Friday, May 28, 2010

A Message to the WMATA Board (NSFW)

Dear Board:

You could have at least made your deals in a public forum instead of sneaking out for a nearly 3-hour, off-the-record "lunch." And you should have profusely apologized to riders instead of trying to spin the fare hikes as if you were actually doing us a favor.

Next year, maybe?

It's really not the hikes that are the most disturbing. It's your secrecy, astounding arrogance and complete and utter disregard for your customers. Because of this, Unsuck will limit the use of Metro as much as possible for the entire month of July, when your fare hikes, not "adjustments," kick in. Rain or shine, warm or sweltering, Unsuck will bike. $148 less for you.

Mr. Unsuck


Other items:
Details of the dastardly deed (WMATA)
7000-series will be Japanese, will not be run like Japanese trains (WMATA)
Metro wasted more money (WMATA)
Cops with guns (WAPO)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bait and Switch?

So the WMATA Board is meeting today (Listen here if you dare. It starts at 11.) to determine what will probably be a major, complex fare increase (PDF).

OK, WMATA, you're likely going to up your fares. We all know that, but are you going to up your game as well?

A lot of times when the price of something goes up, there's at least a token improvement. A bell. A whistle. Something! What are we going to get for this increase?

If we pay out the nose for "peak of the peak" service can we expect on-time trains? All 8-car trains? Polite employees? Less fires on the tracks? Less switch problems? Fewer derailments? Smoother rides? Working doors? Working AC?

Our guess is no. In fact, it appears you're cutting service already.

From MG:
Remember how Metro threatened to cut night rail service to every 30 minutes if the latest fare hike wasn't approved? It turns out Metro got its cake and is eating it too, or, perhaps better said, Metro is shoving it in riders' faces.

I just waited 30 minutes at Rosslyn for a Blue Line train in the direction of Franconia-Springfield.

I arrived at 10:50 p.m. with no Blue Line train posted on the electronic board. At 11:00, lo and behold, up pops a Franconia train scheduled to arrive in 20 minutes (and it took every second of that 20 minutes to arrive).

Meanwhile, four trains pass in the opposite direction on the upper platform--not to mention the two no-passenger trains that breezed by my platform.

I can think of plenty of appropriate mottos that reflect the state of Metrorail, but this one seems especially appropriate: more money, less service.
MG is not the only one:
JPoor007 Dear @wmata, I'd like to have the last 30 minutes of my life back spent waiting on the Vienna-bound Orange line in Rosslyn #metrosucks
Have you noticed longer headways?

Other items:

Would you want to do business in DC? (WaPo)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Metro 2015: Peak of the Peak of the Peak of the Peak of the Peak

Original pic

Metro's possible new fare structure apparently necessitates an online calculator.


Fast forward to 2015.

Metro has upgraded their software and is running Windows 98. With the powerful new technology, they're better able to slice and dice ridership data.

No more mere "peak of the peak" fares.

In 2015, if Metro still exists, they'll be able to cut "rush hour" into 15-minute segments over a 5-hour span every morning and afternoon, charging different fares for each. They'll also charge according to what station you enter and exit, with surcharges at "core" stations. So much for the advantages of city living.

The new fare schedule will require the hiring of fare assistants who stand at each machine and consult passengers on how to read the actuary table-like fare charts.

One unforeseen drawback will be that the slot to insert your money or credit card will be covered up by fare tables. Metro will then need to purchase new fare machines, causing further fare hikes.

But back to what Metro is contemplating now.

No other mass transit system we know of does this. Does anyone have confidence that Metro will be able to pull something this complex off? They don't even collect bus fares with any sort of regularity.

Other items:
Senators introduce emergency $2 billion funding bill for mass transit (Examiner)
Should Metro flatten fares? (WAPO)
Track equipment derails, causes major Red Line delays (WMATA)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Luggage Likes to Sit

From Sarah: "I took this picture on my way home the other night. It was rush hour on the Red Line toward Shady Grove. Try to suck a little bit more, buddy."

Other items:
Metro plans to cut MetroAccess (WaPo)
Metro proposes to share Dulles Rail car costs (Examiner)
Cool photos of the Stockholm subway (Don't Panic via @hostagehoosier)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pique of the Pique

From CS:

For this, they want to charge more?!

The Ms. was riding the Orange Line in the other morning when her train died at McPherson Square – most of it in the station, but one car still hanging out into the tunnel: Her car.

Those aboard the in-station cars were allowed off, while those in the tunnel were told to sit tight.

