Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oops, they Did it Again!

Guess that no texting memo hasn't been circulated yet. From a reader who would like to remain anonymous. They are planning to contact Metro about the event.
Today at about 3:30, I was on the 25A, and saw the driver texting while behind the wheel.

He first moved the sun visor up and over the camera located above the driver to block it and proceeded to take his phone out of his shirt pocket and text on the left side of the steering wheel. There is also another camera on the bus to monitor passengers, but I don't know if the driver is visible from that one.

The visor made a loud noise when he first started to move it, and he looked up in his large mirror that's above him to see if anyone noticed. I was wearing sunglasses, so he didn't know exactly where I was looking.

And through that large mirror where he can see everything on the bus, passengers can also see a lot.

Once he saw no one really "flinched," he continued.

We were moving (turning, also) while the phone was being read and buttons were pushed. This went on for at least 5 minutes, but I got off the bus.

The bus was rather empty, so I'm not sure if anyone else saw.

There was no apparent weaving or other behaviour associated with distracted driving.

I guess it could have been business related, but if Metro is using texting as a way to get a hold of bus drivers while they are working, that is certainly a technique that needs to be reevaluated. I also highly doubt that it was business related due to the way he went about it.

The most telling part of this was the visor moving and also when he put the phone away at certain stops when passengers were going to get on the bus, he would make a stretching motion and drop the phone in his shirt pocket.

It's amazing that I was able to see everything through the mirror, but it was really disgusting and disturbing to me so I had to say something.
Other items:
Metro Board to hold special meeting regarding Va. funding (WaPo)
Metro's suicide prevention plan falls short (Examiner)
MARC passengers demand better service (WJLA)
Metro takes a wrong turn (NBC4)

Pay to Play

Many, many people have written in asking why we have to pay just to enter a station. They argue that it's a ripoff to swipe the farecard and then have to pay the minimum fare if, say, there's a major delay and they decide it's quicker to get to their destination by exiting the system immediately to walk or get a cab instead of dealing with MetroMess.

Here's WMATA's answer:
Metro uses a two point fare system, you swipe your card when you enter and again when you leave. It is expected that when you enter the system you do so with the intent of going someplace other than where you started, and we collect the fare accordingly. We also have in place a policy that states if a major delay or incident happens, the General Manager has the authority to invoke our “Zero Fare Policy” which allows customers to leave the system from the same station they enter at with no fare charged. (Board notification is required every time this is enacted as it violates our tariff)

Now, image you and a friend (Internet, Craig’s list) both ride every day. You get on at Vienna and travel to Metro Center and your friend conveniently gets on at Metro Center and travels to Vienna. You determine that if you meet at, let’s say Rosslyn, he gives you his fare card and you give him your fare card, you would both have fare cards showing you leaving from the same station you entered and…

You can find our tariff here:

Here's what San Fran's BART does if you decide you don't want to ride:
You would pay a fare of $5.20 because the gates presume you've been riding around for any period of time less than three hours.

To avoid such a charge, see the station agent instead of going through the fare gate. If the ticket is still open and has not been used for exit, the agent can reset that ticket.
Photo: sabine01

Other items:
Women stuck in station (Examiner)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Welcome to our Friendly Little Metro

Metro sucks enough on its own without riders making it suck more. Wonder if anything could have been done to help the person who allegedly jumped on the tracks and died yesterday.

From a Blue Line passenger:
The other morning, I got off of the Blue line train at Foggy Bottom and was walking toward the platform escalator. I had my headphones on and was in my own world, just about to go up when I noticed something on the platform.

A woman was leaning over the side of the platform and seemed to be struggling with something. I took a second look and realized what she was struggling with.

A man was down on the tracks and was trying to get back up on the platform. The woman was not able to pull him up by herself and was struggling.

The man was very disoriented. Either he had issues before the fall or had hit his head when he fell.

Several people were standing around on cell phones, and I assume they were calling for help, but NO ONE was helping the woman get the man back on to the platform.

I grabbed his other arm and, with the woman’s help, was able to pull him back onto the platform.

What amazed me was the number of perfectly healthy men and women who walked right by. It was 9:30 a.m., and the platform was full of people. Most just looked at this poor man struggling to get back up on the platform and kept on walking.

I have no idea who the woman was that was helping him, but she did not know the man any more than I did. Yet she immediately got down and tried to help him knowing full well that this man was at least twice her size. She stepped up when no one else would. She is the hero here.

Kudos to the people on phones trying to get help, but what was needed was someone to help grab the man's other arm and pull.

We all complain about Metro not doing a poor job (and believe me, it is justified most of the time) but here is an example of where we the riders needs to think about how we react to a situation.

The station manager reacted immediately when he was informed but with the crowds of people in the station there was no way he could get there in time to help.

I hope that maybe some of the people that walked by read this and stop for a minute to think about their reaction or lack thereof.

Other items:
A great Toles cartoon (WaPo)
Metro victims entitled to $50K (WMATA)
Apparently, Metro has given up even trying to fire bad seeds (Examiner)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Astute Toddler Invents Apt Metro Game

From an anonymous reader:

My son was throwing the ball up the stairs and letting it roll down. We asked him what he was doing, and he explained that he was playing the "unsuck game."

Metro Contractors Get Sleep Memo

Looks like the "it's ok to sleep on the job" memo has finally been circulated to Metro contractors, as here we see what appears to be an MV Transportation worker taking a little time off for a nap, with the car running. MV Transportation is a contractor that runs MetroAccess, the cost of which has been skyrocketing, leading to budget gaps and fare increases. (h/t Peter)

Sweet dreams, buddy.

