Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Tourist's Guide to Metro

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Tourists, by the thousands, descend on DC, and many of them take Metro.

Tourists are often viewed as adding to the litany of Metro woes.

Here's an email from Sarah:
It's that time of year again. Screeching teenagers blocking the exits, taking all the seats, and standing on the left side of the escalator at rush hour.

Dear spring break families and school groups: The monuments will still be still be there at 9:30, enjoy your hotel's continental breakfast.

Here's my idea: SmarTrips only from 7-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m.*

Here's the Twitter take:
  • vlasta80 Judging by this afternoons rush hour - DC's tourist season has started. Plea to tourists please avoid metro during rush hour. #wmata
  • aphraner Tourist (who got stuck in #wmata doors):"There's something wrong w/the doors." Me: "Nope, they don't bounce open" ah tourist season is here
  • kwbarrett Gotta love DC in the spring. Lots of tourist who have no idea how to ride #wmata. Stand to the right please.
  • ironmanjt Tourist season on #wmata is back. Time to renew my hunting license
What advice would you give to tourists? Be kind. The DC economy needs tourists, and for many, Metro is the first time they've had a chance to take a subway. Give 'em some good tips.

*Metro does try to stem the impact of tourists by having day passes only valid after 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Metro Haiku

You knew it was coming.

Spring is in the air--sorta. Hanami time.

5-7-5 folks. Here's a few to get the ball rolling.

From TCrad:
From the Metro car
people on the platform are
silhouette figures

From Marianne S.:
Doors closing again
and again and again and
again forever

From Mike B.:
Red, Blue, Orange, Green
Does Yellow even matter?
Metro makes me mean

Farecard is broken
who do I ask for help now
kiosk man sleeps sound

From McG:
Automatic trains
a memory of the past
WMATA whiplash

Mystery elbow
stabbing my lower lumbar
read your news later

The sick passenger
fell at my knees unconscious
shut the whole line down

From Roma
My ride this morning
delivered me safely and
on time. I just drove.

Station manager
a glorified door keeper
Swill coffee all day

I left work at noon
Just to arrive home after
the evening rush hour.

From "P"
The Orange line sucks *ss
No need for civility
Off the pole fatty

Unaware tourists:
Your stroller blocks my egress
No one likes Billings

From JoTrex:
Red Line stalls again
anger rising to a boil
move this f*cking train!

Other items:
More jurisdiction funding seems unlikely (WaPo)
Man charged with rape, carjacking at Largo metro (Examiner)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Something is Really on the Upswing at Metro

Hint: It's not ridership, quality of service or reliability

From Mark:
Your survey is a farce. The forced format requires choices I find unacceptable. Who do you people think you are trying to cut already wretched service or increase fares while you cannot keep your administrative costs down? Cut salary and benefits. Do not cut service and/or raise fares until you do.

Unfortunately, that would require the union to play ball, which appears unlikely. Hey, they deserve a living wage, but when the public is facing the kind of cuts WMATA is talking about, and the union won't budge, they're no longer serving anyone but themselves.

Got What it Takes to be a Station Manager?

We wanted to know exactly what was in the job description for "station manager," so we asked. Here it is. Click on the images for legible versions.

Here are some highlights:
  • make announcements via the PA to assist public in use of the transit system
  • place fare collection in-service and out-of-service as equipment conditions/passenger loads dictate
  • responds to problems indicated by Automatic Fare Collection machine status
  • furnishing route information
  • speaking in a pleasant voice
  • ability of furnish information with utmost tact
  • ability to maintain constant alertness
  • ability to interact effectively with large numbers of people
  • proven ability to communicate effectively
  • demonstrate interest in and have a favorable attitude toward public service

Surprisingly, there's no mention of raccoon raising skills.

What's your impression? Are station managers fulfilling the job description?

Metro workers who shine
Metro's split personality
More like these please
Osama bin Laden's escape
A.M. Haynes
Communication Breakdown II
How can you help me?
Station manager rescues MP3 player
Snoozeday edition
The good, the bad and the ugly
Khalil's kiosk of solitude

Other items:
Two bombs hit Moscow metro, 36 dead (BBC)
Metro lobbying to renew $230 transit benefit (Examiner)
Who knew? Higher fares hit poor hardest (WaPo)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Farewell Catoe

So, John Catoe is off to enjoy sunny California and to become a transit consultant. It's really hard for us to know just exactly what his legacy here will be. He was dealt a rough hand: a union that seems to be more a part of the problem than the solution, insufficient funding, and a legacy of bad decisions and lack of foresight almost dating back to WMATA's inception.

