Thursday, March 31, 2011

Unsuck Reader's Account Leads to Arrest of Alleged Molester

Last week, reader Allie wrote in with a description of what she said was a repeat molester on Metro.

Her efforts led to the arrest of a suspect.

This comment was made last night and confirmed today:
My Name is Investigator Lang I work with the Metro Transit Police. I would like to inform all of you that the above offender was arrested today 3/30/2011 thanks to detailed post by Allie. If there are anymore victims, I would like them to come forward. My email address is rlang [at] I appreciate any help anyone can give in this matter. Thanks.
If you've been a victim, please reach out to Inv. Lang.

Metro Cops "Overwhelmed"

Since Metro hasn't bothered to update their police blotter since October 1 of last year, we thought it was time for a little rundown of recent events.

One Metro cop we talked to said the MTPD is "overwhelmed."

"Everyone thinks there are 420 of us out in the street, when really it's around 200 at any given time," they said. "That's three different shifts and two separate days off, either a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday off or a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday off. Yes, that's right. Wednesday is when you'll see the most of us out there. Wednesdays are great because there are cops everywhere in the system! It should be like that everyday!"

From anonymous:
At around 9 a.m. Monday, at L'Enfant Plaza, on the lower platform (Blue/Orange lines), an older white male (perhaps mid 50s or later 40s, wearing a red "Members Only" style jacket, blue jeans and white sneakers) started yelling obscenities on the escalator at a young African American woman (mid 20s, brown leather bomber jacket, skinny blue jeans, long curly hair) who had apparently cut in front of him on the escalator.

He yelled at her the whole way down, and she defended herself.

He called her "f**ing ignorant" when they reached the platform.

The next thing I saw was he had her in a headlock and then wrestled her to the ground.

The crowd on the platform jumped to her defense, and at least six or seven people were rolling around on the floor, trying to pull the man off of her.

Anyone could have been knocked off the platform onto the tracks, into the path of an incoming train.

People succeeded in pulling him off of her, and he tried swinging violently in every direction.

After five minutes, the crowd scattered.

I'm not sure if the man was apprehended or the woman filed a report, but people did call 911 to report the incident.
Metro's response:
"We received a call at 9:00 for an assault. Officers responded and searched the Yellow line platform, found nothing and cleared the call at 9:10."
From Lee:
When on my way home from work Sunday morning at around 2:30, there were several Metro cops corralling a young male on the mezzanine of the Bethesda station inside the faregates but before going down to the actual platform.

When I got to my usual bench, I noticed a pool of blood.

It was dripping into a puddle on the floor.

I mention the detail just to convey that it was clearly a decent amount of blood, not just splatter or a small bit wiped from a hand or something.

Just curious if anyone has any details on what transpired?

I don’t recall seeing an ambulance, so whoever was injured must have gotten on a train or already been taken away.
Metro's response:
"We received a call for service for an assault in progress at BETH. When MTPD officers arrived they discovered that a second degree assault had occurred. A suspect was taken into custody."
Other items:
Horrible story of rider indifference (WUSA)
MetroAccess drivers say they're paying out of pocket (Examiner)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Ban This!

From Todd:
So there we were, my wife and I, coming back from seeing the cherry blossoms on Sunday. Images of beauty and all in our heads.

But things were about to change.

There's this woman in the seat across from us, and she whips her blouse off over her head.

Whoo-hoo. Living free.

But OK, she was wearing a singlet underneath, so it's all good. Nothing's "showing," so to speak. It's only PG-13.

Then, rummaging in a shopping bag, she pulls out another blouse.

I'm still cool, she's just going to get dressed again, I think, this probably happens every day.

But then she hauls out a stick of roll-on deodorant, the kind with the wide head, and proceeds to apply it generously. Spring breeze,we thought.

Maybe we should have been happy. Maybe she was applying it as a kindness to her fellow passengers.

Or maybe she wanted to freshen up for a date.

But the view of the armpit! Vast, exposed, right there and up close. I just wish I'd have been fast enough to get a picture for the Hall of Shame, but my eyes were fried, and I was paralyzed ("The horror! The horror!" to quote Kurtz from "The Heart of Darkness").

So, I have only my memories.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Attention to Detail Instills Confidence

Via @tiptoe39 Shame, #Wmata, shame! #copyeditor #youneedone

They just can't get this word right! Or this or this. And this was kinda funny, too.

Via @AgOhKnee Seriously Metro. This is how we spell "expedite?" Oh...#wmata

Other items:
Take part in the Tysons Metrorail Station Access Management Study

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Metro Turns 35

Friday, March 25, 2011


Way to burnish your image, Metro. We are watching you.