More sleepers:
Bin Laden Sneaks through Waterfront Station Undetected
Snoozeday edition

Other items:
Glitch hits new fare scheme (WaPo)
Metro moonlights as landlord (Examiner)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Will DVDs Save Metro?

Soon to go the way of VHS

But in yet another backward looking move, the Metro Board voted to allow the installation of DVD rental kiosks in Metro stations. Could McD's be far behind?! Gasp.

Anyway, DVDs will be around, oh, another few years.


But let's be positive and not destructive and help Metro out with some suggestions as to what to stock those DVD dispensers with.

Here are some, in no particular order, to get the ball rolling:
  • Taxi Driver
  • Cars
  • Motorcycle Diaries
  • Traffic
  • Breaking Away
  • There Will Be Blood
  • Walk Hard
  • The 400 Blows
  • Blow
  • Strangers on a Train
  • Heat
  • Network (One of the best movies ever. If you don't get the ref, watch it. h/t Peter)
  • Death Wish
  • The Killing Fields
  • From Here to Eternity
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Some Like It Hot

@PortableRadio Speed, The Little Engine that Could
@is3l Pelham123!
@EdwinTheRedwin Falling Down, Requiem for a Dream
@AnthonyUp "300" (commute time in minutes; number of passengers per car; non-functional escalators; fare hike; etc.)
@Vogy_Says Speed 1 and 2, The Great Train Robbery, Butch Cassidy, The Sting, French Connection
@Rizzz Throw Momma From the Train.
@kevin_reiss The Taking of Pelham 123 (original version)
@dcparatransit The French Connection, Heat, the Airplane! movies
@pvpanther7 Crash
@rscottfisher Planes, Trains, and Automobiles?
@apcullers Road Trip. The Hitchhiker.
@tbranham Falling Down?
@metro_man Runaway Train
@geomantic Trainspotting
@chenenko if we have a repeat of winter 09-10 you could rent Miracle, or maybe Cool Runnings.
@jb_martin did anyone say Money Train? Please tell me no one said Money Train.
@tomcatx2 speed, speed 2, godzilla films (lots of transit carnage)
@Hell_on_wheelz Runaway Train, Ground Hog Day, The Ghost Train, The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3, Hellboy

Other items:
Bend over (Examiner)
So when Metro crashes, and you want someone to be able to save you. (They painted big numbers instead.)
Finally! A nice question posed by the Post
If you ride these buses ... (WMATA)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

VA Funding Update

UPDATE: The Washington Post has the latest

Virginia transportation secretary Sean Connaughton said in an email exchange that he'd had "good discussions with the NVTC chair and other members. We are working to resolve the issues. The dialogue will continue!"

He added that he thinks what is lost in the conversation is that the Commonwealth is being asked to commit $500 million "with no questions asked!"

Evil Escalator Exacts Revenge on Escaleftor

A shoe was all that was left of the victim, who should have known better than to stand on the left. No identification has yet been made.

Original pic: @dallendoug: Gee look. I wonder why the escalator at dupont isn't working. #wmata fail

Other items:
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chair open to McDonnell demands (News Channel 8)
Alexandria says Va. should pay up (WaPo)
Connaughton meeting a mystery to NVTC (WaPo)
Metro's worst year ever (City Paper)
Federal Transit Rail Advisory Committee announced (Jeter is on it!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poor Baby Metro

Metro, according to some.

Yesterday, of all days, was a distasteful and odd day to pick a fight with us for having the audacity to even TALK to a Republican, but we suppose those in Metro’s pocket couldn’t help themselves. After all, it was a shameful day for the dwindling few Metro apologists.

Anyway, we opted for total silence yesterday out of deference, but today, we wanted to have a little fun.

The 2010 Unsuck DC Metro Award for Unintentionally Hilarious Blog Post goes to Greater Greater Washington (GGW) for its penetrating "Is the Washington Post too negative on Metro?"

Go ahead, wipe up the coffee you just snarfed.

Take a moment.

Dry the tears.

Yes, that was really the question posed.

Stop laughing!

Seriously, stop.

If you're looking for an example of how the Post, just like GGW, pedals softly on Metro's dysfunction, check out the ‘tude from union ringleader Jackie Jeter, which was never reported by either outlet--or any other for that matter. Just to underscore, she and her hubby are the head of a major union here in the DC area, and the price of her workers is a major reason WMATA continually finds itself in a budgetary pickle. She regularly testifies before congress. She is a key player when it comes to Metro, yet she apparently accuses those who question her authority of being racist. In the Unsuck book, that is news. Apparently not to the those mean ol' Metro bashers at the Post.

But getting back to the business at hand, we want to be the first to thank GGW for enlightening us about all the terrible things we’ve done to destroy Metro and hurt its feelings. If we'd only known Metro's sucking was our fault all along, we'd have stopped the blog long ago.

Thanks to GGW's infinite and unassailable wisdom, we feel gutted knowing we've dedicated so much time and effort only to accomplish nothing but being "destructive.":(

To re-educate ourselves, we decided to try on a pair of GGW glasses so that we could see Metro correctly, for its own unique--and expensive--inner beauty.

