Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This fishy brakes thing has gotten ridiculous.

Why can't Metro just level with us?

First, in an effort to refute an article here, Stessel said they hadn't use the brakes in years.

Then, unbelievably, he went with the Big Lie, saying the smell was "sewer gas."

Now, when the press comes knocking, Metro won't even respond.

Yesterday, the Examiner reported:
The problem is that Metro doesn't seem to know what is causing it -- or doesn't want to tell the public. Agency officials declined to answer repeated questions about the smell last week. In the past, the agency has blamed sewer gas and the trains' brake pads.
Remember the new transparency that was supposed to be ushered in by Sarles, Stessel, et al?

Now Metro can't even cop to a problem they already copped to (and apologized for) in 2006!

This regime is even more secretive and opaque than ones before it.

I asked one of my sources about the brakes.

"If it smells like rotten fish, that's the organic brake pads, period," said the source who is knowledgeable about the brake issue.

Another source at Metro calls any other story about the odor "BS," adding "they didn't use [the pads] for a period of time but started again. They never ran out of what they had to begin with."

Why Metro continues to obfuscate is really beyond me. My Metro sources don't think there's any potential health risk to the smell. It just really, really stinks.

The incompetence of the PR staff at Metro is mind blowing. Here's what appears to be a relatively simple issue to get past, but instead they've let it stew for almost a year, the whole while undermining whatever tiny bit of credibility they might have left.

It's really not that hard, Metro.

Interesting footnote: Apparently, when the brakes gets wet, they also smell like rotten fish, even if they're still in the box. A source tells me this happened once at Greenbelt, and and entire pallet had to be moved to a more aerated place because of the horrible smell.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bye Metro

Via West Falls Steve:
My wife and I have been living about a mile from the West Falls Church Metro for about a year. At first, I was the only Metro commuter, but she got a job in the District this spring, and we started Metro-ing together.

Sometimes we'd walk to the Metro, sometimes we'd bike, sometimes we'd park'n'ride.

If we parked, the total cost was about $18 a day prior to the fare increases, now it's a whopping $19.75 with two rush hour round trips and parking.

So, in June, we started to get fed up with hot cars, delays, offloads, you know, all the standard Metro operating procedures.

I'm a big supporter of mass transit, so I deal with these problems begrudgingly. My wife is too, but she has less of a tolerance for jerky rides and being late to work (luckily my hours are flexible). So she started saying "let's drive."

I agreed to experiment, thinking I'd prove her wrong, and even though Metro is unreliable, I thought driving would be worse.

So, for the past few weeks we've driven in on 66, sailing gloriously along as we legally meet the HOV-2 requirement.

Today, for example, we left the house at 8:10 a.m. and were in the parking garage at 8:26. 8:26!

Traffic is lighter on Fridays, but Monday-Thursday, add seven to 10 minutes to that time.

Metro takes a bare minimum of 20 minutes from West Falls Church to Farragut West, and that ignores getting to the station and train, and getting out of the station.

Her walk is no further to work from the garage, and mine is a bit further than from Metro, but I still get to work early.

In fact, we have time to hang out and get a coffee and actually talk and enjoy each others' company, rather than having our mornings ruined by Metro!

I guess we are a bit lucky, because our jobs our on the west side of downtown, so its easy to just hop on and off the E Street Expressway to get home.

Now, on a cost basis, the garage is $14 a day (and this is straight cash, we're paying for daily parking and aren't using federal parking benefits), valet service. The round trip is 22 miles, which, in our car, is probably about $2.50 worth of gas at current prices.

So, cheaper than parking at the Metro, and faster to boot.

If you want to be technical and say that I should be using the IRS depreciation measure for driving (includes gas and maintenance), $0.55 per mile or whatever it is this year, sure, it's a bit more expensive than Metro, but still faster. Also, we're making payments on the car - I'd rather put the damn thing to use than fork my money over to Metro.

So, I feel like a horrible person for polluting and reducing the region's air quality and giving everyone's children asthma. But I feel like my sanity, time and money can override that. Metro just doesn't offer me the level of service and reliability to pay them just about the same amount of money to take up more of my time.

So, Metro, say goodbye to our 230 working days per year, at $19.75 per day (assuming we park and ride every day).

