
Metro miraculously finds $16 million (WMATA)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Too Little Enforcement?


Interested to hear from people who've called MTPD. (If you can remember the number, that is.)

From a Metro insider/rider:
The other day, I witnessed two women jump the fare gates at the elevator lobby at Gallery Place.

When I spoke to them they said, "who would ever pay for this? I have been caught before, and they just let me go! Too much trouble for those cops to deal with."

Mind you, they were both boarding with drinks and food that they were enjoying.

Wonder how prevalent this is?

I know these two were very comfortable just jumping the gate.

Also, if there can be a live line for sexual harassment complaints - why not for all criminal activity?

Try to get a cop when you need one!

Calling 962-2121 does no good!

Too many officers hanging out in station back rooms or on the bridge at Gallery Place (instead of the walking the platforms) or in the back rooms hidden in parking structures.

Our new motto should be: Too many cops, too little enforcement.
Other items:
Only at Metro would you hear the word "refire." (Examiner)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"A Rail Car Limo Service for One"

Via Timothy

This Metro story was so hard for me to believe that I'm not sure I really do, even though four sources tell me it's true.

Apparently, if you pass out on the last train of the night and make it to the end of the line unconscious, Metro will run a special, unscheduled train--even two--to bring you to your intended destination.

Here's how it works.

When the trains reach the end of the line, operators are supposed to walk through the train. Sometimes, they find a passed out passenger.

When that happens, one source said "it is common for drunks at the terminus stations to be taken back downtown on special trains."

Three other sources confirmed this, one adding that sometimes, the operators don't make the walk through. In these cases, the passed out person may find themselves in the rail yard.

"I think it's the most ridiculous thing," said one source. "They call central, they call a supervisor, they call transit police, they find out where the drunk is going, and they take them there. It's a rail car limo service for one. How many dollars does that cost?"

The source said it happens "every other week" and started when Metro began staying open until three on weekend nights.

"They had one [drunk] in Vienna the other day," one source said. "He had to switch to the Green Line, so they ran him back downtown on a special train and then ran a special Green Line train to take him home."

But you don't even have to be wasted to get a special train.

One employee told me about a time recently when a customer showed up to catch the last train into town one weekend night only to find the train had already left.

The employee wasn't sure if the train left early or the customer was late, but the customer began to get very angry and threatened to sue, saying the schedule was a legal contract. He even called central control to complain. (The employee was unsure how they knew the number.) After escalating the argument, Metro caved and ran a special train to take him from Dunn Loring to Ballston.

Another source said he was less concerned with the money Metro spends on these special trains but rather that running extra, unscheduled trains can potentially narrow already very tight windows during which vital repairs to the system can be done.

"Metro staying open that late makes it very hard to do some of the heavy lifting repairs that are needed all over the system," they said. "These drunks need to take their own responsibility and either not drink so much or suck up a cab fare."

None of the sources knew why Metro does any of this, but one said they thought Metro was probably sued once, and in the aftermath, it became standard operating procedure.

They told me the reason Metro won't move a train when there's a sick customer is that several years ago, a passenger was apparently having a heart attack at Farragut West. Instead of rendering assistance, the train went ahead to Foggy Bottom, near GW hospital. The notion was the patient could get to the hospital more quickly by doing that.

The person turned out to be fine, but sued Metro for not rendering immediate assistance.

When there's a sick customer "they will not move the train now for fear of being sued," the source said. "One person sued, and now the entire system pays for it."

Other items:
It takes a study for journalism to notice handicapped impediments in Metro (Examiner)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jeter's Shrinking Fanbase

(via ATU Local 689's private Facebook page)

2.5 percent attendance trying to get to 4.5 percent!

Low bars are not just for Metro.

Maybe Jackie's members are tired of her schtick, too.

Other items:
Man arrested in assault of Metro bus driver (Examiner)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Misdirection and Manipulation: Why WMATA Loves Phones and Email Comments

Another reason to avoid Metro's "survey" trickery.

I wonder how this incident would have been recorded had it been received via email or phone.

Via @StyxRiverGynoid
When WMATA announced the recent public hearings about the General Manager's proposed budget, the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) met in "emergency" session, preempting the MetroAccess subcommittee meeting that was planned that evening.

One of the issues raised at that meeting was how the disability community, faced with even more onerous fare increases, could participate in the public hearings that would be held to discuss the budget proposal.

For many of the community, it would cost $14 round trip to use MetroAccess to get to those meetings, a price that would be hard to justify for many. Suggestions were offered by the AAC, including reduced fares for trips to and from the meetings, but in the end WMATA decided to open the phone banks and allow submissions of comments via email.

This was touted as being a way to make the meetings accessible, for members of the community to participate (whilst ignoring the implications that the MetroAccess fares themselves may be a barrier to participation in the first place).

But in reality, the generosity of WMATA in making these other methods to comment available benefited them more than it benefited the community.

Board members were at the public hearings, and were confronted by the words and emotions of those speaking. It was direct, and every voice was heard and had an impact.

Those comments filed by email, or on the phones, won't be heard, or have that impact - although WMATA will make those available for people *if they want to hear/read them*, the Board won't, by by default, hear or read them.

Instead, WMATA will summarize the comments received by phone or email. In doing so, they'll categorize the comments, stripping them of the actual words, the emotions, the energy, and boil it all down to sterile numbers with vague classifications that, to WMATA's benefit, dilutes the comments into just more statistics.

What WMATA will give the Board will go something like this, a report regarding the Town Hall meetings of Fall 2011:

It's an accurate summary of the comments received, but it doesn't tell the readers what the comments were - what experiences did people cite, what incidents did they raise in complaint, what suggestions did they make?