Seriously, it has taken WMATA six series of rail cars to finally abandon aluminum construction and hopefully get rid of that stupid carpeting. The silver lining about the new cars is that they're apparently not compatible with the existing cars!

But Back to Catoe. He was touted as a leader with vision, and some would argue he was just starting to make a difference. After all, he was named the nation's top public transit manager by the lobbyist group for mass transit.

Anyway, Catoe will be fine. Given WMATA's predilection to hire consultants instead of looking in the mirror, there will probably be plenty of opportunities for him to come back (or telework) and chip in his two cents worth. That's ten grand a week in the mass transit consulting world.

At the going rate, if he consults for a year, he'll substantially improve on his WMATA GM compensation of $360,000 a year.

Leave your farewell Catoe thoughts in the comments, and don't forget the miracle of the inauguration--the single greatest achievement in the history of mass transit ever. At least that's what WMATA would like to believe.

Catoe's last day is April 2.

Other items:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rider Hall of Shame: Manicure Mary

From DMC:
March 23 at about 10:30 a.m. on the Red Line from Silver Spring to DC. This woman pulled out her nail clippers and started loudly and disgustingly clipping her fingernails for about five minutes. Obviously, a person with no sense of basic manners, which is becoming more and more frequent on Metro.

@kevin_reiss Don't mind the rest of us on the train while you clip your nails & apply smelly polish. #wmata

Complete Rider Hall of Shame

Other items:
Metro gets new toy (WMATA)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Looks Safe and Warm

FFWD to :35
Update: No mention of this on Metro's disruption reports.

WMATA Discovers Unknown DC Landmark

Is this a prank? If so, at least spell it right guys!

From Scott:

On the local area map on the Green Line platform at Ft. Totten, there's a label for the "Megadeath Alchemy Congregation" on 13th St., NW north of Sheridan. I haven't actually been there, and the map is probably way outdated (maybe original from when the platform opened in '97?), but since I'm a huge metalhead, the idea of a church devoted to Megadeth in DC is intriguing!

Wondering what WMATA knows that I don't!

Scott is not the only one who has noticed.

Other items:
  • Congrats to reader Susan. A couple of weeks ago, she had her iPhone snatched on the Metro. As she investigated the prevalence of these crimes, she noticed Metro's "weekly" crime reports hadn't been updated in nearly two months. After a lot of persistence and emailing, she finally got them to bring it somewhat more up to date. It's a pretty interesting scan. Furthermore, three days after Susan's post, Metro communicated more about the problem and their plans to stem it. Nice Unsucking.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We Were Late Because We Were Delayed

Metro is good at one thing: excuses. Although, honestly, this popular January excuse doesn't seem to make much sense. There are a few other gems if you scroll below the "we were late because we were late" examples, including a doozy.

Jan. 7
8:13 a.m. A Red Line train at Twinbrook was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain schedule.

Jan. 8
6:31 a.m. An Orange Line train at Metro Center in the direction of Vienna was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 11
7:15 a.m. A Red Line train at Grosvenor in the direction of Shady Grove was delayed because the operator could not maintain the schedule.

Jan. 12
8:43 a.m. A Red Line train at Farragut North in the direction of Shady Grove was delayed because the operator could not maintain the schedule.

5 p.m. An Orange Line train at Vienna was put into service late because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

6:29 p.m. A Red Line train at Union Station in the direction of Glenmont was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 14
6:36 a.m. A Green Line train at Mt Vernon Square in the direction of Branch Avenue was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

1:03 p.m. A Yellow Line train at Huntington was put into service late because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

1:11 p.m. A Blue Line train at Franconia-Springfield was put into service late because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

3:39 p.m. A Blue Line train at Stadium Armory in the direction of Largo Town Center was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

9 p.m. A Blue Line train at Braddock Road in the direction of Largo Town Center was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 15
1:30 p.m. An Orange Line train at New Carrollton was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 18
4:34 p.m. An Orange Line train in the direction of Federal Center in the direction of Vienna was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 19
5:06 p.m. An Orange Line train at West Falls Church in the direction of Vienna was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

7:12 p.m. An Orange Line train at West Falls Church in the direction of Vienna was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 21
5:59 a.m. An Orange Line train at Vienna was put into service late because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

7:58 a.m. A Red Line train at Friendship Heights in the direction of Shady Grove was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

1:50 p.m. A Green Line train at Anacostia in the direction of Branch Avenue was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 22
12:23 p.m. An Orange Line train at Vienna was put into service late because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