From Patrick: Saw this biking in the other morning. Apparently Marion Barry has started a side job with Metro. The sad irony here is that the Metro van is parked in the bus loading area on F street between 12th and 13th.

The below seem to be the same vehicle. So, Metro, add at least another 4 people to the list of your customers who think you're a laughing stock.

From Russell: I hope you get as much pleasure from this as I do.Wednesday, March 16, 2011 8:46 PM

Via @Ieatforfun Really @dcdmv ? Metro can't catch a break!? Guess parking tix aren't in the @wmata budget either #SMH

Via @hotnthistrailer Friend captured this. Rules? We have none! @unsuckdcmetro @wmata

Via Grace

Other items:

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Ever wonder why Metro trains break down so much and why there are so many daily track problems, brake problems, maintenance problems and door problems?

Here's a rundown of dysfunction from Feb. 15, the last day the ever-more-transparent Metro has updated its "daily" disruption log:
  • 5:42 a.m. A Blue Line train at Largo delayed due to maintenance problem.
  • 5:44 a.m. A Yellow Line train at Alexandria Yard delayed due to track problem.
  • 7:22 a.m. An Orange Line train at Ballston inbound to Virginia Square was taken out of service due to a door problem; customers were required to exit the train.
  • 7:37 a.m. A Blue Line train at Largo Town Center was not dispatched due to brake problem.
  • 9:27 a.m. A Red Line train at Woodley Park Zoo inbound to Dupont Circle was taken out of service due to a door problem; customers were required to exit the train.
  • 11:32 a.m. A Blue Line train at Arlington Cemetery outbound to Pentagon was taken out of service due to a brake problem; customers were required to exit the train.
  • 1:09 p.m. A Blue Line train at Braddock Road outbound to King Street delayed due to track problem.
  • 4:07 p.m. A Red Line train at Fort Totten inbound to Brookland was taken out of service due to a maintenance problem; customers were required to exit the train.
  • 5:31 p.m. An Orange Line train at Minnesota Avenue outbound to Deanwood was taken out of service due to a maintenance problem; customers were required to exit the train.
  • 5:51 p.m. A Blue Line train at Eastern Market outbound to Potomac Avenue was taken out of service due to a brake problem; customers were required to exit the train.
  • 10:50 p.m. A Red Line train at Fort Totten outbound to Takoma was taken out of service due to a door problem; customers were required to exit the train.
Yeah, the trains are old, no money, blah, blah, blah ... Tired of the same time-honored excuses for this abysmal state of affairs?

The reason for an ignominious record like that might just be that a lot of Metro workers aren't qualified to do their jobs and are gaming the system.

"Fifty percent [of the workers in car maintenance] don't know what they're doing," said a former Metro employee who worked in car maintenance. "This has led to trains going out that weren't repaired correctly."

How does this happen? Doesn't Metro administer some kind of tests to check the qualifications of its employees?

Yes, but according to four different sources, it's common knowledge that if you know the right people, you can buy the tests, memorize the multiple choice answers and pass with flying colors, all without learning a thing.

The going rate? $300, said one source.

Here's how it works.

Metro workers who aren't bus drivers or train operators--car maintenance workers, track workers, elevator/escalator workers, and the like--are divided up into five grades: helper, C, B, A and AA.

If one were to believe in the distinctions, AAs are more proficient and efficient than all As and so on.

To move up a grade, which brings more money and sometimes a better chance to pick the job you want, you must pass a test.

The scary part is that the answers to the test questions, which change only once a year, according to sources, are readily available for purchase.

This kind of cheating, one former employee alleges, leads to unqualified people working on trains and, in some cases, supervising others working on trains.

"I know one supervisor who cheated on his AA test," the source said. "They bragged that they'd paid $300 for the answers."

According to the source, that supervisor was once asked to do a very basic maintenance task and was unable to.

"They got teased a lot," the source said, adding that despite the incompetence, the supervisor wasn't fired or demoted.

Another source in car maintenance confirms this.

"You have people who take the job seriously and try to expose themselves to learning, but there are too many who take the shortcut and buy tests and then boast and brag about it," they said. "[Passing the tests] can up your hourly rate by seven bucks an hour to move from helper to AA, and if you don't know what you're doing, no one cares. It's a cheap way to get a promotion if you think about it.

"You want to know why there are so many door problems?" they continued. "This is it."

Another source related a story about how a car maintenance helper was able to miraculously take all the tests--in one day--to move from helper to AA.

The source added that there was no way this helper could have passed the tests, because they "should not have even been allowed to clean a bus."

"The tests are hard," the source, who had many years of experience, said. "I took the AA test seven times before passing."

Another former Metro employee related the story about how one helper who'd been working at Metro for 10 years, took all of the upgrade tests--C, B, A and AA--and passed them in one day.