Say goodbye to that delicious $4,542.50 (holy sh*t).
Other items:
Lying comes so naturally (Examiner)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hot Air

When Richard Sarles took over Metro, he famously said "I don't want to hide problems. That's the worst thing you can do,"

Yesterday, Sarles told the Metro board, his bosses, the following:
The extreme temperatures have also presented a challenge to the cooling system on some of our rail cars. This month, July, about 2.5 percent of our cars dispatched into service experienced a temperature control issue after they entered service. We have been aggressively pursuing preventative maintenance, including component change outs, particularly on the 5000-series fleet. It is too early in the summer season to draw conclusions about performance.
Not one board member questioned the number. No one asked a follow up.

I think if board members actually rode Metro on a regular basis, they'd call Sarles out on this. Even if you chopped the anecdotal evidence of hot cars by 75 percent, you'd still have a number roughly four times higher than Sarles' number.

The board's silence when told a bald faced lie is indicative of their total failure to provide any kind of meaningful oversight.

Oh, and track work will render Metro basically useless this weekend.

Other items:
"Art" caused Red Line shutdown (Examiner)
Metro's tuition reimbursement program pays for questionable courses (Wash. Times)
Mikulski demands "safety audit" (WaPo)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is Metro Bleeding Millions from Parking?

Photo via thisisbossi

Yes, says a tipster:
Metro has quietly eliminated dozens of parking attendant jobs without notice. The first 20 or so jobs located at Green Line stations, attendants were dismissed in early June. The second wave of 20 or more attendants were dismissed on the Red Line, in late June. The Orange and Blue lines are next.

The attendants are being replaced by electronic “parking attendant” machines, which are video/credit card machines. Gates can be opened and closed remotely, at an understaffed “command center” located on the basement floor of their headquarters building. The center is currently staffed with four employees, working two shifts to answer customer’s issues.

The system is unable to handle multiple calls. From just one station customers can call multiple times during the day. The parking attendant machines are in 35 stations resulting in thousands of calls.

Also the machines are not designed to collect revenue. For example, when a customer comes to the gate without a SmarTrip card, it was the attendant that directed the customer back to the station to purchase one, or directed the customer to pay with a credit card, or issued an NPIR (Non-Payer Identification Report) commonly know as a “promise to pay” where the customer sends the payment on a later date. (Hundreds of these are issued every day. Metro only receives two to three percent of the payments, as they have no staff to follow-up.).

Now, at the command center for the electronic parking attendants, someone simply pushes a button and allows the customer to go free, because they have no way to collect revenue. They cannot send the customer back because they cannot conduct traffic control from the command center as there may be customers lined up to exit, so the customers are allowed to leave without paying.

Thus the real attendant was instrumental in assisting in revenue collection efforts for Metro. In addition the attendant also alerted Metro when gates were broken (allowing customers to park free) or systems were down. The parking attendant machines have no video capabilities beyond seeing the driver in the car.

To add the electronic parking attendants, Metro has spent a whopping $150,000.00-$200,000.00 per station using two contractors. They plan to recoup this money by increasing the parking rate (which was done July 1) and lowering operational budget projections.

The newly appointed director of operations has ordered this change. By the way, he was also overseeing parking during the mismanagement in 2003 that allowed millions of dollars to be stolen from parking revenue.

Metro also allows millions to go uncollected by allowing vehicles to be parked in the facilities for days and only paying the daily current rate. Metro has no ability to determine how long you have been there and charges you a flat rate even if you’ve been parked for days. Many customers are aware of this and use Metro facilities as storage for their vehicles. Simply leave before 10:30 a.m. or after midnight, and it’s free! Go to any station at 11:45 p.m., and you will find cars lines up waiting for the gates to go up.
Other items:
Officials urge Metro to improve late-night bus service (WaPo)
VRE ridership continues to soar (Examiner)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Honey Manager Don't Care

From anonymous:
Metro has annoying issues, hot cars, delays, malfunctions, off-boarding, buses not showing up, etc., but in general, I am grateful to have public transit since I do not own a car. Metro is how I get to and from work, as well as participate in other activities.

As of late, there has been a serious uptick in crime in the Mount Vernon Triangle/Chinatown neighborhood and at the Chinatown Metro.