12:51 p.m. An Orange Line train at Vienna was put into service late because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

11:17 p.m. A Red Line train at Farragut North in the direction of Glenmont was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 25
3:57 p.m. A Red Line train at Grosvenor in the direction of Shady Grove was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

5:54 p.m. A Blue Line train at Largo Town Center was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

6:03 p.m. A Blue Line train at Franconia Springfield was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 26
3:43 p.m. An Orange Line train at West Falls Church in the direction of Vienna was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

5:06 p.m. An Orange Line train at West Falls Church in the direction of Vienna was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 27
6:23 a.m. An Orange Line train at Rosslyn in the direction of New Carrollton was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Jan. 28
7:38 a.m. A Red Line train at Friendship Height in the direction of Shady Grove was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

1:20 p.m. A Red Line train at Silver Spring in the direction of Shady Grove was delayed because the operator was unable to maintain the schedule.

Other notable delays:

Jan. 12
5:36 p.m. A Red Line train at Judiciary Square in the direction of Glenmont was taken out of [Its misery? Yep, that was it.]

Jan. 25
11:41 a.m. A Red Line train at Silver Spring in the direction of Glenmont was delayed because the operator overran a red signal on the track.

Feb. 2
6:31 a.m. A Red Line train at Woodley Park in the direction of Shady Grove was delayed because of reported body fluids. The car was isolated and the train continued in service.

Other items:
Acquisition of 7000-series cars inches closer (WTOP)
Feds already pumping over $300 million/year into Metro (Examiner)
Metro workers ride for free (Examiner)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Communications Consultants Pay Off--Again!

So, Metro finally came out with a broadside awareness campaign to inform customers that there are speed restrictions on the Red Line.

We first heard about them on the 17th, and we asked Metro.

They said "there are some track issues between Tenleytown and Medical Center that have several speed restrictions in place."

We tweeted about it.

We asked Metro to be more specific.

They sent us to this press release, which only vaguely hints at what the "issues" might be.

Of course, we don't know why Metro was not completely forthcoming last week, but if you've been riding the western Red Line for the past several days, you must have wondered what the heck was going on.

Now that Metro has come out with this belated press release, it appears as though Metro had been holding out and only decided to finally come clean after some major attention was starting to get focused on the issue.

What was that about restoring confidence?

Nicely played.

Should we chalk this one up to the communications consultants?

There's No Such Thing as this Metro Anymore

Ah, the heady days of Metro. The quaint notion of getting to work early, staying "fundamentally alive" and high(er) production value commercials. Yes, for many, Metro is still better than driving to work, but of late, that margin has shrunk tremendously.

Sadly, one of the most accurate aspects of this '80s (or '90s) commercial is the Metrobus nearly crashing into the Metrorail station.

Other items:
Public hearings on budget gap this week (WMATA)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Name that Tune

Is this the escalator @ Jud. Sq. or noises from the circus? #wmata @unsuckdcmetro on

Thanks to ehlcreations

Other items:
Local print publication gets news from local blog (UPDATE: The Post made good)

Battle of Mass Transit Systems: T vs. Metro

Here's another installment in our ongoing "Battle of the Mass Transit Systems."

This impression of Boston's T comes from Liz and was originally posted on her blog, Life as a List.

As with our write ups of BART and the CTA, we make a caveat that it's really impossible to gauge the true character of a transit system without regular commuting. After all, many tourists come away from DC thinking the Metro is a modern miracle.

Here's Liz's take on Boston's "T."
  • You can move from car to car--anyone, not just employees, and there are no doors. The train is like a giant caterpillar.
  • No warning lights on the train platforms.
  • Food and drink are allowed on the trains, and at some stops/stations, there are snack shops right next to the tracks. Possibly, as a result, the trains were much dirtier than those in DC. But there were also signs on the trains that said "your tax dollars pay to clean this train so please throw away your trash." Am I the only one who finds that ironic?
  • The stations are ugly and have no character.
  • The interiors of the cars themselves are ugly, much worse than DC (believe it or not). The seats and floors totally clash, and the seats are ugly and uncomfortable.
  • Everything about the T was less accessible for people with disabilities:
  • There was no clearly marked priority seating on the trains.
  • The stations were not clearly marked as to where elevators were located.
  • The cars themselves were less accessible.
  • I thought the passengers were more rude than those in DC; well maybe not more rude, but dumber ... there is no etiquette for getting on/ off the trains i.e. people on the platform don't wait at all for people to exit before bombarding the train.
  • On escalators they stand on the left AND right.
  • You have to swipe your card to get into the station like Metro, but you don't to leave.
  • Regardless of your destination, all rides cost the same on the T. What a ripoff, or bargain.
  • The equivalent of the SmarTrip cards are free!
  • I like Metro's Web site more than the T's.
Another view:
perel42 Sigh. In Boston, on the T. #MBTA used to remind me how awesome #WMATA was. Now they're pretty much the same, and the T sure hasn't improved.