It was an amazing epiphany. Check it out.
  • Massive, complex fare hikes became welcome lessons in common sense and budgeting.
  • Texting bus drivers and sleeping operators became pranksters having a laugh.
  • Surly Metro employees became comedic geniuses. (When they say 'f*ck y'all,' they really mean 'thank you for your patronage.' When they punch McGruff, it's funny. When they keep their jobs after doing such things, it's a real hoot.
  • Broken escalators became a chance to get a little exercise and extra motivation to lose those stubborn love handles.
  • Boiling hot, hermetically sealed Metro cars became free saunas, and our complexion improved markedly from sweating out the toxins we'd inhaled after an ol' Brakey McSmokels train had passed.
  • Packed station platforms became a chance to mingle with our fellow riders, all of whom constantly sing Metro's praises.
  • Track fires, in winter, became a welcome opportunity to warm our hands. In the summer, they were like having our own 4th of July, almost every day. Terrific!
  • Door problems reminded us to seize the opportunity.
  • Derailments became exciting joy rides.
  • Free bus rides became a badge of honor around the office water cooler.
  • Burny brake smell became the sweet fragrance of a well oiled machine.
  • The lack of schedules taught us how to relinquish control and embrace the unexpected.
  • Offloads became a chance to admire the uniqueness of a strange station.
  • Metro nausea became a welcome appetite suppressant.
  • Single tracking became a chance to ponder eternity.
  • Delays in both directions became a great excuse to cancel unwanted social commitments.
  • Stopping for what seemed like an eternity in a tunnel gave us a chance to admire what an engineering marvel of the '70s Metro really is.
  • Delays? Who cares if you don’t have a job and don't need to be anywhere on time?
  • A Metro employee doing their job became a hero
  • An uneventful commute became reason for heartfelt gratitude.
  • Any fault of Metro became a reason to shovel more money at it.
  • Metro's attempts to protract the legal battle over the deaths of 6/22 became a fantastic opportunity to learn about the American legal system.
Thank you GGW. You’ve been so right about Metro for so long.

It is all basically fine.

We will continue reading your posts on Metro to remind us of that. We are really looking forward to your next installment in a long series of posts from Craig Simpson, the Legislative and Political Representative for ATU Local 689.

We ALREADY agree!

OK. Now we’re feeling a bit guilty about bashing poor, helpless baby Metro. We’d like to retract any sarcastic/snarky comments for fear we've saddened a Metro employee and/or staff member past, present or future.

There there Metro.

Other items:
Fairfax sends letter asking McDonnell to reconsider (Examiner)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

One Year Later

Mary Doolittle, 59

Veronica DuBose, 29

Ana Fernandez, 40

Dennis Hawkins, 64

LaVonda Nicole King, 23

Jeanice McMillan, 42

Ann Wherley, 62

Retired Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr., 62

Cameron Taihi Williams, 37

Monday, June 21, 2010

VA Transportation Secretary on Metro Board: This Needs to Change

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's request to appoint state-level members to the WMATA Board created a lot of hoopla, most of it negative. Some local politicians call it "budgetary blackmail" because, they say, Virginia appears to be threatening to withhold $50 million in funding if it doesn't get the seats, and that would unravel agreements in place among the jurisdictions to fund Metro. Others, like the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, not exactly a McDonnell ally, think it makes "great sense" because the current Board lacks expertise and a big picture view.

We're not transportation experts, so honestly, we don't have a clear grasp of the merits or demerits of adding Virginia representatives to the Board, but we are certain that it would be impossible to make the Metro Board any worse than it is. Attend or listen to a meeting, and you'll see. Hell, just ride Metro a few times.

Admittedly, at first, we thought McDonnell's plan was, as portrayed in the local media, a Richmond power grab, but we wanted to know more about the origins of the idea, so we reached out to McDonnell's transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton to get some more information.

First of all, Connaughton knows WMATA's problems first hand and that, we think, gives him substantial credibility. We sometimes wonder if DC Metro Board member Jim Graham even takes Metro.

In a phone conversation with Unsuck, Connaughton, who used to be a regular Metro rider, recalled being at the King St. station one day when a fire broke out. It got bad enough, he said, that people on the platform were getting sick.

Connaughton said he went down to the kiosk to report the fire and was greeted with typical Metro apathy from the kiosk attendant who was chatting with a Metro police officer.

"They said 'guess we better call it in' and resumed their conversation," Connaughton said. "It was surreal."

The request for representation, Connaughton says, stems from the Commonwealth's near $130 million contribution to Metro in FY 2011, over 50 percent of the what Virginia chips in, he claims.

The number is fuzzy, as it doesn't take into account parking fees and fares paid by NOVA riders and therefore skews the percentages. But even if you discount it, Virginia does channel money to Metro. So does Maryland, and they get to appoint Board members, as does the District. Furthermore, the federal government demanded seats on the Board in exchange for its money, and that was applauded by many.

"We’re very concerned about the club atmosphere that prevails on the Board of Directors," Connaughton said. "This needs to change."

In perhaps his most interesting comment, Connaughton said there have been conversations "to look at the whole [WMATA] compact and not dabble around the edges."

Citing a string of highly critical reports on Metro's safety record and governance model, Connaughton said "the problems are just too serious, and [the Board] acts as if the situation was normal."

He said there has to be greater transparency.

"I have to make sure that when we put money into [Metro], it goes where it should go," he said. "[The Board] has a history of taking capital funding and using it for operations, for example."

Connaughton said "we never see a plan. We continue to try to figure out what they’re doing, and we can’t get a response."