Some of these tests also have a practical component, but that doesn't seem to count for much either.

One source said the practical portion "consisted of moving equipment from one place to another. That's right--if they could carry a few boxes they passed.”

Other Metro workers we pinged expressed little astonishment that tests were for sale and confirmed that it was widely rumored that one could buy a test if one were connected to the right people.

And as for the distinction among grades?

“Some of the best workers I worked with in my 27 years at Metro were Bs," said one former worker. "Some of the laziest, least qualified workers were AAs. In reality, it doesn't matter much what the classification is."

Bet that really helps planning the staffing of repair and maintenance jobs!

Other items:
Foggy Bottom escalator fail explained (Fox)
Another apparent suicide attempt (WaPo)
Board member made $36K, didn't go to meetings (Examiner)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Do these Look Like Service Dogs?

Via @RebeccaREvans This service dog on #DC @wmata got up to alert owner her stop was next. Trained to know # of stops. Impressive.

Via @ @ apparently is now allowing dogs on the red line...I'm sure its a service dog...doubtful!

Via @ I wonder what kind of service dog rides in a dufflebag? cc: @

Other items:
SHOCKER: Metro workers break rules, crash trains (WaPo)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Metro Molester

In the Tokyo subway, unwanted groping is such a common problem, they have women-only cars during rush hour. Photo via

From Allie:
I wanted an outlet to reach out to warn other Metro riders about a repeat Metro experience where the same man was rubbing himself against young women.

I've encountered him twice now.

Both times he boarded the Yellow Line toward Huntington at L'Enfant station and gets on the last car.

He gets off at the Pentagon.

This happens between 4:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon.

He will stand behind young women and press up against them closely with his hips, pretending train is too crowded.

The first time I encountered him, it happened to me only, but today I saw him do it to one girl, then when she pushed him off he moved through the car to another woman.

The man is an African American male in his 20s or 30s. He is about 5'10" with a slender build. He has close-cropped hair.

Both times, I've seen him wearing a track suit made of thin material. On March 18, it was black with lime green shoulders. He wore a white watch on his left wrist, and Ralph Lauren glasses that had heavy black frames with clear lenses.

Thanks for getting the word out. Hopefully, this will give other women a heads up. If your readers do encounter him, I advise them to confront the man by looking him square in the face and asking him to back off and give them some space.

Based on my experience, he will move on.

I called the Metro police and gave a description. You should, too, if you are a victim.
Other items:
Metro restores bus stops after complaints (Examiner)
Metro board, public skip budget hearing (Examiner)

Monday, March 21, 2011

A.M. Commute Open Thread

Via @ AbbySVU #ballston #wmata the hell?

Via @bptracey The line to get on the metro at Gallery Place/Chinatown at 9am on a Monday #wmata

Gallery Place Via Charlie

Via @mike_lock Lady just chillin on the floor during orange line rush hour this morning? @unsuckdcmetro #wmata

Via Kristen: Taken in Crystal City this AM. Didn't know the Blue Line was servicing U St!! Metro...ftw!

Here's one story from the Red Line. The Orange and Blue were majorly Metro'ed up as well. Share your stories in the comments.

From Ashley:
Today was officially, undoubtedly the worst commute ever. I didn't get into the office until 9:27. I thought I'd be here by 8:45ish.

Get to the Red Line and see that I have a 2-minute wait. No problem. 20 minutes later a train has still not come.

The girl next to me mentions she's been there for 30 minutes.

Apparently they were single tracking because of "track issues," or at least that was the excuse of the day.

A train came, I didn't make it on.

The next train came, I got on.

Five minutes later, we were still sitting in the station, and then we had to offload because the doors won't close.

We were all losing our minds, thinking it couldn't get any worse.

Meanwhile, the platform became totally packed, so we couldn't get off because there was nowhere to go.

Eventually, we managed to get off, but the douche bags on the platform wouldn't step back for us, so basically we had to push through them and get behind them. They weren't giving up their place in line for the next train.

The next train came, and we didn't make it on.

The next train came, a 6-car train! Obviously, I didn't make it on.

The next one came, and I finally managed to get on. It was packed.

What felt like 16 years later, I got to Dupont and walked up the out-of-service escalator.

Good times.

Oh and I forgot the two ladies who got into a physical fight, and the woman with a baby who had a panic attack.

At one point I tried to give up and take a taxi, but I couldn't even get out because of the masses of people.

Metro Huffer

From an anonymous reader:
I've lived in DC for a few years now and thought I had seen it all--until the morning of March 18 on the Red Line.

This particular morning was no different than any other until a woman boarded the train, though I don't remember at which stop, as I had my nose in a book, as I do most mornings.

