Thursday, April 30, 2009

Metro Opts to Tap Reserve Funds, Some Bus Routes Saved

We guess the rainy day is now.
Metro decided to tap a $13 million rainy day fund to close its budget gap, and while there will be some "service adjustments," there aren't as many as originally floated.
Arlington County’s ART bus service also will take over operating the 22B and 24P routes. Here's the rest.

"Under the new budget plan, four routes would be eliminated, one line would be restructured, one route would gain service and fares would increase on three routes. Metro riders who board the J7, J9 I-270 Express buses in Montgomery County and the W19 Indian Head Express in Prince George’s County would pay the $3.10 cash express fare or $3 with a SmarTrip card. Riders have been paying the regular $1.25 SmarTrip card fare or $1.35 cash fare for express service. The L7 (Connecticut Ave to Maryland line) route would be eliminated but extra buses would be added to the L8 route. The C7, C9 (Greenbelt to Glenmont) and some off-peak service on the Z2 (Colesville to Ashton) routes also would be eliminated. The 21 A, B, C, D and F (Landmark-Pentagon) routes would be consolidated into a single route."

Source: Metro
WaPo story

Photo: daquellamanera

You Ride Dilapidated Trains and Buses

We think this sheds a lot of light on why Metro has so many breakdowns.
According to an April 2009 study released by the Federal Transit Administration, more than one-third of the mass transit services' assets in Boston, NY/NJ, Philly, DC, Chicago and San Fran are “either in marginal or poor condition, indicating that these assets are near or have already exceeded their expected useful life.”
It would take $50 billion to bring them all back into good repair, the report said.
The study also found that “all seven agencies maintain comprehensive asset inventories for capital planning purposes, other asset management practices are lacking. For example, only 1 of 7 uses decision support tools to help conduct “what if” analysis; only 2 of 7 use a rigorous process to help rank and prioritize their investment needs; and only 3 of 7 have committed to conducting comprehensive asset condition assessments on an ongoing basis.”
If you really geek out on this stuff, the very dense report is available here.
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We Asked Metro ...

What they're specifically doing to prevent delays, and they answered.

Metro does not see the current amount of delays as requiring any kind of crisis response program. Makes you wonder where they've been for the past three days.
Instead, WMATA relies on "preventative maintenance," wrote a spokesman for WMATA in an email exchange.
“We never stop looking for ways to improve service and to decrease disruptions,” they wrote.
Every rail car is inspected daily for wear and tear, they wrote, adding that any areas of concern are repaired immediately. More detailed inspections are also performed on a regular basis, they wrote. Metro also inspects the tracks regularly and performs track maintenance nearly every weekend, according to the spokesman.
“Not all disruptions are attributable to car performance,” they wrote. “Many offloads can be attributed to door problems, and I think we all know that many door problems are caused by people who try to hold them open.”
The spokesman said that the percentage of trains per day that need to be offloaded is about half a percent and that of all the “door movements” per day, 99.999 percent are successful.
“Of course, the important train is the one you’re on at the time,” they said. “If that train is running one of the .5 percent of the trips not completed, it inconveniences as many as 1,000 people. It is a big deal, to you and to us.”
WMATA makes some good points. We tend to remember the suck-o-ramas, not the times when Metro worked.
And we've seen with our own eyes the impatient a-hole who pried the door open rather than wait another few minutes for the next train. We wonder, though, how often it's the passengers' fault. We asked, and WMATA doesn't keep data on that. Perhaps they should.
Also, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, DC doesn't have a monopoly of jerks who pry open train doors. We've seen it in other cities, and while it may be amusing to see, it doesn't cause the trains to go out of service. We think WMATA needs to look into some more robust doors.
Given the recent spate of "switch" issues, perhaps WMATA could review it's track inspection procedures. But just don't use any of that track equipment the derails, please.
We also don't think WMATA is taking into account the ripple effects of door problems and breakdowns. We think 1,000 is a low estimate for the number of people affected by a rush hour breakdown. And if our Twittercaps are any indication, people react quite viscerally to a Metro malfunction.
WMATA doesn't seem to think it has an image problem, and this is disheartening. We fear that because of Metro's performance, more people will think like this:
@jiwest Why oh why is the Orange line so sporadic? I think I've had quite enough of no-car city life, thank you very much.
More cars is exactly what we don't need.
More on doors to come.

Other news:
Metro discusses budget woes on Capitol Hill (WTOP)
Great John Kelly piece in WaPo we can all relate to
Another Metro stop in Bethesda? (Gazette)
Major work to begin on 14th St. bridge (DC Examiner)

Photo: sudama

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Orange Line Needs Love

"Disruption at Foggy Bottom-GWU. Expect delays to New Carrollton and Largo Town Center due to unscheduled track maintenance. Trains are traveling at a reduced speed through Foggy Bottom station." (via WMATA)

@VaENew I would STRONGLY recommend you avoid the orange/blue line toward largo/new carrellton if you can, its barely moving

@nmicon still stranded on wmata. wtf. #epicfail

@ahwahoo2006 Great orange line delays - gonna be a long trip home methinks

And let's not leave out the Blue Line:

@chadmcneeley 40 minutes from Pentagon to Foggy on the Blue. Trains are still running at 5mph between Foggy and Metro. Bad couple of days.

DC Riders Aren't Alone

Take heart Metro riders. We're not the only ones suffering with poorly run mass transit. We guess the U.S. just doesn't do public transport well. Here are some tweets from yesterday from around the country. Eerily familiar, isn't it?

From NYC:
Hate the bus f*ck MTA

NYC's MTA should spend more money on fixing subway stations, than on presentations abut rats:

Union Square, 5:30pm rally against #MTA fare hikes and service cuts. For information visit:

Traffic jam + mta bus going in reverse = worse possible idea... :(

From Boston:
Guess it's a good thing I don't have any clients scheduled for early evening. Orange line must be late due to heat exhaustion.

Orange line ridiculously late aweesommee

orange line was stop and go the whole way and now the bus wont start. hmmm yes more people on bus

Waiting for the orange line, ickies. No one likes the orange line.

I hate you so much right now, #mbta

Dear MBTA: it's 90 degrees. Turn off the heat on the trains.

From Chicago:
Someone should come up with a way to stop people from urinating on the red line. Icky.

CTA, only you could force me into such close proximity to such a glorious array of massive gunts

dear fellow CTA riders: being FAT and LAZY does NOT make you handicapped! give up your seats for the real disabled and elderly!

CTA Blue Line back to normal after smoke scare

Ugh. Now I have to deal with the cta I might as well not even try to make it to my first class... But I will.

Other news:
MetroAccess toughens ridership rules

Cartoon: Toothpaste for Dinner

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Fun One On the Orange Line Today

We were spared, but here are some dispatches from the front lines.

@LNJames - Orange line delays: Can you spot the guy reading the bible?

@welovedc Between the delays on the orange line and the delays on the red line, it's possible you're better off walking home. #metrofail

@punkwalrus Great, Orange Line borked

@emilytbever Leaving work late+delays on Orange Line+summer in the city=painbox (my new fav word)

@CLMojo Orange line to vienna during rush hour... Horrifying.

@kdotmurphy F*ck you, wmata orange line. Your offloading is costing me my interview. Angry letter tk.

@commanist Hey, WMATA, gotta congratulate you on making the call to offload the broken train in front of mine THIRTY F*CKING MINUTES after it broke!

OK Red line, this one seems to sum it up.

@chadmcneeley The Red Line was as bad as I've ever seen it. Four cars (and one out of service) passed before I could get on at Metro Center

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