I have felt very unsafe and have contacted the general police - who never show when I call.

The other night, I witnessed a particularly disturbing incident at the Chinatown Metro after the Nationals game.

It was around 10:30 p.m. There were a lot of people (since this is a major transfer point), and as I came off the train, I saw an altercation taking place on one of the escalators.

People were screaming for Metro police, and a few gentleman were trying to hold two juveniles who appeared to have attempted to rob somebody. The two juveniles were throwing punches, but the good citizens were not standing down.

People continued to scream for police, but none showed up.

So I ran to the other side - also screaming for help and prompting others to try and get help - and went to the vestibule at the 7th and H St. exit.

There were two gentleman there, and what happened next cannot be expressed through a message.

I conveyed what happened (other people were there, too) and asked why these things keep happening. I asked what they were doing about it?

One of the gentleman began to chastise me, tried to intimidate me, and belittled me. The other followed suit.

I was upset and conveyed how I felt unsafe.

To say they were unkind would be an understatement.

I exited through the gates and went to the front of the vestibule. A name plate said "Station Manager on Duty" with the name "A. Harris" listed.

I asked one of the gentleman who A. Harris was, and he asked why I needed to know.

I told him it was because that was who was listed as the station manager on duty, and I wanted to know who was responsible.

He told me I didn't need to know that information and then proceeded to call transit police on me - to scare me off.

The transit police did not show up, and I left realizing how futile this all was.

I submitted a formal complaint through Metro and called Transit Police myself the next morning to relay the incident and ask why there weren't several transit police visibly present when they knew there was a large sporting event. Chinatown is a problem station and a busy transfer point, particularly after games.

The response I got was "Just like you can't be all places at all time neither can our people."

That is unacceptable.
Other items:
Arlington approves Columbia Pike streetcar plan (Examiner)
Mayor Gray blasts Metro (Foreign Policy)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tell the Board No to Lower Standards

UPDATE: We won--for now.

On Thursday, the Metro board will likely vote to allow Metro to lower its standards in yet another way. Here's the language from the proposal:
RESOLVED, That the Board of Directors approves headway as a Metrorail service criterion, and sets thresholds such that normal schedule headways will not exceed 15 minutes during peak service, 20 minutes during off-peak service, and 25 minutes during late night service after 10:00PM; and be it further
RESOLVED, That responsibility for defining all other Metrorail service criteria and thresholds be delegated to the General Manager/CEO; and be it further

RESOLVED, That minor service changes may be implemented by the General Manager/CEO to achieve service criteria thresholds provided that the service change does not result in an increase in jurisdictional funding requirements beyond amounts provided for in the then currently adopted fiscal year budget; and be it finally
I've written about this scheme before, here and here.

One thing that really strikes me is that nowhere in the proposal does it mention track work, which was THE MAIN REASON Metro staff told the board's Customer Service and Operations Committee they were proposing these criteria in the first place.

That seems rather underhanded to me, but then again, this whole thing is very strange.

This proposal is unacceptable and, I think, represents a huge abdication of responsibility by the board that is supposed to oversee Metro, ostensibly for US! It's a power grab by Metro GM Richard Sarles, and I can't figure out what it does to improve Metro in any way.

I urge you to write the board members expressing your displeasure with this proposal.

Here are the email addresses I have. If you have others, please leave them as a comment or email me, and I'll add them to this list for easier copy and paste.

william.euille@alexandriava.gov, mhynes@arlingtonva.us, jdyke@mcguirewoods.com, mbowser@dccouncil.us, marcel.acosta@ncpc.gov, mortdowney@verizon.net, mbarnes@ciponline.org, ahampshire-cowan@howard.edu, info@nicholscreativedevelopment.com, boardofdirectors@wmata.com, catherine.hudgins@fairfaxcounty.gov, terry.bellamy@dc.gov

Missing: Tom Downs, Tom Bulger, Anthony Giancola and Kathy Porter

Here's some suggested language for your email to the board.
Dear sir or madam,

I'm a regular Metro rider, and I'm fed up with Metro's increasing price and decreasing service.

I feel the proposed "rail service criteria" serve no purpose other than to excuse future poor performance and you, as a board member, need to stand up for the riders in your capacity as a member of Metro's governing body.