WMATA's "generosity" in providing these "accessible" methods for customers to provide feedback serves WMATA by allowing them to distil the comments down into numbers, stripping out the context and content in such a way the Board doesn't hear the people who commented (without effort on their part to dig up transcripts and recordings themselves), all they see are the numbers.

Like most statistics WNATA produces, those statistics are likely to be "reconciled" - raw data seems to be anathema for WMATA to release (as a member of the RAC earlier this year discovered, and ended up resigning over).

The Board is dependent on WMATA for the data the Board uses in making its decisions. Those members who attended the public hearings got to hear real riders telking real stories of real experiences, raising real issues they felt so strongly about they took the time to go to the meetings to speak up.

The number of phone and email complaints is likely to be much higher than those who made it to the meetings - but WMATA will simply reduce them down to numbers - much more preferable for them isn't it?
Other items:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rider Alleges Terrifying Incident


From Anonymous:

On Thursday at 12:30 p.m., I was riding the Red Line in the direction of Shady Grove. At Union Station, a group of six teenagers got onto my car with notebooks they were using to scam people. The kids use fraudulent Boys and Girls Club donation information to steal money.

They started their rounds – working their way from the back of the car to the front of the car, where I was sitting with my headphones on and staring out the window.

The first boy approached me and started his spiel, to which I said “No, thanks,” and he left without incident. A second boy approached me, began his spiel, and once again left without incident.

The third boy who approached me didn’t speak to me at first. He stood leaning against my seat, mumbling under his breath. I heard, over my music, “You need to wipe that stupid f***ing smirk off your face.”

Since I had not been doing anything to antagonize these kids and was minding my own business listening to music, I thought maybe I misheard him and took my headphones off. “Excuse me?” I asked. He repeated, angrily, “I don’t like that stupid f***ing smirk you have on your face.”

I replied that I didn’t know what he was talking about, as I was not bothering him or his friends and was simply listening to music and staring at the window. He told me “shut the f*** up you stupid f***ing white b**** if you know what’s good for you.”

I have been harassed by teenagers on Metro before, and as a rule, do not allow people to get away with treating me that way for no reason. I told him he was being rude and asked him to leave me alone.

He began threatening me, telling me how he could kill me, swearing at me, using racial slurs toward me, and telling me nobody gave a s*** about me. As soon as he threatened my life, I told him he needed to leave or I would call the police. He got angrier.

He then pulled out a lighter and started sparking it in my face.

I told him to get the lighter out of my face and leave immediately or I would call the police right then.

He laughed and got his buddies involved.

One of the teenagers apparently was shaken by what was unfolding and tried to get his buddies to leave, but they continued assaulting me. The other five surrounded me, yelling threats and racial insults in my face.

The one with the lighter kept sparking it about an inch from my eyes to threaten me. When we got close to the next stop, he shoved the lit lighter into me and tried to light my hair and clothing on fire.

When we pulled into Judiciary Square, they blocked the doors on the car, holding them open even though the doors had closed on the other cars. This enabled them to threaten me from a position where they could run back in the car to assault me if I tried to call the police or to be able to run away with the doors locking closed behind them.

With it being lunch time in DC and also cherry blossom season, the train was quite crowded. Nobody did anything to help me.

Several grown men diverted their eyes and ignored the incident altogether. I asked if anybody saw what just happened and could get off to be a witness with me, and nobody even answered me. I thought to myself, I know some of you men on this train have to have daughters, sisters, wives that you wouldn’t want this to happen to.

I got off at the next stop (Gallery Place/Chinatown), went to the station manager, and reported the incident.

Having encountered incompetent station managers in the past, I was very thankful that this particular manager was extremely helpful. He called the transit police and even offered me a chair while I waited for them to come, all the while saying how sorry he was this happened to me and how much trouble these kids were causing.

The police were also very nice and helped as much as they could, which I learned was not very much, though no fault of their own.

They told me that even if they caught these kids, there would be no repercussions for them. They said that very rarely does anybody actually intervene to help victims when they’re witnessing violence on Metro, possibly due to bystander effect or fear of retaliation.

They said they had arrested one particular teen nine separate times for burglary, auto theft, assault, and fraud and he was still walking free because of the way DC law is written for minors.

They told me how these kids target DC and Maryland rather than Virginia because Virginia laws are stricter and often land them in jail – not to mention that Virginia citizens can carry concealed weapons to defend themselves.

They also told me how horribly understaffed the transit police were and how they needed more police to adequately patrol the Metro. The most disturbing revelation was that these teens were getting their hands on guns more easily now due to a change in DC gun laws and that there was nothing stopping them from bringing them onto the Metro.

It was pointed out to me pretty bluntly that even if they were caught and arrested, these kids would then be given my information (right to face accuser) and then most likely be set free 20 minutes later with a grudge and my name and address. Even if they were convicted, they'd probably get nothing worse than probation and be sent back home.

It was gently suggested to me that it would be safer/smarter to not file so that these kids never get my info. And as a statistician, I understand that not filing an official report means that their crime goes uncounted once again, and anyone who actually has the power to change things can point at the stats and say everything is dandy. It's a lose-lose-lose.

I feel lucky to have gotten away without being physically hurt or robbed. The police were openly surprised that they hadn’t robbed or punched me.

I am struggling to understand how this can happen to me on a train full of people at 12:30 p.m. on a Thursday in a relatively decent part of the city. That’s not to say that violence at other times/locations is acceptable, but this is, in my opinion, a new and disturbing level of brazenness on the part of these thugs.

Be careful the next week or two – the cops warned that it would be particularly bad while these kids are on spring break.
Other items:
MTPD: Not DC's finest (Washington Times)
Gag order on employees at odds with law (Washington Times)
What does "accessible" really mean? FixWMATA finds out.
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