Thursday, April 2, 2009

A European's Impression of Metro

Today on the Red Line, the driver shut the door in my face without allowing ANYONE to get on. It was off putting, but another train came less than a minute later, so no big deal.
What is a big deal is that four out of four ticket machines I tried to use today refused to trade in my fare card so I could add value to my SmarTrip card, saying "transaction canceled - fare card trade not valid," no matter what sequence of steps I tried.
On top of that, it just makes me laugh that the escalators and the elevators in the Metro stations were apparently built to be maintained, not used. Not a single day passes by that I don’t see a couple of escalators shut down or under repair. Coming from the Czech Republic and being in the US for the first time in my life, it shattered many of my beliefs about US technological superiority. I can assure you I've never seen a single escalator in Prague not working.

Good luck with unsucking Metro,

Jaroslav Petrik

Thanks GGW for the mention.

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Anonymous said...

The broken escalators make the metro more ghetto than any of the delays I encounter.

Anonymous said...

I bet rain water increases maintenance of the escalators dramatically. With the new glass tops being installed on some stations, does this help the escalators run longer between failures? I would expect it helps. If so, all stations should have covers.

Sean Robertson said...

Regarding glass covers over station entrances - it certainly doesn't seem to have made any improvement in the reliability of Easter Market's escalators. It's also worth noting that the platform escalators through the system seem to be out of operation just as often as the entrance escalators.

Mainland said...

The problem with the escalators in general is not that they are exposed to the elements, it's that they are inherently complicated machines with many moving parts. You can build canopies, but moisture, dirt, etc., will still make its way onto/into the escalator from normal use.

Covering escalators was considered when Metro was being built, but canopies were estimated to only save about 10% in maintenance costs, so they were disregarded. That is, until recent management reversed course and built the things anyway....

Anonymous said...

Did the paper fare card have more than $7 on it? You can't load more than $7 onto a SmarTrip card from a paper fare card. Maybe this is why the transactions were cancelled. I remember receiving a similar error message in the past when I tried to load too much onto my SmarTrip card from a paper fare card. They used to have pieces of paper taped to the fare machines saying this, but I haven't seen one on any machines lately.

Jerry said...

Yeah, I figured later that was the reason. That makes it even more incomprehensible to me though... why is there a limit? And why $7? Such an arbitrary figure... And why can't the machine say "Transaction over limit" rather than "Transaction canceled" without explanation?

Omar said...

I wouldn't be surprised if they were built to be maintained … more revenue for the maintenance company, right? Does the manufacturer profit from maintenance like they do with cars (replacement parts, etc.)?

Anonymous said...

Sure, escalators have "many moving parts" LOTS of things do. Does you car break down 4 out of 12 months EACH year?

Okay, maybe the rain isn't causing the problem - but at the same time when only 1 out of 3 escalators is working during a three week stretch I'm thinking maybe just maybe all the mushy newspapers, leaves, etc. might lead to those same stopped escalators falling into even worse disrepair. Not to mention the hazard a completely littered escalator poses to patrons.

Roadworrier said...

I was surprised to see every single metro station I was using on the red and orange lines with at least one escalator failure.

2 out of 3 escalators out at Metro Center transferring from Orange to the Shady Grove Red Line platform is just a joke.

At Woodley Park station, during TRB week (heavy visitor traffic), it was embarassing to see the short escalators to the platform both out of service (one being repaired, the other being off). Luckily the mega-escalators to the street level were operational.

Anonymous said...

I bet if your car ran 20 hours a day, 7 days a week for years on end you would have some mechanical difficulties also... Those escalators carry more load than even a department store. I'm amazed that Metro even attempts to keep those short escalators running when most of us can walk up and down them. I recently took a trip to NYC and didn't even see an escalator!

Anonymous said...

what I don't understand is why people can't walk up normal stairs. If there were just stairs there would be far more room for people to pass through--in addition to removing the broken escalator issue. obviously escalators are needed for some really deep stations...but metro has escalators EVERYWHERE. it's just dumb.

Anonymous said...

Agreed; there is no reason at all for the existence of platform escalators. A short set of stairs would be a huge improvement. Does Metro want to make this improvement? No. They're undertaking a wholesale replacement of platform escalators on the Red Line, creating a bottleneck during the interminable construction process, and ensuring that we'll deal with frequent breakdowns and 'escalumps' for years to come.

Anonymous said...

What irritates me is Metro's superiority complex. I am so tired of seeing those dumb ads about how clean the DC metro is when it is not. And pretentious Urbanites boasting about how grateful they are to live in DC, "because it has such a great transportation system" and the other cities are "so appaling."

I am from Chicago, and yes, the system there may not be perfect, but I have also never seen a broken elevator, dirty seats, and the transportation cards actually work.

The concept of using the farecard twice is not only inconvenient, but an obvious scam. I hate how it slows you down, even when you are prepared to scan the dang thing through. There is always the chance of someone in front of you slowing you down, or the stupid machine not working.

Furthermore, the few times when I have forgotten my smarttrip and had to buy one of those paper cards, it has almost never worked. The lazy metro guy who always sleeps in that box looks irritated whenever I show him what's wrong and then scolds me for not using a smarttrip while making me late for work.

I don't understand why they don't just sell smarttrips at ALL locations. You'd think it would be logical to sell them at Union Station, or preferably, every location, but have to find a CVS, or ride all the way to MetroCenter to get one.

I miss the EL in Chicago.

Anonymous said...

Comming from Hong Kong a city full of escilators - metro is a joke.

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