Connaughton said Virginia continues to see Metro as the "lifeblood of the region," adding that Virginia led the effort to fully fund and staff the previously ineffective Tri-State Oversight Commission, which is supposed to act as a Metro watchdog, and that Virginia supported the Dulles rail extension.

When asked who the Virginia representatives to the Board might be, Connaughton said they would be full-time and transportation professionals.

Another change Connaughton would like to see is to empower general manager.

"In some ways the Board has too much control over the day to day [operations] in a negative way," he said, adding that the GM has to go to the Board too often for things like fare hikes.

If you look at how the Board hemmed and hawed about the looming huge and complex fare hikes, and WMATA's subsequent mad scramble to actually implement them in the 11th hour, you get an idea of what Connaughton is talking about.

"This is is a very complex system," he said. "It’s not the Metro of 20 years ago."

If Virginia were to appoint Board members that share Connaughton's view of the current Board, a desire to change outdated compact by which Metro is governed as well as deep concerns about Metro's litany of safety and service problems, we'd be in favor, perhaps only because the Board as is could not be worse.

Other items:
Is Metro any more safe one year after crash? (Examiner)
Victim's family upset with Metro support (WTOP)
Metrobus driver charges with assault (WaPo)

Friday, June 18, 2010

McGruff Cancels DC Tour

Poor ol' disconsolate McGruff has his tail between his legs, a wee wee pad in hand, and no longer wants to make a stop here in the DC area. That's because his nemesis/assailant, Metrobus driver Shawn Brim is back behind the wheel careening through DC streets, free again to terrorize all who look at him funny.

According to Metro, which begged Brim to take a SAFETY job, he has been retrained. As @dcmetrosucks wondered, we too would like to know if PETA was involved in his reeducation.

Here's a McGruff homage. The last one contains some pretty heavy-duty potty humor, so keep that in mind at work.

What happens? You get punched!

These children will all get punched if they bring those on the bus.

And finally, when confronted with a bully bus driver...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Metro Could Learn a Few Things from AeroTrain

Despite the very different missions, Metro could definitely learn a thing or two from Dulles' AeroTrain, which opened in January.

Obviously, Metro will need more seats than the 8 per car on the AeroTrain, but the bench seating style is definitely the way to go. Hard, indestructible floors appear to be planned for the new Metro cars, so that's good. The triple pole (at the left) is a very nice touch, allowing more people to hold on comfortably--hopefully, not with their cheeks.

Then again, on the AeroTrain, there's really not a need to hang on. The ride is incredibly smooth. That's because the operators are incredibly skilled. Oh wait, there are no operators.

Please Metro, don't upholster the new seats. Use something like this that can be hosed down.

There are lots of places to hold on, and at the end of the cars, there are no "penalty boxes" as on some Metro cars.

Other items:
Va's McDonnell threatens to pull Metro funding (WaPo)
This is just sad. (Evening Tribune)
The unintended consequences of the new, dumb complex fare scheme (Forbes)
How fun would this be? (
Another Metro suicide (Examiner)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Go Mr. OK!

From CS:

They say that reinforcing good behavior can lead to positive change. Against the tide of so much going wrong with Metrorail these days, here’s hoping.

The scene: Orange Line to Vienna, Smithsonian station.

What: What else? Door problem sidelines a train at about 5:50 p.m. Passengers off-loaded. Suck potential jumps to “mega” on the meter.

What came next: Metro worked it out pretty well, both with the train, and especially in the actions of the operator.

Delays are never fun, of course, and Metro has enough door problems for all the subways in the hemisphere. But once the problem struck, and the train was off-loaded, Metro was able to lock the offending doors shut, and then allow people to reboard. (Why they don’t do this more often, I don’t know.)

Of course, crowds were piling up down the line by the second. And that’s where the operator came in. Once the train hit Metro Center, it was, naturally, packed. But with a mixture of resolve, humor, and cajoling, he let everyone know what was going on, kept the crowds on the platform under control, kept the train moving, and soothed we passengers sardined on board.

Let’s call him “Mr. OK,” for his PA system mannerism. Regular riders will recognize him as the guy who prefaces his announcements with, “OK,” as in, “OK, next stop is Farragut West,” or, “OK, this is Rosslyn, the first transfer point … .” I’ve been listening to him for years.

Anyhow, Mr. OK calmly assured those on the platforms that other trains were following closely behind. And you know what? They listened. Talking all the while, he didn’t hover in the stations so long as to allow too many people to surge aboard, which could only have crippled the train again. He urged the door hogs to step off (“Please don’t try to save your space.”) so people could exit, assuring that he’d give enough time to get back on. Again, people listened. (For the most part.) “Left side, show the right side how it’s done,” he bantered, prompting open laughter in the car, as we moved through stations with different door opening sides. After each stop, he thanked us for our help in keeping things moving. Heck, it was like we were partners.

What really made it all work was that Mr. OK treated us like we had brains. There were no platitudes or Metro-speak. (“We’ll be moving momentarily." (Long pause) “We’ll be moving momentarily.” (Repeat as often as necessary.) Nor tirades. (Not like the operator I once had who shouted out, “Alright, people, I’m through pleading with you … .”) All of Metro could take a lesson from Mr. OK’s deft handling of the situation.

How deft? At several stops, as people were leaving the train and Mr. OK had his head stuck out the cab window, they came up to him to share a laugh or to say thanks.

Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

Also by CS:
Smooth operator
Metro workers who shine

Other items:
Metro to hold 6/22 memorial ceremony (WMATA)
Union to hold vigil (WaPo)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thanks for the Memories

From JG: Dupont Circle this a.m. Trains were super crowded, then we offloaded onto the platform that was already packed. Some people couldn't even get off the train. I actually had to go above ground and walk to Farragut West to get on the Orange Line.

@mowend: Red line; woodley park; another great #wmata morning.

Out of Service Hot Cars Make Us Steam

From "Fed Up, Can’t Kick Metro":
Standing on the platform at McPherson, so as to get on the first car of a Blue Line train toward PG, a New Carrollton train pulls up with an empty first car.

As soon as I get my earbuds out to listen to what the operator has to say, I hear something like, “blah blah blah, they said someone slashed up some seats or something.”

I was still pondering the amazing decision to sequester the most dangerous of dangers—“slashed up seats,” when an Addison Road train pulled up.

Guess what?

The first car was out of service.

The conversation with the operator went something like this:

Me: Hey, so what’s going on? This is the second train in a row with a shut-down car?

Her: OK, see this car isn’t closed.

Me: So let me on.

Her: It’s too hot in there.

Me: It’s hot out here, it’s hot outside. It’s weather, it’s hot.

Her: The AC’s broke.

Me: The AC’s broke out here.

Her: OK, you need to talk to someone else, because I can’t— [at this point, fearing a lame excuse, ‘it’s not my fault’ ‘I can’t do anything’ etc., I interrupt her for a second time]

Me: You know, it’s refreshing to see that fare hikes past and future are going to keep your outstanding service at an elite level.

At this point I walked toward the second car fully expecting the operator to close the doors before I got there. To her credit, she didn’t. But, once I got on the second car, guess what?

No AC!

But anyway, how often are AC’s broken in the cars? Plenty, right?

Can’t people, I don’t know, make up their own minds about their comfort and move if they have to?

Closing down cars during rush hour seems to be against Metro’s mission to move the most people the efficient way possible.

However, it is in line with Metro’s mission of continued woeful service and increasing expenses.

The other day, Unsuck had the pleasure of riding in a hot car, but there was a twist. An acrid burning smell engulfed the car at every station. Fearing dehydration and asphyxiation, we gave up a prime spot and switched cars at Foggy Bottom. At Smithsonian, a Metro worker came into the hot car and told everyone to get out.

According to Metro, as cited on the DC Paratransit Info blog,"on a hot, humid day, approximately 4% of our 1106 cars experience HVAC problems."

That seems kind of low, but what gets us even more hot under the collar is thinking about how Metro has failed to evolve over it's near 40-year life.

We know why Metro put AC in the cars, but was any thought ever given to a backup plan that wouldn't involve taking scarce, crowded cars out of service?

Most other subway systems we've ridden, including in Japan, where it gets very hot, usually have small windows that can be opened, which at least creates a breeze and makes the heat bearable if the AC goes down.

Why was this never thought of and implemented here? Is this something that will be added to the 7000-series cars? Doesn't look like it. It can't be a liability issue, as both Chicago and New York subways have windows that can be opened.

How many times in the past month have you been dealt a hot car?

For readers on Twitter, if you find yourself in a hot car, tweet the car number along with "#hotcar @metroopensdoors"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Attention to Detail is the Cornerstone of Our Safey Culture

No! The other right side! Wonder how many dimes this mistake cost?

From reader SK. Spot the fail. (You'll probably need to click the image.)

Marked "not in service" on both the front and side. All aboard!

Other items:
Metro staff grows despite budget woes, fare hikes (Examiner)
Bucolic neighborhood. Ha! (WaPo)

Friday, June 11, 2010

After Insult, Ms. Jeter Wants Gratitude

Below is yet another grammar-challenged salvo fired off by ATU 689 mastermind Jackie Jeter to customers concerned with the reinstatement of two Metrobus drivers once fired by Metro for what would sound like egregious errors/crimes committed on the job.

We already know where the conversation starts if Jeter is challenged, but if you're interested, here's a video interview with Jeter, which, at points, gives some more interesting insights about where she's coming from.

Summing up the video, it would appear the union would not be willing to compromise an inch, no matter how bad Metro's financial picture might get, which is odd considering the huge portion of the budget devoted to labor. Don't be surprised when Metro tries to balance its books using your wallet.

Oh, and next time you're run over, assaulted, sexually accosted, treated rudely, treated with contempt, delayed because your driver wants to grab a bite to eat, offered drugs, see your driver run a red light, board a 10-car train, get scared shitless by reckless driving, see the operator asleep at the wheel or in the kiosk, vomit from motion sickness, or see your driver texting, be sure to thank the Metro employee.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jackie Jeter
Date: Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 12:40 PM
Subject: RE: Transparency!


The slavery comment was an answer to one of the numerous e-mails sent
to me concerning the issue of the union putting two of its members
back to work. The comment was meant to show the e-mailer that
regardless of their opinion, or what you or I believe, those members
have rights, that’s why they belong to this union. And only those
enslaved by someone or something, do not! A right that allows them to
have their case taken before an arbitrator if their termination was
not handled properly by WMATA. This is the fact that has led to all
of the unsolicited conversation. And as president of this union I
don’t have the power to withhold their issue from arbitration if it
has merit. If that occurs they have the right to sue the union for
unfair representation.