Other transit battles:

Other items:
Washington Post Local print publication breaks major Metro news
Examiner story on fired texter
Take the WMATA budget survey

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Texting Driver "Let Go"

Metro has informed Unsuck that the driver seen texting has indeed been "fired" for violation of the no cell phone policy.

There was initially some confusion about what had happened.

How long it will be until the driver returns to work is unknown.

WMATA: Now with Free Social Commentary

From J, who has been referred to WMATA's atrocious customer comment form:

Yesterday, on my commute home, the driver of my Metro bus saw something out his window (I was unable to see what.), shook his head, and decided to announce to everyone within earshot that "DC should have never legalized gay marriage."

As a gay resident of DC and a frequent Metro user, I find this type of behavior by a WMATA employee offensive and inexcusable. My taxes and fares pay to run Metro just like everyone else in this region, and I expect to utilize the services without fear of harassment, especially from the employees.

As if this wasn't bad enough, a few blocks later, after nearly hitting a jogger, the driver had the nerve to yell at the jogger out of his window.

Sadly, this happens all the time though and is just one small example of things I see every day. To be perfectly honest, I'm already over the incident, but it got me thinking about how, or if, it's worth my time to report things like this.

How do I report to WMATA (what information do I need to include? bus number, etc.) in order for a report to actually make it to an employee's file (or is that even possible?). We all know how hard it is to fire employees, so unless WMATA has a record of problems, little can be done.

Please answer the related poll over there on the left.

Other items:
"Fired" train operator had been on medical leave for 9 YEARS (Examiner)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oh LAWD! It's a Malfunction!

Yesterday, we saw Metro summed up in one photo, and today, we have the Metro experience summed up in a single sentence.

Next time our train stops for no apparent reason, we'll definitely be thinking of this.

After 5 seconds, plenty o' NSFW language and mediocre rewards.

Other items:
Metro hates you and Sick customer (Yellow Peril)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Every Journey Begins with a Single Step

Those little, folded fluorescent vests mean the driver of the car is a WMATA employee. Displaying them on the dashboard is a code not to ticket or tow the car, even if the car is illegally parked.

From Toni:
Notice anything? Monday around 6 p.m. at the Kiss & Ride of the Rhode Island Ave. Metro, but it could be any day or time.

I should also note that my neighbor got a ticket in that Kiss & Ride at a time when the sign says it's perfectly O.K. to park there. Wouldn't want to clog up the employee parking, what with the rail yard five blocks away.

Metro has a long, long road ahead in order to restore public confidence.

So WMATA, if you want us to believe there's accountability, start enforcing this simple violation. We realize it's hard to fire anyone, but we've documented this parking abuse again and again (here, here, and here) only to hear that after some temporary enforcement, things just slide back to "normal." Tow them! Ticket them! For cryin' out loud, you the jurisdictions, and indirectly you, need the money.

Interim GM Sarles, please start with the little things, and the riding public might start to believe you truly have begun to institute at least some minimal level of accountability at WMATA. Until you do so, people will continue to believe Metro employees do whatever the hell they please (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4). Oh, and we can't forget this guy. There are tons more cases of entitled WMATA employees on this blog. Our good buddy Khalil is apparently a parking violator, too.

See a pattern, Mr. Sarles? Fix it.

Other items:
Metro picks new safety officer (WaPo)
But... (via DCist)
Metro gets ridership bump (WMATA)
Funny Toles cartoon (WaPo)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rider Hall of Shame: Everybody Cut, Everybody Cut

@KatrinaMarie8 WTF??? only on #wmata

From Jared: I got on the Red Line at Medical Center around 9:45 this morning. It must have been cold for the poor bicyclist sitting across from me was rubbing his feet while reading the Express (nice multi-tasking), at first in the sock.

But then to my horror and everyone around him, he peels off his sock and starts rubbing his foot, full on fingers in toes. I can appreciate that you're cold, but the Metro is public transit, not your personal locker room jerk.