These extreme proposed headways are unacceptable. A mass transit that allows headways like this will likely continue to lose riders.

Additionally, if these headways are allowed, the hardest hit will be those who have no alternative to Metro.

I want Metro to succeed. The region depends on it. Instead of allowing Metro to build in excuses for performance that should never be acceptable, you should be pressing Metro to raise the bar in every aspect of its service.

Please do the right thing for area riders and taxpayers by rejecting this proposal.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Safety First?

Via Brian on the Unsuck DC Metro Facebook:
Here's a new one.

On July 20 at 8:20 a.m., I was on the Yellow Line at Pentagon City.

The doors on the last two cars failed to open, so people started walking forward through the emergency doors and exiting through the third car from the end.

Did the operator know? Yes he did, since he asked "are the doors still not open?"

But that didn't stop him from closing the doors (in the cars where they would open) and driving the train out of the station WHILE people were still walking between cars to exit the train.
Other items:
MTA vs. WMATA (Bloomberg)
Metro fails late night rush, too (WaPo)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Going Out of the Way for Safety

From Colin:
Friday evening, some friends and I, along with thousands of other people, attended the monthly Truckeroo outside Nationals Park to enjoy fantastic food and mediocre beer, unbeknownst to us that our trip home would take us nearly three hours.

I had no troubles getting to the Navy Yard stop from Van Dorn Street, thanks to the abundance of Rush+ Yellow Line trains, but when we headed into the Metro station shortly before 10 p.m. that night, I had a Skywalker-esque "bad feeling about this" moment.

After waiting 20 minutes for our first train to take us to L'Enfant Plaza, I checked my phone to discover that not only would we be waiting another 20 minutes for our second train towards Huntington, but that we would also have to take a shuttle bus from Pentagon City to Braddock Road due to scheduled track maintenance.

While I would like to point out that closing down essential stations on two lines starting at 10 p.m. on a Friday night is borderline moronic, that, my friends is not the end of the story, nor the most major of inconveniences we experienced that night.

At this point in our travels, we were on track to make our trip from Navy Yard to Van Dorn Street in just about an hour and a half. At Pentagon City, we were ushered without incident onto a waiting shuttle bus and made good time to Crystal City and Reagan National Airport.

However, after leaving Reagan, things went truly pear-shaped.

As it was dark and very difficult to see out of the bus windows, nobody on the full bus realized that our driver had accidentally gotten onto the George Washington Parkway in the northbound direction.

Only after the trip to Braddock Road seemed to be taking way too long did any questions arise, and only after seeing the Potomac and the Lincoln Memorial on our right did we begin consulting our smartphones' GPS programs.

Sure enough, we were on our way toward McLean where perhaps we would get a glimpse of the CIA campus before making our way back home.

After spending a few seconds in disbelief at the blue dot on my Google maps, I yelled up to the bus drive, "Where the hell are we going?" In the following minutes, the rest of the bus came to accept the fact that we had gone more than a half an hour out of the way and plenty of angry comments and some yelling ensued.

Our driver finally turned us around just outside of McLean and brought us circuitously back toward Alexandria where we arrived at the Braddock Road station more than an hour later than we should have.

And here's the icing on the cake. Expecting some comment or apology from the driver, I hovered near the bus (bus number B356) for a second only to hear him quip sarcastically to an offloading passenger, "Hey, safety first, right? That's what's most important."

I'm not exactly sure what his point was and yes, he did avoid crashing the bus, but a simple, "My bad" would have sufficed.

Luckily, our friends who had parked at Braddock Road offered us a ride home rather than allowing us to enter the turnstiles once again, most likely to wait 20 additional minutes for a Blue Line train home.
Other items:
More track work this weekend (WMATA)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Stuck in the Middle

Via @jvoss0712: Craziness at ‪#metrocenter‬ ‪#wmata‬ woman going over train tracks to other side pic.twitter.com/xdXGooym

Other items:
Bystanders take down phone thief (ArlNow)
Metro says they fixed glitch (WMATA) Stessel calls it "partial failure" (NBC4)
Dulles tolls on the rise (WaPo)
Some MetroAccess riders get "white glove" service (Examiner)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hot Cars: 'Worse than Ever'

Via @warriorwriter

Last year, Metro rolled out the B.S. "Operation Cool Breeze" story about their response to the hot car "phenomenon."