Now I have read all of the comments that you’ve taken the time to
generate because someone decided to take a comment out of context.
The explanation above is why my comment was made and why I will
continue to defend the actions of this union. I represent over 7,000
workers of Metro, the majority of them do their jobs without as much
as a thank you from those of you who make your nasty criticisms, and I
represent them. There is also those workers who engage in acts which
break established rules, and I represent them. The riding public is
respected and always a concern of this local and so are my members.

Although everyone advises me to ignore your questions, opinions, and
comments, I will always attempt to explain our action to you.
Hopefully this last e-mail will shed some light on the arbitration
process that we follow.

Jackie Lynn Jeter, President
Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689

Other items:
A good recap of fare hike when/where/how much (Examiner)
Things are fine at Metro (WMATA)
22 parking facilities to receive credit card readers by early 2011 (WMATA)
Metro is ALL OVER safety (WMATA)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Here's the Training You Asked For

According to a Metro worker quoted in a WTOP report, the reason some Metro workers put a 10-car train in service the other day was because WMATA hasn't provided them with the right amount of training.

Well, here you go. Take it slowly. You'll get the hang of it. You can just skip over 9 and 10.

Metro's Got Talent...

...Or not.

Other items:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Union Boss Allegedly Plays "Slavery" Card Defense


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jackie Jeter
Date: Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 5:08 PM
Subject: RE: Transparency!
To: J..., P...,, E...,,

To all of those listed above:

I understand your positions. What I am trying to get individuals who
have only read about the incident in the news to do is to listen to
logic. Yesterday in the newspaper I explained the arbitration process
and she asked a question which was why do I think WMATA lost the
arbitration, my response is because they did not put on a strong
enough case, that’s what she printed. It doesn’t matter what I think
or what I feel, it was about labor law. If WMATA felt that the law
was not followed and the grounds that the arbitrator ruled on was
incorrect, they had another recourse and they did not follow that
path. That’s what I have attempted to explain to all of you all day.
You are entitled to your opinion based on what you think you know.

I did not hire either one of those gentlemen, our union is not a
hiring hall, WMATA did and is. It is my job to represent them when it
becomes evident that the law, rules and regulations were not followed
in their termination and regardless to what you think, they have
rights and that is what the arbitrator followed and the union, whether
you like it or not. So you can put it on blog, you can gossip about
it on emails but facts are facts.

To the last person who has decided to weigh in on a topic that he’s
unclear about the facts-my comment about slavery was meant to show all
of you that just because you think or it appears a person is guilty,
it doesn’t mean that they are. The fact that we are having a
discussion about whether the union should not have gone to arbitration
to fight for this guy if he was terminated without the full facts or
if WMATA failed to prove their case goes to show that you believe in a
slavery mentality. Because only if a person is in slaved does cease
to not have rights. And by the way the police did not charge Ronald
Taylor with a crime or give him a citation, showing his guilt. Again
I will say public opinion is like a “nose” and everyone has one, but
before you attempt to slander or provoke an argument, get the facts.
This isn’t about the riding public, it’s about people believing that
they have the right to spew comments that aren’t correct and you can’t
stand the fact that I say that you don’t know what you’re talking
about. And another fact WMATA is not 100% black. Do me a favor, post
this email answer! It’s more truthful than you attempting to put
words in my mouth.

Jackie Lynn Jeter, President

Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689

2701 Whitney Place

Forestville, MD 20747


Original Post

The following is an email thread allegedly between union boss Jackie Jeter and reader P. We have reversed the thread to read in chronological order. See related post below.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: P... []
> Sent: Wednesday, June 09, 2010 11:17 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Examiner Article
> Ms. Jeter,
> To say that I am appalled by the below article would be an
> understatement. Protecting workers rights is fine, but these
> individuals are clearly unfit to perform the basic duties required of
> a Metrobus driver. Please reconsider your support of these
> individuals.
> -return-to-Metro-95909919.html

> P
On Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 1:11 PM, Jackie Jeter wrote:
> Apparently you believe in slavery. Individuals that belong to this union
> have the right to fight for fair and equal treatment. Currently you and
> others only know one side of the story, that's the side that WMATA chooses
> to tell you and apparently you choose to believe. Too bad! An arbitrator
> made a ruling based on the information presented by both sides, not just
> union and not just WMATA.
> In this country workers still have rights. Join a union so you can
> your knowledge on what your rights as a worker is suppose to be.
> Jackie Lynn Jeter, President
> Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689
> 2701 Whitney Place
> Forestville, MD 20747

> 301-568-6899

-----Original Message-----
From: P... []
Sent: Wednesday, June 09, 2010 1:56 PM
To: Jackie Jeter
Subject: Re: Examiner Article

Ms. Jeter,

Thanks for the quick reply. Regarding your first point, I do not in
fact believe in slavery. Rather, I believe in accountability, safety,
and consumer protection – as I hope you do to. Moreover, the 13th
was passed over 145 years ago, so I don’t think we have too
much to worry about there. With regard to knowing the “other side of
the story,” I implore you to improve your outreach to the traveling
public. Indeed it is too bad that WMATA, with its pseudo-functional PR
wing, is able to outmaneuver your own organization in terms of truth
dissemination. Finally, workers’ rights are a cornerstone of
contemporary American society, I wouldn’t argue with you about that.
However, your union has sided against the traveling public that it
professes to serve. This position will ultimately prove to be


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jackie Jeter
Date: Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 2:08 PM
Subject: RE: Examiner Article

We didn't side against anyone we looked at all of the facts and set the case
to an arbitrator to rule on whether his person should remain fired or get
his job back. That is done by a neutral person. There are rights that are
given to everyone including members of 689 which happen to work with the
riding public.