I been working so hard
I'm punching my card
Eight hours. For what?
Oh, tell me what I got

I get this feeling
That Metro's just holding me down
I'll hit the ceiling
Or else I'll tear up this town

Tonight I gotta cut

Loose, footloose
Kick off your Sunday shoes
Please, Louise
Pull me offa my knees
Jack, get back
C'mon before we crack
Lose your blues
Everybody cut footloose

You're playing so cool
Obeying every rule
Dig way down in your heart
You're burning, yearning for some

Somebody to tell you
That life ain't passing you by
I'm trying to tell you
It will if you don't even try
You can fly if you'd only cut

Loose, footloose
Kick off your Sunday shoes
Oohwee, Marie
Shake it, shake it for me
Oh Milo
C'mon C'mon let's go
Lose your blues
Everybody cut footloose

FIRST - We got to turn you around
SECOND - You put your feet on the ground
THIRD - Now take a hold of your soul
FOUR - Whooooooooa, I'm turning it loose,

Kick off your Sunday shoes
Please, Louise
Pull me offa my knees
Jack, get back

C'mon before we crack
Lose your blues
Everybody cut footloose

Friday, March 12, 2010

Secret Gunn Memo Revealed

David L. Gunn, a so-called transit guru, issued his secret (ooohhhhh), oral report to WMATA’s Board of Directors in a flailing attempt to rerail Metro.

Gunn’s top recommendations, according to Metro?
  • Resolve safety issues;
  • Recruit a new premanent [sic] general manager;
  • Deal with deteriorating financial trends; and
  • Control escalating MetroAccess subsidies.
According to the Washington Post, another critical insight provided by Gunn was that Metro has nearly double the absentee rate among its workers compared to other transit agencies. Way to keep it real ATU 689. What was it their president once said about coming to work "every day"...

So yeah, Gunn got 20 grand to come up with that stuff. As @NOVA_Dad said, "I could have done an assessment for $100 bucks and a case of imported beer, and the results would have been the same."

The rest of Gunn’s report was filled with common sense pretty much anyone who rode Metro or read an article about Metro in the past year could have come up with. To be fair, common sense is a rare commodity at WMATA, so perhaps it was worth it.

Unsuck DC Metro has obtained a leaked, written copy (Word) of the “Gunn Paper,” which was given orally to the WMATA Board of Directors. At a price of $20K, we riders were given the report another way.

Another 200,000 dimes flushed.

More advice for Metro (at least it was free)

Other items:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pardon My Suitcase

Many daily riders carry enough bags for an assault on Everest--just to go to work. Others carry suitcases, probably either to and from Union Station or National Airport. Several readers have inquired to see what others think is the appropriate etiquette for carrying luggage on WMATA.

Let 'er rip.

Other items:
DC's newest sports celeb sets example for other DC "elite" (WaPo)
Metro report to be given in secret (WaPo)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Zoo Cars: Aquarium Feasibility Study

Perhaps realizing they've lost the current generation of riders for good, Metro appears to be exploring ideas to lure younger riders with "zoo cars." Here, we see an aquarium feasibility study. The same rider who took these photos also noticed bird leavings in another car, which may indicate Metro is toying with an aviary concept car. The petting zoo station notion, however, was canceled.

NYC's waterfall feasibility study.

From an anonymous reader:

I ride the Orange Line from Vienna to Metro Center and back every day. I've noticed on several occasions water between the two window panes. Mostly it is a heavy mist that blocks the view, and sometimes, there is a tiny accumulation at the base. Today, I sat down and noticed several inches of water with debris between the panes. I have to admit, it was pretty mesmerizing.

NYC's waterfall feasibility study.

Other items:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Metro's Split Personality

Two stories, two WMATAs.

From anonymous:

Let me preface by saying yes, I was that loser who was taking up too much space the other morning from Twinbrook to Medical center around 8:45. I was carrying three bags of cupcakes for class snacks, and I didn’t want my roses to fall.

Knowing my luck, it’s unsurprising I forgot my Smartrip at home in my winter jacket. I have learned to accept this about me, and keep THREE fare cards as back-ups in my purse, coin purse, and spring jacket pocket. So, I knew I was prepared.

I got through the gates easily at Twinbrook, considering the load I was carrying, and had mentally prepared myself for the swift movements I needed to take to make sure I didn’t slow up any of my fellow riders' commute. However, when I got to the gate at Medical Center and put my fare card in, it told me I had to go to the exit fare machines. I was 10 cents short (not because of the fare increase). Crap.

I set all my stuff down, and rummaged through my purse, coin purse, and wallet and found a $20 bill, 10 pennies, and my other two fare cards. The machine doesn’t accept $20s or pennies, so I gathered up all my stuff and went ask the station manager if I could pay her, or exit and buy another farecard. I showed her I had the money, just not the correct means to exit properly.