The woman sat in the reserved seating and had three or four bags with her.

Though the weather was nice, she was dressed in a heavy, black coat with a large hood. I thought nothing of it when she first got on until I began smelling a terrible chemical odor--almost like nail polish.

I looked up and saw the woman, just steps away from me, huffing hairspray.

Though she was in a public place, she made no apologies for it and didn't even try to hide it.

She had a napkin in one hand and a bottle of Suave in the other, would spray the spray near her nose, and rub the napkin over her face.

I was stunned.
Other items:
Metro to spend $851 million in capital funding (Examiner)
Metro trying to lure bike-to-rail commuters (WaPo)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Who's for Unlimited-Use Transit Passes?

After all the fare increases, "peak of the peak" fares and threats of service cuts, unlimited-use transit passes are arguably good for riders and good for Metro.

Furthermore, implementing them is something Metro just might be able to pull off.

According to a website advocating passes:
Many transit agencies like Boston's MBTA, London's Tube, Philadelphia's SEPTA, Atlanta's MARTA, and Chicago's CTA offer unlimited-use transit passes for about the same price as a regular, twice per weekday commute. Those passes work on both rail and bus.

Now that Metro has upgraded most riders from paper farecards, tokens and transfer slips to the electronic Smartcard, it's time for Metro to offer convenient, flexible unlimited-use transit passes for all riders with one simple offer: "Pay for your commute and get your off-peak use free."

By offering riders unlimited use for the price of their commute, riders will be encouraged to ride off-peak more, filling seats that would otherwise go empty. This will encourage people to ride transit instead of taking their cars for discretionary trips, reducing emissions and congestion. It will also mean a more steady, monthly stream of revenue for Metro that won't be affected by snow days and other interruptions in transit service.
What do people think about bringing this kind of pass to Metro?

Michael Perkins has a website, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page to explain and promote the concept, which has been getting endorsements left and right.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Utter Devastation

As many long-time readers may know, Unsuck lived in Japan a while back. My experience with Japanese mass transit is a major reason I am so critical of Metro.

I had both the fortune and misfortune of being in Kobe, Japan, during the 1995 earthquake ( 阪神大震災 (hanshin daishinsai) that brought huge parts of western Japan to its knees. It was hard to imagine anything worse, but the Great Tohoku Earthquake (東北地方太平洋沖地震 (Tohoku-chiho Taiheiyo-oki Jishin)), ensuing tsunami and nuclear nightmare look much, much more devastating.

It's completely heartbreaking to see events unfolding there now, and it brings back a lot of bad memories.

Back in 1995, Japan largely shunned outside assistance, but this time it looks like they're going to need it.

This is the most comprehensive list of ways to give I've found. If you have something to add, please do in the comments.


Peeps Preview: Foggy Bottom

Click for larger

From Claudine, who obviously put in quite a lot more effort than last year's Unsuck entry.
After reading a string of bad news about violence on Metro these last few months, your readers may enjoy a lighter note by taking a look at the diorama we submitted to the Washington Post's Peeps Show.

Elliot, the creative force behind this, and I are good friends from our days at GW. After hearing about the escalator collapse, we thought it would be great to immortalize the good, the bad and the ugly about Metro in our diorama.

You have things like the oblivious station manager reading the paper, the tourist blocking traffic, and the Krispy Kreme salesman right outside the station (and so much more! Like a cash-only ticket machine!)

Building this was definitely a cathartic experience.
Other items:
Metro spends $49 million on OT in seven months (Examiner)
Dulles rail opening delayed by a year (Examiner)
Metro doles out over $22 million in worker's comp (Examiner)
Meet the hero of the L'Enfant escalator collapse (WaP0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another Random Act of Violence Worsened by Major Customer Service Fail

Yesterday's sucker punch story prompted another reader to share their experience. From James:
I was walking through the turnstile at Shaw-Howard University at around 6:15 p.m. on Jan. 4, and I had just put my wallet away after swiping through.

Out of nowhere a guy punched me in the face and just kept walking.

He didn’t try to take anything, and he didn’t say anything to me. He just punched me and moved on.

My glasses fell off, but I didn't hit the ground or anything.

I started pounding on the kiosk (as it was right next to it) and screaming that I had just been punched, and the Metro worker told me to stop pounding, and finished helping someone else.

I kept saying, "That guy, right there just punched me in the face!"

His response?

He told ME to dial Metro police!

He gave me the number and told me to call them.

So I asked him why he couldn't call, and he yelled at me to stop yelling at him.

So I called 911.

They patched me through to WMATA police who asked me what the kiosk worker did. I said nothing.

At that moment, the worker started SCREAMING at me - "DON'T YOU SAY I DID NOTHING! WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?! DON'T YOU SAY THAT!"