This year, the initiative lacked a dumb title, but promised pretty much the same.

According to this WTOP report, Metro says "forty percent of condensers and evaporators on the 1000 series cars have been replaced, and 78 percent of condensers and evaporators on the 5000 series have been replaced."

Additionally, in April, the Washington Examiner reported Metro as saying they plan "to start work on the BREDA 2000 and 3000 series cars next week. It is nearly two-thirds of the way through a separate seasonal tune-up of all the cars, as well."

One li'l Stessel over at Metro, Cathy Asato, told the Examiner the following:
Last year, we saw a 23 percent reduction in HVAC issues across our fleet, but we are not resting on that success.
Sounds good right?

Not so fast.

"It's worse than it ever has been," said a Metro source with deep, specific knowledge of the hot car problem.

The source went on to say that while the engineering notion behind the fixes looked good on paper, "It's making things worse. We tell them, and they keep on doing it. It doesn't make any sense."

Of course, the word from the Metro Ministry of Truth is that there's really not much of a hot car problem at all. Dan Stessel told WTOP the number of hot cars numbers in the "low, single- digit percentage."

Most riders would probably scoff at that account. The hot car tracking site, FixWMATA.com had the number hovering well above 30 percent before the heat waves.

Metro likes to fly the excuse that when it gets to a certain temperature, the AC just can't keep up.

That's just not true. Yesterday, one of the hottest days of the year, the car I was in was cool and comfortable, even at the outdoor stations, and even with a crush load. The ACs can work in even the harshest conditions.

"The ACs should work better," said another inside source. "Something is not getting translated from engineering to the mechanics or the other way around. They're spending a lot of money and hours, but the fixes are just not working or someone is doing them wrong."

Other items:
Excellent op/ed from the Examiner
Ouch! (Examiner)
Metro's talent search angers local musicians (DCist)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Throw us a Bone

From M:
OK Metro. You've raised my fares and taken away my Blue Line with a lie about Rush+. You've made me late again and again with every day, multiple offloads, and I've probably sweat 20 pounds off this month alone in your broken hot cars.

You've left riders to fend for themselves when a train broke down, you've derailed, and your computers caused the whole system to stop two times. The brakes fall off, and if they don't, they smell like rotten fish, and you've tried to sneak by increased headways under the guise of helping the riders.

All of this you've done this summer alone!

All the while, you keep painting a rosy picture of how things are improving.

They're not, but you win.

I have no other choice but to take you to work. I'm stuck with you.

But I have a request. How about showing just a little customer appreciation?

I did some looking around on the web, and a lot of transit agencies do customer appreciation days, usually offering free rides for a day, partnering with a business to give away prizes people actually want or, at the very least having senior staff come meet and greet customers on the rails.

As far as I can tell you show absolutely no appreciation for the people who pay your salaries. You know only deflect and evade. Even your "improved" twitter has a lot of attitude.

Here's my idea. How about a Richard Sarles dunk tank? It'd show he is a good sport, that he was on our side, that he could take a joke, and man, it'd be a relief to hit that cool water in a hot station.

I'd even pay to have a shot and dunking him, and who knows, It might even energize the old guy.

Of course, I don't think he'd really do that but come on, Metro. Throw us a bone! Show us you care just a teeny weeny bit.

Every day, I feel like I'm handing over my money to a bunch of crooks who are laughing at me.
As a footnote, in 2004, Metro did partner with ING bank to offer for something appearing like a customer appreciation day by offering free rides. The funny part is ING paid the fares and Metro, well here's what they said:
"It has been a pleasure for us to work with ING DIRECT as promotional partners," said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard White. "This promotion is a win-win for Metro and its customers as well as for ING DIRECT. Metro is delighted to have the opportunity to give this little thank you gift to our regular customers for their loyalty to our Metro system. It’s one way for Metro to show our faithful riders that we value their business, and we hope they" ll continue to rely on Metro."
So very Metro. They got all their money yet claimed they gave something back to the riders.

Other items:
Mikulski slams Metro (WaPo) Examiner take
Meet Aurelio Bello (WaPo)

Monday, July 16, 2012

OK, Computer!