I had asked her for help, and she asked me, “Do you know the terms and conditions you agree to as a rider of Metro?”

Me: Yes, I’m a frequent rider, and forgot my Smartrip today, and didn’t realize I was short until too late.

Manager: That’s not what I asked you. I asked if you are familiar with the terms and conditions to agree to as a rider of Metro.

Me: Yes.

Manager: Well, obviously you are not. If you were, you would know the exit machine does not take $20s or $10s, and you would have gone over to this sign (points out the fare sign) and read how much fare you needed to ride Metro. Are you familiar with our regular and reduced rates?

Me: Yes, I’m very familiar with Metro, and how Metro works. What I’m saying is I made a mistake. Is there a way I can combine my farecards or purchase a new one with this $20?

Manager: Well, obviously you are not familiar with how Metro works because you would have had the correct fare for Metro. Now, you want to figure out a way to pay how much you’re short, because if you don’t, Metro will put out a warrant for your arrest. And you don’t want to be driving down the road, pulled over for a busted tail-light, and the police realize you have a warrant out for you for 10 cents.

What I didn’t tell her is that I don’t drive, otherwise I wouldn’t be taking Metro in the first place. Also, at this point in the conversation, an older gentleman came up, and said he had dropped is Metro card on the tracks, and he wanted to buy another one. SHE LET HIM GO!

I was 10 cents short, and was threatened with a warrant!

I just looked at her through her entire speech, and at the end, I still didn't have any means of exiting the station. So I asked, "so what do you want me to do?" She took my fare cards (My $2.00 and $1.10; my fare was $2.10) and ripped them up, and let me go through the handicap turnstile.

I feel that Metro should have a better way of accommodating its passengers--a better system for exit fares that lets riders combine multiple fare cards, etc.-- or at least train station managers with common courtesy.

I don’t think I’ll be submitting an official complaint with Metro, mainly because I was treated poorly when asking for help, I can’t imagine the treatment I’ll receive for submitting a complaint.

From Heather:

The other night, my SmarTrip card wouldn't work when I got on at Gallery Place around 8 p.m.

I approached the station manager kiosk, they tested my card, which wouldn't work, and said "the computer is frozen" and waived me through.

So I got off at Takoma Park around 8:30, tried to use my card again, and it didn't work. Then, I went to the station kiosk, and they didn't even test my card, they just let me through without paying.

Thinking my card was dirty or had become demagnetized, I kept trying to clean it at both stations while trying to go through the turnstile, and even tested it a few times at the farecard vending machines to see if it would register.

Finally, it did register on the machine and worked fine when I got on the bus at Takoma.

Now, all of this would not have made me think there was a bigger problem, except that there were about five other people at Takoma with the same problem, and we were all let out without paying.

The station manager didn't seem to think it was strange that suddenly five people's SmarTrip cards stopped working at the same time.

This brings me to my last point: I frequently get on the bus, and the driver lets everyone board for free, because of a broken fare machine.

I wonder how much of these free rides are contributing to Metro's financial woes? This happens on my commute at least once a week, and my bus usually carries 20 riders a trip.

And I also wonder, if someone were to intentionally demagnetize their card, how long could they ride Metro for free by being waved through by station managers?

Could be an interesting experiment ...

Other items:
Red Line crash cost a lot of dimes (Examiner)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Does Metro have an App for this?

From Susan:

I wanted to tell you about my experience the other weekend on Metro for two reasons.

First, to help others use this as a wake-up call to be more aware of what's going on and who is around them. I wish I had been.

I also want WMATA to admit there is a pattern of iPhone snatches so they can stop it.

There is a ring of criminals who are targeting iPhones. They aren't taking purses or other items.

I boarded the Orange Line toward Vienna at Metro Center. I was seated near the door by myself, and there were many passengers scattered throughout the train.

The chime indicated the doors were closing at Farragut West, and in the blink of an eye, an African American male with dreadlocks, a cap and hoodie came from my left and grabbed my iPhone.

I was texting or reading an email.

We struggled, but he ended up outside the train as it pulled away. He ended up with just my iPhone, but he nearly ripped off my arm to go with it.

I realized immediately it was well planned, and he must have been watching me for some time.

The other passengers were as shocked as I was, and we hit the emergency call button.

Transit police and a station master met me at Foggy Bottom. They were compassionate and attentive in their response.

I had the GPS tracker enabled on my phone, so I know it traveled to New York Ave. within an hour of the snatch. It appeared to be there a while, although I suspect the SIM chip had been removed.