Jackie Lynn Jeter, President
Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689
2701 Whitney Place
Forestville, MD 20747


Welcome to the New Metrobus

Union president Jackie Jeter

It appears to have been a bad night last night for the new Metrobus, where drivers "go to work every day cognizant of their responsibility to perform a job on behalf of our customers – the riding public."
If you're wondering how this could happen and why your fares keep going up, check out this little but of sunshine from the Examiner:

A Metrobus driver fired after a deadly crash into a taxi and another canned for slugging a cop dressed as McGruff the Crime Dog are back at Metro, The Washington Examiner has learned.

Both men won their jobs back plus months of retroactive pay, the result of an arbitration decision between the bus drivers union and the transit agency. One driver is getting paid to sit at home while the agency determines where to place him. The other is expected to return to driving a Metrobus later this month.

Tell Ms. Jeter how you feel: 301-568-6899/

Other items:

Victims' families angry by Metro's memorial plans (WaPo)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Does Anyone Really Buy This?

From CS:

News item: Metro interim General Manager Richard Sarles last week issued his first “vital signs” report on the transit agency’s performance, ushering in a new era of "openness." Metrorail, according to the tally, was on time 90.3 percent of the time. Neither the Washington Post nor the Examiner, which both ran stories about the report, saw fit to publish the report for their readers, and searches on the WMATA website were fruitless.

In this never-ending season of Metro’s discontent, the new GM has kept a low profile. But with his new report, Sarles has finally shown where he’s coming from:


Anybody who rides Metrorail regularly these days would rejoice at a 90.3 percent on-time rate. (90.3 percent is actually down from last year.) But we surely ain’t gettin’ it now.

Not with regular, 10- or 12-minute gaps between trains DURING RUSH HOUR.

Not with more frequent breakdowns and near-mutiny-provoking offloadings.

And not with the new stall-and-go system, where trains regularly hold at stations because ill-spaced trains have piled up miles ahead on the line. (The Ms. and I have seen trips extended by 10-15 minutes due to this alone.)

The problem with this bogus 90.3 percent claim isn’t just that it’s burst-out-laughing wrong. Or that it falsely gives the impression that things are basically OK with Metrorail and only need a little tweaking. It’s that it also appears to show that Sarles has been captured by the gravitational forces within Metro that seem, inexorably, to bend people away from reality.

It should be noted that Metro measures "on-time performance" using the following equation: "Number of Metrorail station arrivals – number of headways with >2 minute deviation or 50% headway deviation) / number of Metrorail station arrivals = Metrorail On-Time Performance End-to-End."


Maybe Sarles knows the number is BS, and he’s pitching it as part of the political dysfunctionality that passes for leadership at Metro – I don’t know. But IF he was committed to transparency, and IF he really knew what was going on, what he should have said to the minions who produced this work of fiction was: This is crap. Bring me the real deal.

Sarles has said he takes Metro to work. But that’s a short ride on the Yellow Line. Mr. General Manager, what you need to do is spend a couple of weeks riding the Orange or Red Lines – like so many of your passengers do.

Do that, and see if you think 90.3 percent belongs in this realm or an alternate reality where down is up. See if you think waiting 12 minutes for a train at Metro Center at 5:45 p.m., with platform crowds swelling to dangerous levels, cuts it. See if you think a trip from downtown out to the end of the line, which used to take 40 minutes, but which now regularly takes an hour or more, measures up.

Not hardly. And that’s what’s ultimately so disappointing about Sarles’ report. Meaning no disrespect, but this first missive shows that Sarles either doesn’t get it; doesn’t want to get it; or doesn’t know how to get it.

Any of which seem to now officially mark his tenure as yet another lost opportunity.

(But please, Mr. General Manager, I desperately hope you prove me wrong.)

Also by CS:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Culture of Safety

Original YouTube (h/t @mattashburn)

Orginial tip: @mattashburn This morning, Metrobus driver hit parked car @capcitydiner while talking w/ other bus driver pulled alongside him. #wmata

UPDATE June 4: Metro says the incident is under investigation.

Other items:
Metro Bus Driver Sentenced For Assaulting Passenger, Still On The Job (Fox 5)
New GM doesn't need transit experience (area paper)
All is well. Metro oversight committee gets Web site (area paper)
Metrobus map highlighted in the Atlantic
When WMATA workers sexually harass (City Paper)
Homeowers concerned about Dulles rail noise (NBC4)
Metro issues new vital signs report (Examiner)

Escalator Consultants Give Up, Bring Own Ladders

The escalator consultants combing the Metro system in a search for what is causing the intractable problems have apparently given up and are bringing their own ladders in order to circumvent the mobs that gather at the bottom of many of the shorter, out of service escalators.

Rumor has it their first advice to Metro will be to allow passengers paying peak of the peak fares to bring their own as well.

We knew there had to be a perk to go along with those higher fares! Thanks!

Escalator improvement: No we can't
System bottlenecks
Escalators-to-stairs idea shot down in flames
What is wrong with the escalators?
Escalator forecast: Heavy sucking with intermittent unsucking
Metro's failin'est escalator

Thanks to "gmail" for the pic.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

filin' griev. bk 2 wrk soon. cu ;)

Remember this Einstein?