According to this January 2011 "System Safety Program Plan," operational "reliability is provided for the ROCC [Metro's nerve center] systems by a back-up computer, which automatically activates if the primary control computer malfunctions."

There was no sign of any automatic, redundant system functioning this weekend, and operations for an entire metropolitan subway system were halted two times, once for nearly an hour.

According to Metro, "the computer problem affected an information management system that allows controllers in Metro's Rail Operations Control Center to see where trains are on a dynamic map and to remotely control switches."

It's called a code 34, and many riders reported hearing that throughout the system last night.

Recently, there have been at least two documented code 34 events, one this past March, and another in October of 2010. Metro sources tell me there have been more.

The weekend computer failure has some Metro workers scratching their heads because Metro recently built a back-up system for bus and rail OCC systems costing millions of dollars in Landover. It is unclear whether that particular back-up system is for cases like this weekend's, for a destructive event such as a fire--or both.

The Landover back ups were installed after the authority's inspector general criticized Metro for lacking IT contingency plans in a September 2010 internal audit.

One would think a fundamental requirement of any back-up system would be to avoid the need to completely stop operations.

Metro needs to explain to riders whether its back-up systems work, and if they do, why aren't they good enough to prevent the entire system from shutting down two times in less than a day?

It should be noted that while the weekend's events are alarming, sources confirm Dan Stessel's comments to WTOP that "the signal system, the system that keeps trains properly spaced from each other, did remain operational. Those systems were up and running at all times."

Other items:
Accountability lacking in Metro's IT department (Examiner)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fares Raised, Bars Lowered

Yesterday, the Customer Service and Operations Committee of the Metro board signed off on a Metro plan to make 15-minute waits during the peak and 30-minute waits during the off peak acceptable.

The committee seemed very confused, and to be honest, after listening to the discussion, I was, too. Yet the committee unanimously gave it the green light. Crazy.

Here's my take.

I'm not sure the longer wait times are service cuts. Instead, I think they represent lowering the bar so that when there are delays of 15 minutes during the peak and 30 minutes during off peak, Metro can say they're still providing the "service" the board told them to.

In essence, the policy would exonerate Metro even if they provided a "service" no one on the room yesterday seemed to think was acceptable.

And if Metro doesn't meet the lower criteria?

Board member Kathy Porter asked, and what followed was epically revealing.

There was about 10 seconds of extremely awkward silence capped off by a bumbling response from Sarles, who, in essence said, it would go in a report.

Ooooh ... a report! Scary!

Sadly folks, that's pretty much the worst thing that can happen to you if you're part of Metro management.

Could Sarles be docked pay for not meeting standards over, say, three straight months? Could he be fired?


It'd go in a report, and everyone would soon forget about it, and he'd continue to collect his hefty salary of $959 every single day, which comes straight out of your pocket.

I do have to give at least a little credit to Porter who asked Metro staff what adding these criteria would accomplish. She seemed to at least get a whiff of Metro's race to the bottom BS with this whole notion.

Metro staff's answer was mealy-mouthed transitese, culminating with a Sarlesian monologue that defied comprehension. His early energy and dynamism has completely faded behind a thick haze of robotic talking points I'm not sure he even understands.

Porter didn't follow up.

The final say on these new "standards" will come at the July 26 full board meeting.

I really hope the board doesn't let Metro get away with this stealth attempt to cook the numbers without really doing anything to improve the service provided to us. They probably will.

Lower standards, no incentive to meet those standards and no punishment for not meeting them. And we wonder why Metro gets worse and more expensive every day.

Oh, and if that doesn't outrage you, the Safety and Security Committee spent less than an hour talking about the derailment, the "self evacuation" of a train and the continued problems with brakes falling off trains. Board members seemed eager to move onto other business.

Later, the Customer Service and Operations Committee spent roughly the same amount of time talking about naming stations. They talked at length about whether Smithsonian should also include "National Mall" and if so, how big the lettering should be.

I don't think Kafka could have imagined anything quite so absurd and maddening.

Happy Friday, and remember, track work on all lines this weekend.