After 20 minutes of sitting around, someone in Metro-land got the bright idea of: What if the people stuck on the dead train got up, walked a few paces through the end-car door, into a car adjacent to the platform, and got out there?!

What a concept!


Think how elegant a solution could have been crafted if Metro took an hour, or even a day, to cogitate.

It was just one more indication that so much of what ails Metro lies in the brain, and not necessarily the wallet. The Ms. also wonders when, after Metro implements the peak-of-the-peak surcharge, who she should see for a refund when the trip turns into bottom of the barrel.

To top it all off, the final indignity was that she had to pay for the privilege of enduring this Metro misery.

To escape the meltdown, she crossed to the opposite platform, hopped a train one stop back in the opposite direction, to Farragut West, then exited, crossed Farragut Square to Farragut North, to pick up a Shady Grove-bound Red Line train -- her original quest. But, of course, leaving and re-entering meant paying extra fare.

What a way to run a railroad. Pique of the pique, you might say.

Also by CS:
Other items:
Lawmakers ramp up scrutiny of Metro (The Hill)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Fails

MetroopensdoorsFAIL/Pic courtesy of Charles

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One Small Concession

Hey Metro! We've got an idea to improve your withered image. Hear us out.

We know the bar is low. Seriously, it's way, way down there. We're pretty sure a slug has no problem getting over it. It's really more of an indentation, isn't it?

We also know the coming fare increases aren't going to improve your image or your performance.

Halfway, is not where you're meeting us. If it were, there'd be "peak of the peak service" to go along with "peak of the peak" fare increases, but you're not offering that. Really, the whole thing is a case of us meeting you on YOUR terms.

But here's one thing you can do for us. Just a teeny weeny, itsy bitsy concession. Now stay with is here, Metro. It's a wacky idea.

How about "Corpse-free Fridays?"

That's right. On Fridays alone you promise we won't see dead people, and we'll swallow the fare hikes.

Show a little respect for the deceased and for your riders, and inspect the trains like you say you do.

C'mon Metro. Make those massive increases worth it. Offering a corpse-free commute to kick off the weekend really is the least you can do.

Other items:
The latest on the Metro death (Examiner)
Woman attacked on Metrobus (Fox)
Nearly four decades in, and we're back to the basics (WMATA)/Post version
No Orange Line b/w WFC and EFC for three weekends (WMATA)
Unsuck on Kojo

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Name that Tune II

Original on Youtube


Worst press release headlines from yesterday:

Other items:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Look Who's Got DirecTV

@mikebijou2 Lol, a direcTV dish at Huntington? At least let us watch. #wmata

According to WMATA: "The building that the dish is attached to has an operator's lounge. Metro does not offer or pay for this service. Employees can pool their money and purchase such services so they can watch television on their breaks or lunches."

Wonder if we can swing through during football season ...

Other items:
The London Tube has this, and we have this (h/t @hostagehoosier)
Metro funding comes with strings (Examiner)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sheeple on the Metro

From Kyle:

On the Orange Line the other morning, I got on the rear of the fourth car (I think it was a 1000-series.) of a six-car train at East Falls Church after a five minute wait, and it was already packed. A great start to the day.

On the way into the Ballston tunnel, the wheels underneath my feet start making this scraping, creaking noise and vibrating enough that I broke the whole rush hour solipsism thing and looked around to see if any of my fellow passengers felt it. They did.

We got into Ballston, and the operator made the announcement that they were taking the train out of service, which was fantastic because there were already two hundred or so people on the platform who wanted to get on.

After stepping off, there was the unmistakable odor of smoke, and there were whispers that the train had caught fire. Awesome. Everyone got off.

Well, not everyone.

The 30 or so commuters squeezed into the front portion of the fifth car behind us didn't move. I figured they didn't blink the lights when they make the "out of service" announcement like they usually do, and maybe their loudspeaker was broken.

I called out to them, "hey, they're taking the train out of service."

Two people heard me and walked out, going through the center doors. The rest just stayed there with dead looks on their faces, all staring out onto the platform where there was probably a thousand people all fighting for standing room.

A minute later someone else yelled at them from the platform. Nobody moved.

The best part was that even though the third, fourth and sixth cars were completely empty, a few people actually were getting onto the fifth car now to join them in just standing there in a trance.

Three full minutes later the operator closed the doors, and right at that "stand clear doors closing" chime moment, one rider snapped out of it and stood there propping a door open, then screamed at what I guessed was the train operator all the way down the platform, "open the goddamn doors, we have to get out!"

It took another three full minutes for them to disembark, single-file.