The Metro police asked if the person yelling was the assailant, and I said no and told them it was a Metro employee. The dispatcher told me to stop talking to the employee and walk away from him.

I understand that WMATA employees cannot chase these thugs, but he could have at least called the police, and showed a little compassion.

The cops came, took my information and statement and told me it would be tallied in the crime statistics as simple assault.

The EMS came just tomake sure I didn't have a concussion or anything.

It was bad enough to have been punched in the face, but to have the Metro worker show zero compassion, worry, or care about the incident, and to have him yelling at me was unacceptable.

I contacted WMATA directly to file an official complaint about this.

The woman I spoke to was horrified at the incident and at the behavior of the employee.

I spoke to a few supervisors and superintendents who all took my story down and moved it through the process.

They all said that some sort of action would be taken.

I never found out what the outcome was.

I was told that the investigation had been completed and that files were documented.

I emailed back asking what the outcome of the investigation was and what actions were being taken.

I was emailed the same exact letter that I had responded to.

When I wrote back saying it was the same exact letter, I got a response saying no further information could be shared because it was a personnel issue and corrective action had been taken.

Other than being bruised for a few days, and having some pain in my jaw, the biggest thing that was hurt was my sense of security on Metro.

All of the recent crimes have not helped. Something really needs to be done to stop the escalating violence.
Other items:
Video gives credence to armed robbery scenario (City Paper)
Va. officials push for above-ground station at Dulles (Examiner)
DC students to ride free? (Examiner)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Metro Continues to Hide Ultraviolence Problem

An anonymous tipster alleges they saw someone get "sucker punched" at, of course, L'Enfant Plaza Sunday afternoon around 5.

The tipster said a group of four "kids" walked by a waiting train, and two of them punched a man standing in the train by the doors. The punches knocked the man down.

The assailants then ran a bit down the platform.

The tipster said that as the train pulled away, they saw the victim, still dazed, struggle to get up off the floor, obviously struggling to understand what had happened.

The kids, who joined up with more of their droogs, stayed in the station, laughing as if the whole things was funny, the tipster said.

There were no Metro officials around, the tipster said, and none to be found after a quick search of the station.

Finally, the tipster, who was with their fiancee, gave up and got on a train. Upon arriving at U Street, they were able to find three Metro cops "relaxing in the Metro booth."

When the tipster informed the cops about what they'd seen, "they acted like they couldn't have cared less," and it "seemed almost as if I wasn't even there."

Sadly, a story about blasé Metro employees doesn't raise eyebrows any more, until you find out there's a little more to this one.

According to Metro, at around 4:30 p.m., there was a "gun incident" at L'Enfant involving more than one perp. During the incident, an arrest was made, Metro said.

We asked Metro for details, but they wouldn't say, despite repeated attempts to get them to cough up something.


Really, it's better you don't know, right?

It's starting to seem, as the tipster said, "we're on our own down there."

Real horror show like.

Other items:
Transit oversight bill reintroduced (Examiner)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Station Manager's Advance Creeps Out Rider

Anyone else experience something like this?

From an anonymous reader:
On Sunday morning, I was walking back from a bar by myself after being out with friends, it was around 1 a.m.

I went through the gates at Eastern Market and was walking toward the platform when I heard someone say "excuse me."

I turned around and saw the Metro employee in the booth leaning out trying to get my attention.

If see a Metro employee trying to get my attention, I respond.

Besides, I came through the gates right behind someone, so I thought maybe I accidentally piggy backed or something.

I walked back the kiosk, toward him, and when I got up to the booth, he leaned out, smiled and asked me my name. He was definitely hitting on me. It had that tone.

I turned around immediately and went down to the platforms.

I realize on the scale of getting hit on, this is minor.

But he used his position as a Metro employee in a way that borders on abuse of power.

I was alone, late at night, and until now, I've felt like getting to a Metro station is a safe-haven from potential rapists because it's well lit and manned with people whose job it is to prevent that stuff from happening (Maybe that is a naive worldview.).

To use your power in a Metro uniform in the Metro booth to call over a girl who is alone (and possibly visibly intoxicated - I wasn't that drunk, but when you add a couple drinks and wearing heels, walking becomes precarious), that's just wrong.

To use the illusion that he needed to talk to me by calling to me from the booth ... I don't know, I was creeped out.
Other items:
Five arrested in Metro fight (Examiner)
Virtual tunnel between Farraguts to open this fall (Examiner)
Higher gas prices may lead to more transit use (WTOP)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Metro in a Legal Nutshell

Any law-talking folks feel free to chime in on this one. Had to put it together on the fly.

This case, decided yesterday, provides some interesting insights into why Metro sucks and probably spends unimaginable amounts of your money in legal fees.