Related: WMATA board shuts out riders on policy issues (GGW)

Other items:
DC picks firm to run streetcars (Examiner)
Metro continues to say passengers self evacuated (WaPo)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Man Dumps Metro, Finds Love

Has anyone met a significant other on Metro?

From anon:
I saw the story about the couple who got married on Metro. I can't see myself ever getting married on Metro. Divorced, maybe, but not married.

Actually, I think there are probably a lot of "missed connections" on Metro. I wonder if that has anything to do with the overall levels of stress and anger.

This might sound a little corny, but I wanted to share a Metro/non-Metro story.

I used to take Metro every day to work. It was miserable even though I only went a few stops down the Red Line.

Finally, it got so bad that I gave up and started walking to work. I'd say on average, the walk takes me about the same amount of time the Metro did.

But this also takes into account a little treat I gave to myself for walking: a stop for a cup of coffee (to go).

One day, while I was waiting for my coffee, I noticed a very attractive woman. We exchanged smiles, but that was about it.

Right there, that's more than I think we would have exchanged on the depressing Metro. There, it probably would have been a glare, if anything at all. Everyone is so zoned out or downright unhappy.

Anyway, I ran into her again a few weeks later, and struck up a conversation.

I'm happy to say that one thing led to another, and now we're engaged.

I know there are a lot of variables at play here, but my choosing to not take Metro is definitely one of them.

So, Metro. Thanks for sucking so bad. Leaving you in the rear view mirror saved me a lot of money and changed my life for the better.
Other items:
Cracked rails on the rise (Examiner)
Metro to detail Green Line derailment today (WaPo)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finders, Keepers?

From C:
At approximately 4:15 p.m. on July 4, my friends and I returned to Huntington after the Nats game. We got up to the vehicle when my friend B, realized that his phone was missing.

The train was still in the station, so he ran down the escalator and back to the car we were in. He returned without his call phone.

We went home to track his phone using the "Find My iPhone" GPS tracking software online. It told us that it was still at Huntington, so B and another friend, K, went back to the station to find it.

B spoke to one attendant, and another remained in the booth. He asked if anyone had reported a missing, white iPhone 4S. He said, "No."

So, B called me using my fiance's phone (that he borrowed) and asked us to refresh the "Find My iPhone" link. This time it said it was in Eisenhower station. So, B asked the attendant how we could get to the Eisenhower station where they take the trains out of service.

I was on the phone with him the entire time and could hear the conversation.

Well, [at the same time] B's cell phone received a text message. His text message tone is the very distinct "Go, Go, Power Rangers" tune.

He heard it and immediately knew his phone was in the pocket of the attendant who had been in the booth, and now was standing and talking to them.

I heard B say: "That's my phone." And, the attendant say: "Take your hands off me" after K had reached for it.

The attendant gave him some b.s. about how he usually likes to hold lost phones for a week to see if anyone claims it, even though he heard B looking for his phone.

If his ringtone hadn't gone off, B would NEVER have gotten his phone back.

Happy 4th of July from WMATA to a Navy veteran. How horrible!

I've left my wallet in a grocery store and had my wallet and all of its contents returned to me the NEXT day. My friend left his phone on the Metro for LITERALLY moments, and it was taken without the intent to return it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Longer Waits Coming?

PIDs like this might start to look pretty good. (Via @LoriG Yup, that's wmata pic.twitter.com/jmOxUxqv)

Is Metro proposing stealth service cuts?

On Thursday, the Metro Board's Customer Service and Operations Committee will hear a proposal by Metro to change the "rail service criteria."

According to the presentation, the criteria means the "maximum customer wait time between trains."

The current proposal appears to increase those times significantly to:

15 minutes during the peak
30 minutes during non-peak

As of March of this year, the criteria are listed as:

In the core:
Three minutes in the core during peak
Six minutes mid-day

Six minutes during peak
12 minutes mid-day
20 minutes off peak

There is no breakout between core and non-core in the current presentation.

While the approved 2012 budget posted on the Metro website details headways, the proposed 2013 budget currently posted, does not.

There was no discussion of these increased headways during the most recent budget process.

Posited one reader:
I think this week's Board document is there to set the stage for service reductions necessary as cars are taken from other lines and put on the Silver Line.
Hopefully someone form the Board will ask some good questions to shed light on this potentially troubling issue.