I know Metro doesn't want to publicize their crime rates and targeted snatches like this, but perhaps it would be a good distraction from their safety issues.

I take responsibility for not being aware of my surroundings enough to prevent this, but I hold WMATA responsible for not developing a strategy or plan to break up this crime ring.

The WMATA Web site has a 'police blotter' that hasn't been updated since Jan. 10. It's called "weekly" so I assume it is supposed to be updated weekly. Well, it has been nearly two months!

I emailed and asked how to receive an updated copy since it should be public record. If victims had a way to share stories, perhaps the pieces of similar crimes could be patched together to help apprehend the criminals.

WMATA is more worried about terrorist drills while unsuspecting riders are victimized by our own local criminals. I realize the crime rate is probably low relatively low when calculated at a ridership level, but it doesn't matter how low the rate is when it happens to you and there's an obvious ring of criminals doing the same crime over and over again.

Transit police finally called me to follow up. The representative said iPhone snatching on Metro "a major problem.'"

I asked why the police blotter on their Web site hasn't been updated since Jan. 10, and he said he'd report it.

I emailed Metro about it three times with no response. I told them last email I was going to initiate a Freedom of Information Act request.

From Twitter:
candacearm Sigh, bestie got jacked for her iphone on #wmata today. BE CAREFUL ladies. -these assholes have apparently become an epidemic lately

Beware of the snatch and dash

Other items:
Can Sarles turn Metro around? (WaPo)/Examiner take
NJ transit watchers give Sarles mixed grades (Examiner)
Wetlands or development? (Examiner)

Friday, March 5, 2010

FTA Recommendations Sound Like High WMATAese

In a report blasting Metro for its safety record (PDF), the FTA recommended Metro take the actions listed below.

Seems like most of it is a fancier version of the same old bureaucratic mumbo jumbo Metro has been spewing. Remember "safety stand down" and the big safety shake up?

We've got one recommendation we think would go a lot further than all of these.

"Don't guess when it comes to safety because if you f*ck up, you're fired."

Yes, it's a pipe dream, but if Metro doesn't get to the root issues, we're not likely to see a world-class mass transit system anytime soon.

Anyway, here's what the FTA thinks will solve Metro's woes. The ones in bold actually seem like they might at least help. Or, maybe they should just show this video. (graphic)

  1. Conduct an assessment to identify the resources and expertise necessary for the Safety Department to carry out the activities specified in WMATA’s System Safety Program Plan and Safety Rules and Procedures Manual.
  2. Use the results of the assessment to ensure adequate staffing levels and expertise within the Safety Department.
  3. Increase the Safety Department’s access to operating and maintenance information and reports to ensure that this information is being analyzed for potential impacts on the safety of WMATA.
  4. Develop an internal process to require the communication of safety-related information across all WMATA departments, including the impacts of budget reductions and resource constraints on the performance of safety-related maintenance activities and requirements.
  5. Define and implement the process for the top Safety Department position to communicate safety priorities to the General Manager in a timely and consistent manner.
  6. Identify the technical skills required to perform system-wide hazard analysis (as required in 49 CFR Part 659 and TOC’s Program Standard). To the extent that WMATA Safety Department staff does not currently possess the needed skills, provide training as soon as practicable.
  7. Update the WMATA System Safety Program Plan (specifically Procedure #2.1/0 and Section 6) to develop a hazard management process that ensures that all WMATA departments participate in an on-going manner.
  8. Institute a process to ensure that changes in operating rules are analyzed for safety impacts before system-wide implementation. For example, WMATA engineering bulletins are “field tested” before full implementation.
  9. Finalize the right-of-way protection rules, develop training to implement the new rules and ensure all right-of-way employees and contractors receive this training before accessing the right-of-way.
  10. Implement the configuration management program described in the WMATA System Safety Program Plan.

Welcome to DC Metro Mr. Sarles

Original cartoon here.

Other items:
Pentagon shooting (WaPo)
FTA report blasts Metro (FTA)
Metro sets public hearings on 2011 budget (WMATA)
Metro introduces new interim GM, Richard Sarles (YouTube)
Metro unveils fare hikes/ service cuts (Examiner)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

1,620,000 Dimes

Yesterday, Metro announced it had painted bigger numbers on each rail car in an effort to increase safety. They spent $162,000 on the project. That's 1,620,000 dimes!

One could debate the merits of the move, but what we can't understand is why Metro also spent manpower brushing out the old numbers as seen above. What a waste.

It's not like Metro is against a little extra signage here and there.