Belynda Bowman-Cook worked for Metro for "several years" as a "helper." In "late June 2008," she claimed to be sick and was never again seen at Metro.

According to Metro rules, when an employee is absent from the job for medical reasons, they must “provide a current telephone number and address to the supervisor, be available to receive telephone calls at this telephone number,” and “accept mail sent by [WMATA] to this address.”

On July 10, fairly quickly (for Metro) after Bowman-Cook's disappearance, Metro said it sent her a certified letter to her sister's home (the address Bowman-Cook provided and where she was living) saying she needed to provide documentation of her medical absence to her supervisor.

Metro said it never heard anything, and the letter was returned as undeliverable.

Then, sometime between July 10 and Aug. 29, Metro said it sent another certified letter to her advising that her work schedule changed.

Nothing from Bowman-Cook--again undeliverable, according to Metro.

On Aug. 29, Metro said it sent another certified letter warning Bowman-Cook that she risked "discharge."

It, too, was returned, according to Metro.

On Sept. 5, Metro said it sent Bowman-Cook an email saying it was going to send another letter and that she should follow the instructions in that letter.

This time, on Sept 8, Bowman-Cook responded with an angry email:
PLEASE DO NOT CALL MY HOUSE OR E-MAIL ME AGAIN! I am in treatment and I am unaware of a return to duty date. I do not need your continued harrassment (sic) or threats concerning my employment. Please, Please leave me alone.
On Sept. 29, Metro said it sent her a certified letter telling her she was fired for “fail[ing] to accept mail as she is required to do at the address that she had given WMATA as her current address.”

It would appear as if it took Metro three months to fire an employee behaving in a way most reasonable people would think was a clear violation of Metro's rules.

But there's more.

Bowman-Cook, despite her incapacitating illness, applied to get unemployment benefits immediately after her firing, but was ruled ineligible because she had been fired for misconduct.

Despite being too weakened to receive mail, she summoned the energy to appeal that decision.

She lost, and the initial ruling read:
"Considering the record as a whole, I conclude that Employer has proven that Claimant was discharged for misconduct. Although Claimant’s sister testified credibly that Claimant required care and assistance when she was ill, the evidence presented at the hearing does not establish that Claimant was actually so incapacitated from June 30, 2008, through September 25, 2008, that she was incapable of accepting letters sent by Employer to her then-current address."
How ill was Bowman-Cook?

According to her sister sister "she was suffering from major depression throughout the period of her absence from work." She was not able to handle her business, that her bills went "slacking" and that her medications “made her sleep really hard,” so that the sister “had to wake [Bowman-Cook] up to even attempt to feed her.”

That didn't seem to matter, as the crux of the initial decision seems to have been that Bowman-Cook seemed to intentionally refuse contact with Metro--a violation meriting termination.

It would appear clear cut, but there's even more.

Bowman-Cook, who was too sick to receive mail, again summoned the energy and appealed that decision to the DC Court of Appeals and won.

Among the issues cited in the reversal is that Bowman-Cook said she had been in contact with someone in Metro's "medical office" and apparently had notes from that person saying she was ill and could not work. These had not been considered in the initial appeal.

(One has to wonder what kind of medical professional would prescribe medication that would render someone incapable of the onerous task of receiving mail over the course of months.)

The court also ruled that Metro had failed to show Bowman-Cooke had refused contact with Metro intentionally.

This despite Bowman-Cook being "aware of at least one of the certified mail notices," and even accompanying her sister to the post office to try to retrieve a letter several weeks after a delivery attempt.

Bowman-Cook's sister admitted she "received several notices from the post office about certified letters for [Bowman-Cook], but she was too busy caring for [Bowman-Cook] to try to retrieve them, and she does not generally retrieve [Bowman-Cook's] mail anyway.”

It really was the least she could do.

Anyway, the appeal court said the initial ruling "erred in determining that [Bowman-Cook's] actions constituted misconduct without allowing her to present evidence about communications, regarding her illness, that she and her representatives had with WMATA during the period in question."

Additionally, according to the decision, to uphold the denial of benefits [it must be found that] 'the existence of the employer’s rule was known to the employee,' that 'the employer’s rule is reasonable,' and that 'the employer’s rule is consistently enforced by the employer.'"

The decision said Metro, always a stickler for details, did not present "evidence to show that it consistently enforced its rule about employee acceptance of mail during a medical absence."

Metro, when asked, would not comment on the case.

In June or July of 2009 a "Belynda Bowman" lost a grievance on a "promotion issue." It's unclear when the greivance was filed or how long they take to process.

Given the obscene dysfunction that consumes Metro, it's not inconceivable that Metro was considering promoting someone who'd not been at work since 2008.