This is not the first time Metro has lowered its standards, all the while increasing fares.

Other items:Link
Some Metrobus drivers working 20 hours a day (WMATA/Examiner story)
Is Metro too risky for a pregnant woman? (WaPo)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Where's the Scorn for Metro?

Is Metro getting a pass on the derailment Friday?

Several sources tell me they think Metro should have had speed restrictions in place long before that train derailed at 4:45.

"The extreme heat has been going on pretty much all month," said one. "Why did it take a derailment to wake someone up?"

Another said "Last year, Metro had all trains slow down during the heat wave. I guess they forgot to this year. Oops."

A scan of past Metro press releases shows it has instituted speed restrictions as a preventative measure during previous extreme heat and did so well before rush hour. (Here. Here.) Metro has even instituted speed restrictions for fallen leaves.

What happened this time around? The temperature has been over 95 for most of the month.

Luckily, no one was injured, and again, Metro dodged a bullet.

Metro will likely keep gambling as long as they're allowed to get away with it by our local politicians and press.

But our local politicians and the press are capable of dishing out strongly worded and deserved scorn for area organizations that continue to fail their customers.

Take Pepco, which was slow to restore power after the big storms that hit June 29.

DC mayor Vincent Gray said he was "fed up" with Pepco. DC councilwoman Mary Cheh called for a probe of Pepco. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett called Pepco's timetable for restoring power "unacceptable.'

Even the PR man's favorite newspaper, the Washington Post ran an editorial, saying:
We single out Pepco not only because of its sluggish response after the recent storm — and its inexcusably spotty communications — but also because of its woeful record in maintaining and restoring service following earlier storms.
Maryland State Sen. James C. Rosapepe blasted Pepco, saying:
It's no longer an excuse for the utilities to say that we are shocked, shocked, shocked that the wind blew hard, or that it rained a lot or that it snowed for three days. It's unpredictable what weather event will take place on what day, but it is more predictable that we will continue to have them.
Sounds like the Post and Rosapepe could have been talking about another, failing and completely reactive, organization we all know too well.

Ironically, about the only love for Pepco came from, of all places, Metro!

Metro's dysfunction is on a par, if not worse, than Pepco's, but somehow, despite dangerous failure after dangerous failure over a course of years, Metro continues to skate by with little or no criticism from some of the institutions and people that might actually be able to bring about the kind of real change those of us who ride regularly know Metro needs so badly.

Other items:
Dulles rail board spends big on travel (Examiner)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Is Metro Lying (Again)?

via @GenWeSolve: Refund @wmata? http://t.co/aJWHJ77X

So ol' Dan "the stesseler" Stessel told the Post the "self evacuation" (Please. Isn't there a better term?) was the riders' call.

According to @nataliedell, who was on the train, that isn't the case:
I know that sometimes a power line is going to fail, or Metro riders are going to be stranded for a while, and that most people are working very hard to make sure that people get where they're going on time.

Most of the riders on my car had a good attitude about the inconvenience on Tuesday, and only a few seemed irate. I looked at it as an adventure and a story I'd be able to tell my friends.

The thing that burns me up is that the story that's being put out there isn't true, and that riders (who were charged at the Metro fare gates when we finally got out) are being blamed for part of the inconvenience.

The Washington Post story implies that the rescue train was shut down deliberately because people started getting off the train and walking on the tracks, but that's not what actually happened.

Rather, people started leaving the train and walking on the tracks AFTER the rescue train lost power and after the conductor told us we could leave. There was very poor communication from Metro - only three or so announcements in the 30 or so minutes that we waited on the train. I was tweeting and following #wmata on Twitter during that time, and the only way I learned that the rescue train had failed was from other folks on Twitter.

Here's what I posted in the comments on today's Washington Post story - many other commentators on the train that day tell a similar story:

I was on the train about mid-way back, and had to learn via Twitter rather than from the conductor, that the rescue train had also lost power. Lost power - not had it shut off.

There was very, very little communication coming from the conductor at all during those hot 30 or so minutes.

The conductor eventually told us that we could leave "if we wanted to" because the third rail had no power, not the opposite way around, as WMATA is claiming in the article.
Here are @nataliedell's tweets from the scene:

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