What they lack in brain size, the apparently make up for with WMATAcles the size of a WMATA budget gap. Metro says they've filed a grievance to get their job back. They were "let go" back in March, a month after the pics were snapped.

The driver was texting despite a very clearly stated zero-tolerance policy regarding such behavior instituted by Metro in the wake of several embarrassing incidents of distracted drivers, including one train operator apparently dozing off while at the helm.

Back then, we half joked that a return-to-work-date had not been set.

That day may be closer then we ever thought.

Drivers are entitled to the process, but COME ON, they're texting ... surreptitiously ... behind the wheel ... of a WMATA bus ... filled with passengers ... in violation of DC law ... against WMATA rules ... wearing a WMATA uniform.

The evidence would appear pretty damning, but then again, we all know that in Metroland, and anything can happen, so perhaps they're going for a Hail Mary, employing the Big Lie tactic. Actually, with the union's success in filing grievances, it's more like a third and inches.

According to WMATA, "if the ruling is that the employee’s termination is overturned, and it is determined that a suspension would have been warranted, the employee will receive back pay minus pay for the time they would have been suspended."


As we wait for the process to grind to some conclusion, we can all rest assured that all ATU 689 members "go to work every day cognizant of their responsibility to perform a job on behalf of our customers – the riding public,” just like their president says they do.

Stories like this give us the same warm and fuzzies for the union that we have for the Board. (NSFW)

For those interested, here's the grievance process as quoted from the current union contract:

Sec. 104 - Discipline and Grievance Procedure
(a) Employees (and assisting Union representatives) shall fill out grievance forms to the best of their knowledge and ability. Grievances should be as complete and specific as possible including a statement of the facts involved, the sections of the agreement alleged to have been violated and the remedy sought. Management officials responsible for filing written grievance responses shall do so to the best of their knowledge and ability. Responses shall be as complete and specific as possible including a statement of the facts involved, references to relevant contract language
and reasons for the decision.

(b) Grievances shall be processed in the following manner:

Step 1 - Any employee who has a grievance shall (together with the Union representative if the employee so desires) discuss the matter with the employee's immediate superior in an attempt to settle the matter satisfactorily. If the matter has not been settled within five (5) working days of the management action which gave rise to the grievance, the employee may, within ten (10) working days thereafter, file an official written grievance form, a copy of which shall be filed with the employee's immediate superior and another copy shall be filed with the Union through the
employee's shop steward (or other officially designated representative).

Step 2 - If the Union, through the employee's shop steward (or other officially designated representative) finds merit to the grievance, it shall, within ten (10) working days after the date of the filing of the formal written grievance, confer with the superintendent of the division (or other management official in charge of the division, garage, or other facility where the grievant is employed) in an effort to resolve the grievance satisfactorily. The occurrence of such conference shall be noted on the grievance form and signed by the participants. The management official involved shall render a written decision on the grievance within ten (10) working days after such conference with the Union.

If the management action which gave rise to the grievance was taken at a level higher than the superintendent of the division (or other management official in charge of the division, garage or other facility where the grievant is employed) Step 2 may be waived and the Business Agent (or the Business Agent's designee) may proceed directly to Step 3 within ten (10) working days after the date of the filing of the formal written grievance.

Step 3 - If the Union through the Business Agent (or the Business Agent's designee) is not satisfied with the Step 2 decision, it may, within ten (10) working days of the receipt thereof, confer with the Office Director (or the Office Director's designee). The the participants. The management official involved shall issue a written decision on the appeal within ten (10) working days of the conference with the Union.

Step 4 - If the Union, through the Business Agent (or the Business Agent's designee), is not satisfied with the Step 3 decision, it may appeal the grievance by requesting a conference with the General Manager (or the General Manager's designee) within ten (10) working days of receipt thereof. The General Manager (or the General Manager's Designee) will hold said conference and issue a written decision within twenty (20) working days of the receipt of the Step 4 grievance or the Step 3 appeal.

Step 5 - If the Union is not satisfied with the Step 4 decision, it may, within sixty (60) calendar days after receipt thereof, invoke arbitration in accordance with Section 105 of this Agreement.

Other items:
Metro holding hearing on $709 million spending plan (Examiner)
Again with the consultants (WAPO)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Crime Focus Misguided?

Little noticed in the wake of last week's massive fare hike was an announcement by Metro that the Board approved $2 million for safety enhancements such as "438 portable radiological detectors," "a mobile command/incident management vehicle," "technical support to move its 24-hour police dispatch center to the Carmen Turner Facility in Landover, Md." and "an additional $165,581 will be used to replace 271 bullet-resistant vests."

We all want a safer Metro, but perhaps Metro should concentrate more on every day threats like the crowds at Gallery Place, stabbings and sexual assaults.

Unfortunately, according to this post on the Books are My Boyfriend blog, Metro seems to slough off many daily occurrences that sometimes make riding the Metro awful, particularly for female riders.

Here's the key passage from the post, which relates the disturbing story of what appears to be a regular upskirt picture taker at Court House:
The very helpful female WMATA woman ... told me he looks like the guy who stands at the bottom of the escalators every morning looking up girls' skirts. I waited while she called the Metro Transit Police, who sent over an officer, who pretty much said since I already filed a report with Arlington that they didn't want double reports, but that if I see him again I should say something and that the two departments can work together.
So Metro knew of this person and hadn't done anything? Sure sounds that way.

They better break out those new vests and get that mobile command/incident management vehicle there ASAP!
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