Would it be shocking to find out she has been getting paid this whole time?

Other items:
DC may hold back funding if late-night service is cut (WTOP)
Hard to believe Metro hasn't done this before (WaPo)
Metro's plan for Blue/Yellow split (WMATA)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Miserable even by Metro Standards

From CS:
The scheduled time on Metrorail from Van Ness-UDC to Vienna/Fairfax is 46 minutes. Here’s how the Ms.’s hour-and-forty-five minute commute went on Friday, in a tale that stands out even by what have become Metro’s woeful service standards.

Red Line, Van Ness: Bad start – 10 minute wait for train shortly before 6 p.m. Inexcusable on a Friday night during peak-of-the-peak. Train already menacingly crowded.

Sick passenger #1: What appeared to be a sick passenger at DuPont Circle caused train to hold six or seven more minutes. With the delays, train even more jammed, and driver had repeated trouble closing the doors.

Offload #1: Mob scene at Farragut North. Doors won’t close. “I’ve had enough!” train operator declares, ordering offload.

Desperation (actually, survival) move: Fearful of even worse mob scene at Metro Center, with likelihood of waiting several trains before successfully transferring to the Orange Line, the Ms. dumps the Red Line, leaving Farragut North and walking over to Farragut West. (Without paying extra fare, if you’re curious; fed up, the Ms. passed through those swinging, non-fare gates at each station. Paying for the privilege of having to hoof it seemed crazy.)

Next problem: Track circuit failure on the Orange Line near Ballston. Trains slow to a crawl and hold in stations for lengthy periods.

Sick passenger #2: Amidst the tumult, woman faints in car. More delay.

Offload #2: Train offloaded at West Falls Church.

Capping it off: Creep-and-crawl into Vienna, where stacked-up trains delay arrivals at end of the line.

Well, there’s an hour of the Ms.’s life she’ll never get back. Just another deposit into the great Metro Time Sink Bank.

Meanwhile, I’m afraid it’s time to call out certain Caps fans. Don’t mean to tar all with the same brush, but on Caps nights, when fans jam the inbound Red Line from Shady Grove, the red-jerseyed masses routinely overcrowd trains and cause offloadings. Caps fans plainly contributed to Friday’s problems. Yes, the train doors are terrible, and that’s a big part of the issue. But some fans’ behavior, in prying and holding doors open, and thinking it’s funny, is part of the problem, too. One time earlier in the season, Caps fans managed to take successive trains out of service during rush hour. Time to face up that some fans need to grow up – it’s not always about you.
Other items:
London Underground offers refunds for delays longer than 15 minutes (BBC)
Pipe design flaw could make it harder to extinguish tunnel fires (Examiner)
Fight reported at Glenmont Metro (WaPo)
Metro removing asbestos from Farragut N. and Union Sta. (Examiner)
Duh (WaP)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Save the Date

Hi All,

I am writing to invite you to ATU Local 689’s rally on Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 8:30 a.m. The rally will occur at WMATA Headquarters (Jackson Graham Building), which is located at 600 5th Street, NW. We are rallying to address issues that not only impact our members, but that also impact other labor union members and the riding public, as well. We see ourselves as part of the larger labor movement and we stand in solidarity with union members across the nation. More specifically, issues that we plan to highlight are the need to preserve final and binding arbitration, concern over insufficient transit funding, issues of inadequate safety for employees and passengers, and attacks on collective bargaining rights.

Please join our union members, as well as community members, other labor union members, and the riding public in making our collective issues known. If you plan to attend and you want to address the crowd, please let me know by responding to this email. Also, please encourage all of your members to support us at our rally.

Thank you and I hope to see you at our rally!

Lateefah S. Williams, Esq.
Political and Legislative Director
Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689
2701 Whitney Place
Forestville, MD 20747

Failure to Pay

There was another apparent fight/stabbing last night at Gallery Place/Chinatown. Seems, however, the Metro police have smaller fish to fry.

Has this sort of thing happened to anyone else (2 stories)?

From Anonymous:
I am looking for any information on citations for “failure to pay” Metro fare.

One evening after work, during rush hour, I was leaving New York Ave. I swiped my SmarTrip, walked through the turnstile and was headed out when I heard “Excuse me, excuse me …”

I kept walking until the voice got louder and louder. I turned around, wondering who was not listening to this voice. I was surprised to see a Metro police officer looking directly at me.

He asked me to return to the booth, which I did. He asked to see my SmarTrip, which I gave him.

He entered the booth where I couldn’t see what he was doing, nor could I speak with him.

When I opened the door to ask him questions, he told me to shut it.

Finally, he opened the door informed me my card was broken and asked for my identification.

I figured it was to see if that card was really registered to me or not.