Other items:
NextBus fail (Examiner)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

As Small Token of Metro's Appreciation, a Miracle

Screenshots of Metro disruption reports taken May 12

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a miracle to announce: There have been no Metro disruptions since April 26, according to the WMATA website. Not a one.

Your prayers, curses and mutterings have been heard.

All praise Metro.

Guess that extra dime worked after all. Just think what service will be like when they vote to up the fares even more today!

(h/t CS)

Other items:
What do Metro workers make? (GGW)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Please Don't Masturbate Next to Me

From an anonymous reader:

I reported this case of sexual assault to Metro Police, but I don't feel like that accomplishes much.

Yesterday morning, I boarded the Orange Line at L'Enfant Plaza in the direction of Vienna. I was engrossed in a book and on "auto-pilot" on the way to work.

When I got on the train, a man sat down next to me, in the seat closest to the aisle. I sat next to him for about 10 minutes before I realized he was masturbating right next to me.

I was shocked!

When he realized I had noticed, he started talking to me, and making comments about oral sex!

The train car wasn't full, but there were many people in the vicinity, including families with small children. I had to ask him to get up and let me out, which thankfully he did.

I was so nauseated and disgusted.

It's especially shocking considering the time of day and the amount of people on the train. I think there was another man on the Metro who noticed what was going on before I did. He was wearing a suit, standing near the doors and facing me. At one point, I looked up from my book and caught his eye. He had a look of concern on his face, but I ignored it and went back to reading. Why didn't he do anything?

For what it's worth, the man was African American, about 40 years old, wearing jeans and a baseball cap.

I really have no choice but to take Metro everyday. I commute from Columbia Heights to Court House, and I don't have a car. But I've been considering buying a scooter, and this incident may help me to finally commit to that decision. Yesterday, I got a ride from a coworker so that I didn't have to Metro home. I just wasn't ready to be back on it. But today, I better be ready because I still need to get to work.

Same guy? (Hollaback DC)
Women-only cars in Japan (Wikipedia)

Other items:
Dimes fare hike not cutting it (Examiner)
Rowdy riders (Fox5)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Blogger Round Table with the Interim GM

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." -- Karl Marx

It's unclear whether we're in the tragic stage or the farcical stage, but here's the gist of the blogger round table.

There wasn't a much earth shattering news made at last night's sit down with interim GM Richard Sarles, and unlike after the last blogger meeting, it's unlikely we'll be reading about Sarles' resignation today.

Here are a few takeaways:
  • Automatic Train Control is a long way off. Continue to bring your sea legs, cat-like reflexes and patience to your commute.
  • The escalator improvement project still seems rather nebulous, and it's hard to see just exactly what is meant by "greater accountability." Outside consultants are going to study how escalators are "fixed," and Metro elevator/escalator teams are going to be assigned groups of stations for which they're responsible. What happens when they fail is unclear. Our guess: Frequent Metro use will result in tighter quads.
  • Sarles' role is basically as a Band-Aid until a permanent replacement can be found. It's sad that a man with his experience and acumen will have such a limited role in a system that could really use him, but the guy has had a long career, and an LTR with WMATA can't be appealing at this point. It's more of a FWB relationship, and that's cool.
  • Sarles repeated his mantra that his three priorities are: safety, reliability, financial stability on the capital and operational side, but you've already read about that.
  • While it's understandable that a short term, interim GM might not be concerned with the past, past is prologue, and the next GM would do well to study WMATA history. Yes, funding has led to some of Metro's slide, but there are other items in Sarles' six-month safety plan that seem like "subway 101" to us. Those include an incident tracking system, encouraging near miss reporting, introducing a safety hotline and adjusting schedules based on modern day loads. When asked about this Sarles gave a rather pat answer that he's looking toward the future. Fair enough. He's not sticking around, but Unsuck thinks the next GM would be well served to study the past and how WMATA found itself in its current crapstastic state. Sarles said it would be "years" until Metro "turns around."
  • Metro, as is, will reach capacity within 15-20 years.

Other items:
Md. governor slams Metro safety record (WTOP)
What matters about Metro (WaPo)
Metro facing heat from latest mishap (Examiner)
Union presses Metro for 40 mph speed limit (Examiner)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Slow Elevator, Slower WMATA Employee

From Dave:

I sure am glad I don't normally travel through Union Station during rush hour. The other day, I had to take the MARC train, so I arrived at Union Station at 4:40 p.m. to find the up escalator at the end of the platform was out of service.

There was a massive line to get up the "stairs," as well as a cluster of people, several handicapped, who were waiting for the nearby elevator.