"Elavator" photo from Jackie.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Big Escalator News?

Yesterday afternoon, we saw several men--not Metro workers--looking very closely at the platform-to-mezzanine escalators at Federal Center SW. There are only two escalators there, one up, one down. They usually work, as do the three from the mezzanine to the street.

The men seemed concerned with the pylon that sits on the platform at the bottom of the escalators. Some were making sketches, while others talked about whether the pylon could be moved.

We decided to ask what was going on.

"We're gonna rip these escalators out and put in new ones," said one of them. "All up and down the Orange and Blue lines."

"All of the escalators?" we asked.

"Mostly the platform-to-mezzanine ones," he said.

That sounded like pretty big news considering Metro's escalator woes, so we asked Metro for the details such as cost, time lines, station names, etc.

Metro said it was "a survey of escalators as part of our Infrastructure Renewal Program," adding that several escalators on the Red Line will also be looked at.

"Escalators will be rehabbed, as in the past, however, several units will be completely replaced. Federal Center will be rehabs, a few units at Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle will be replaced," they said.

We asked for more information, but Metro declined.

"This is the beginning stages," they said. "Watch for press releases as the actual work begins."

Recent escalator posts:
Metro's failin'est escalator
Mythical escalator repairman
Escalator improvement: No we can't
Metro bottlenecks
What is wrong with the escalators?
Escalator forecast

Other items:
Metro to tap ex-NJ Transit chief as interim GM (WaPo)
Examiner story on new interim GM

Thomas Wilburn

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More Like these, Please

From Catharine:

I’m the first one to complain when, as often happens, things go awry on my “metromute.” However, on the morning of Feb. 24, I felt compelled to share a positive Metro story.

Walking into the Clarendon station, the guy in front of me swiped his SmartTrip card to no avail. Apologetically, he moved over the next turnstile. I swiped my SmartTrip card, and again nothing happened, so I also moved over to the adjoining turnstile.

Suddenly, the station manager burst out of the booth and rushed over to the turnstile. Wow! This all happened in a matter of seconds. He was clearly alert and extremely responsive. Great job, sir!

I wish I had gotten his name…

It made me realize that while I’ve had a ton of negative experiences, I’ve also had lots of positive ones.

While I’m at it, I’d like to mention that the evening station manager at Clarendon, a friendly white-haired gentleman, is routinely standing by the turnstiles in the evening, pleasantly greeting customers and providing friendly assistance where needed. Hopefully, I can remember that it is not all bad the next time my 7-stop commute takes me an hour or more.

Osama bin Laden Sneaks Through Waterfront Station Undetected

Photo courtesy of Corey

Security camera footage later revealed the world's most wanted man entered the Waterfront station and purchased a ticket. After getting to the platform, however, he was seen shaking his head in disgust after seeing it was 20 minutes until the next train. He was last seen leaving the station through the faregates where he angrily threw his arms in the air, apparently mad it cost $1.35 $1.45 just to see there were no trains coming.

"Our members go to work every day cognizant of their responsibility to perform a job on behalf of our customers – the riding public.” --Jackie Jeter, President ATU 689

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Not Texting, but ...

Original YouTube Post
Is it as distracting?

From an anonymous reader:

I ride the bus more than the train, and there's something I've been seeing that I find disturbing.

I keep seeing bus drivers who have same-sex friends and/or boyfriends or girlfriends riding with them and distracting them.

Usually, the friend will stand at the front of the bus next to the driver and talk with them during the drive. However, the other day, I was on an H2 bus, and the driver, a woman, had her boyfriend not just standing with her, but pretty much wrapped around her for the entire time I was on the bus.

When I got on, her boyfriend was blocking the aisle; I had to ask him to let me by. During the time I was on the bus, he was either blocking the aisle or wrapped around his girlfriend. Sometimes, he just had his arm along the back of her seat, other times he had a foot up on the step to her seat, had his left arm around her, and his right arm was holding on to the rail by the fare machine.

At least when he was wrapped around her, you could get by him.

One morning, on a 42 to Metro Center, the driver (male) stopped between stops on Columbia Road to let his male friend on. I believe the friend did not pay a fare.

The friend stood next to the driver, with a large backpack on the floor, talking to the driver for the entire route. Anyone who wanted to get on the bus, or get off through the front door, had to ask the friend to move.

How much attention can a driver be paying to their driving when they're carrying on a conversation or snuggling with their sweetie?

Why are these people allowed to often block the way for other riders?

Other items:
Why is Gunn's report going to be secret? (Examiner)

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