In the 10 minutes it took for me to wait and then walk up the broken escalator, the elevator didn't move from its position one floor above the platform. A gentleman was standing inside the elevator, trying to get it to move, but it appeared as if the elevator was broken.

After I reached the top, I went through the gate, and there were two Metro employees, one man and one woman, talking to each other. I interrupted and said "Excuse me, but I think your elevator is not working properly."

The woman responded with "It's juuuuust slow." Her attitude was one of "How DARE you disturb my conversation and tell me something is wrong?"

Annoyed, but unable to stop to talk and argue, I walked away, but I again politely said, "there is something wrong with your elevator, Ma'am. People have been waiting for 10 minutes. That's not slow, that's malfunctioning."

She shouted back "NO, ITS JUST SLOW!" Then, the elevator doors slowly closed, but the elevator didn't move toward the stranded people below. It just sat there. Not working.

As I continued my journey, now going up the second escalator to the main floor of Union Station, the woman shouted "SEE, ITS JUST SLOW!" She apparently thinks the doors closing means the elevator is working. But again, the elevator still hadn't moved. And mind you, she was shouting at me over a rush hour crowd, as I was going up an escalator 50 feet away from her.

I finally couldn't take her attacks anymore and shouted back "WE PAY YOUR SALARY, Ma'am, so you might want to adjust the attitude toward your customers."

She didn't respond to that.

Other items:
Union blasts Metro on safety secrecy (Balt. Sun)
TOC slams Metro for same (WTOP)
Metro Board member Zimmerman makes more money case in Post
Metro suicide prevention campaign: Delayed (Examiner)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Is there a Light at the End of the Escalator?

First, the dark. From YK:
I took the Green Line from College Park toward Branch Ave. around 2:30 p.m. on May 6.

After a few stops, a uniformed Metro worker got on and sat at the very end of the car.

Two stops later, another uniformed Metro worker got on and, after seeing the first worker, sat next to him.

My guess is they were escalator repair men.

They started their loud conversation by comparing their supervisors. From there, it escalated (tee hee) into a very loud and rather coarse conversation about how they can come to work and leave work as early or as late as they want, since no one is actually watching.

This may explain why the escalator repairs takes so long.
We asked Metro about accountability among escalator repairmen. Usually, they're alone or in pairs, so no one is directly watching them. Also, since deadlines for the repair of escalators seem ... well ... flexible, how is a repairman's performance measured? What happens if they fail to repair an escalator on time?

Metro's response was interesting.

"The supervision of the escalator/elevator repair teams is currently changing to increase accountability, and they are creating rapid response teams as well."

Metro would provide no further details.

More Metro brake smoke and mirrors or a real change? While more accountability sounds good, Metro is also hiring escalator consultants.

We'll follow up at the blogger round table Monday.

Speaking of the round table, if you have questions you'd like Unsuck to ask interim GM Sarles, email them.

Is She Being Considered for the GM Job?

This comes to us graciously from Muni Diaries via Everhart, who gets a huge unsuck hat tip. No, that's not a WMATA uniform. It's a Muni uniform. The Muni is San Francisco's transit agency. says my bus arrives in 18 minutes and the next one comes in 32 minutes. Next I check it’s 9 minutes and 23. Then the ETA jumps up to 12/18 … then 13/16 … and finally 4/4. By the time I get to my stop, both buses are pulling in together. Just another typical morning waiting for the 33 in Upper Haight.

I hop on the first one, frustrated that yet again it would have been faster to drive. The bus driver apologizes, saying the two buses that were supposed to be in front of hers aren’t running today. Then she offers me my choice of wrapped candy from a dish by the fare machine, and for the first time I actually look around at bus 2442 driven by Tammy.

It’s like a Fourth of July party inside Tammy’s bus. There are red, white and blue streamers, balloons and coils that say “happy,” banners and party lanterns hanging from the railings. Large handwritten posters adorn the windows thanking her riders and spouting truths such as “Until Muni realizes that without our passengers there’s no Muni!” and pretty much everyone has a smile on their face.

As I sit in the bus watching new passengers board, I witness a Muni miracle: a sea of frowns turn into big grins as people enter and see what awaits them. I overhear nearly every newcomer commenting on the scene to either Tammy or their fellow straphangers. “How cool is this?" they ponder aloud.

“Is this for Mother’s day?”

“Is someone retiring?”

“I can’t believe I got candy.”

Even the woman on her cell phone discussing how her doctor just found a lump in her breast seemed upbeat, enjoying her Tootsie-Roll lollipop with her lips curled up from ear to ear.

Pretty much everyone who boarded asked Tammy a quick question about the decorations.

“I just want to show appreciation for my passengers,” was her standard response. Those who pressed further often heard “If not for the passengers, drivers and managers have no job.”

Tammy also was more than happy to advise passengers frustrated by the delay. “I strongly encourage you to call Muni and complain,” was advice that seemed to be doled out at every other stop.

The bus thinned out just before I got to my stop, and I had the chance to briefly chat with Tammy and ask her what inspired her display of gratitude. “It’s for all of you. I drive this bus every morning and have the most amazing relationships with my passengers.” She next revealed that her last day [was coming up], but when I wished her an amazing retirement she responded, “nope, not retiring, just moving to the 24 line.”

So, to all you lucky folks who take the 24, please greet Tammy with a smile and enjoy the ride, because she is one of the rare gems in the Muni system who makes the inevitable delays bearable.

See original post here, which has more pics of this incredible, and sadly rare American mass transit tale.

Other items:
MD to pay Metro after all. In exchange for greater transparency. Hmm (WaPo)
Greater transparency like this (WTOP)
Another near miss?

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I'll pay anything. Just make it go away/Bollocks

Tear jerker/Gooooood Morning Metro riders!

Lay-Z Boy/Broken AC

Major fare increases are coming, and Metro wants to listen to you!

Here's your chance to choose what headache inducing, fare increase sticker color combo you would like to see plastered everywhere.

Select wisely, but remember if your first choice is not used for this year's increase, it's likely there'll be another chance to choose next year!

Other items:
Metro "fires" bus driver (Examiner)
DC streetcars could be free in some areas (WTOP)
Teen shot on Metrobus (WaPo)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Welcome to the New Metro!

Welcome to the new Metro!

Things are really turning around.

In a bold move, Metro is apparently going to tackle its intractable escalator and elevator problems head on. No more excuses.

Amazing, right?



Check it out! This Sarles guy is really a breath of fresh air! A real go getter! Hands on.

Here's the plan:

1. Hire some consultants ... SCREECH ... wait a minute.

That sounds like the tired, old Metro.

Metro has been "running" escalators and elevators for more than three decades. Now's the time to call in the consultants?

Soon, Metro will have more working consultants than working escalators. Your fare increases at work.

Other items:
Metro oversight group to be "beefed up" (Examiner)
Red Line capacity to remain same, yet congestion will ease. Hmmm. (WaPo)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We'll Get to it Then

From: Dmitriy

I'm not sure which possibility is funnier/more frightening: that a Metro employee made this "correction" or that a random passerby did. This is from the under-renovation mezzanine-to-platform escalator at Bethesda.

Other items:
Weeknight track maintenance schedule (WMATA)
Weekend track maintenance schedule (WMATA)
Metro on heightened state of alert post NYC bomb fail (WTOP)
Profile of interim GM Sarles (Examiner)
Profile of interim GM Sarles (WaPo)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Brake Problem Friday

On April 23, Metro reported 15 service disruptions. That's a pretty good day for Metro, but unfortunately, 10 of them were due to brake problems--all serious enough to take the trains out of service. Yikes.
7:54 a.m. A Red Line train at Metro Center was taken out of service due to a brake problem; customers were required to exit the train.

10:17 a.m. An Orange Line train at Minnesota was taken out of service due to a brake problem; customers were required to exit the train.

12:48 p.m. A Red Line train at Twinbrook was taken out of service due to a brake problem; customers were required to exit the train.

3:36 p.m. A Red Line train at Van Ness was taken out of service due to a brake problem; customers were required to exit the train.

3:55 p.m. A Red Line train at Van Ness was taken out of service due to a brake problem.

5:19 p.m. A Red Line train at Union Station was taken out of service due to a brake problem.

5:20 p.m. A Blue Line train at Stadium Armory was taken out of service due to a brake problem.

8:31 p.m. An Orange Line train at L’Enfant Plaza was taken out of service due to a brake problem; customers were required to exit the train.

9:54 p.m. A Red Line train at Judiciary Square was taken out of service due to a brake problem; customers were required to exit the train.

10:09 p.m. An Orange Line train at McPherson Square was taken out of service due to a brake problem.

And, as is always the case with Metro, there's also a comedic element to the disruption report:
7:35 a.m. A Green Line train at Branch Avenue was not dispatched because no cares were available.
Aww. We've been missing the cares for a while now, guys. Make some more cares available, please. After all, we're paying more now and are going to be paying even more! We deserve more cares. Here's a screen grab in case Metro changes it.

Other items:
WMATA responds to FTA audit (WMATA)
Bus riders hit hardest (Examiner)
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