I handed him my license, and he informed me that my card was not registering and that he was issuing me a citation.

The whole situation was weird. It took a while for it to sink in that he was actually giving me a ticket for not paying even though I had a SmarTrip.

I asked him what the citation was for, and he said it was for “failure to pay.”

I had to keep opening the booth door to ask questions, and he kept repeating that I could ask questions at the hearing and to shut the door.

I asked why the fare gates opened if the card was broken, and he said I was “piggybacking.”

When I tried to explain that my spouse and I have several SmarTrip cards between us, but that I was pretty certain this one had money on it, he ignored me, and told me to explain it at the hearing.

He said I held my hand weird when I was leaving, and I pointed out that in the past, my card has registered from my coat pocket, from my wallet and from my purse. Again, he told me to shut the door and explain it at the hearing.

I was really upset when I read the citation--which was for $50--and included language saying that if I don't pay the ticket or show at the hearing, an warrant for my arrest will be issued.

I feel like a criminal.

I decided to follow up with a court date.

To arrange that, I had to go to one of several locations listed on the back of the citation. When I got there, the people working there had clearly not had someone come in with a citation like mine from Metro.

When I explained my situation, one of them commented, "Why didn't he just have you go pay for a new ticket?"

I waited and waited and eventually they gave me a court date.

Then she exchanged my citation for a sheet of paper which listed my name and the following:

"You have been arrested and charged with the following criminal offense: Failure to pay established fare rail."

It went on "You are being released from police custody upon your promise that you will appear as further specified below..."

I had to sign it on a blank that said "signature of arrested person." I pointed out that I wasn't arrested. The person working there said, "Well they gave you a citation instead of bringing you in."

Seriously, I don't even think I've had a moving violation in the 15-plus years I've lived in this city, and now I'm signing at the line that says "arrested person."

Anyway, my court date is approaching quickly and any thoughts or suggestions would be most welcome.
Here's another, similar sounding case From Leslie:
On Jan. 27, around 5:25 p.m., I got off an Orange Line train at New Carrollton.

I ride the Metro every day to and from work.

However, on this particular day, Metro Transit Police were at New Carrollton.

As I swiped my SmartTrip, card to exit, a Metro Transit Police officer approached me and asked to see my SmartTrip card.

Per his request, I gave it to him. He examined the card and asked “how much money do you have on your card?”

Puzzled by his questions and needing to catch a 5:35 bus, I answered “about 5 bucks.”

He then asked me to follow him.

He escorted me to the station manager's booth, scanned my card and said “I’m going to let you go today.”

There are several issues with this incident:

1.What violation (if any) was committed?
2.Why didn’t he state the problem (if any)?
3.What exactly did the officer mean by “let you go today? ” Was I being detained for swiping my SmartTrip card?

This incident felt like harassment.

As a regular rider, I did not appreciate the embarrassment of being stopped by an officer so that he can 1) look at my card (my card looks like everyone else's, I'm sure), 2) ask me to follow him to the booth so that he could "check" my card, and 3) infer that I was being detained for an infraction he did articulate.

People are being beaten in the Metro, the Orange Line is being robbed, people are getting hit by trains, there are flashers on the Metro, and the Metro Transit police are harassing a working girl about a SmartTrip card?

It causes me to believe that all the crime is happening on the Metro because the Transit Police spend their time harassing patrons and "examining" SmartTrip cards.
Metro cop's misplaced rage?

Other items:
Woman fends off would be iPhone robbery (TBD)
Teens on Metro, they do grow up (WaPo)
Metro plans Blue Line split (WaPo)
Pipe design flaw hurts Metro's ability to fight fires (Examiner)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Safety Winning!

Via @esamek Hey @unsuckdcmetro, @fixwmata & @wmata fix your piece of crap trains- The walls are caving in!

Via @mikepetrucci Hey #wmata, won't the train hit this? Yellow Line: Eisenhower, direction of Mount Vernon Convention Center.

Other items:
Washington Post favors bag checks
Rider sues Metro for elevator free falls (Examiner)
DC area has fourth worst traffic in nation (WTOP)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Unlike some Other Subway Systems...

"Unlike some subway systems (which will remain nameless), you don't see rats the size of house cats roaming Metro. Why not? Because we're so strict about eating and drinking in the system. So help us keep the critters away. Please don't eat or drink on Metro."

Via @chelseydc Wow. Someone missed the 'No Food On Metro' memo... #WMATA #Nasty

@Tony_Leo No food on the metro, eh? #wmata

Via @
lefthandrob Words, there are none #wmata

Via @lefthandrob Every afternoon, north green/yellow platform @ Gallery Place, a food mess #wmata

Via Mr. T in DC: A typical scene at the Columbia Heights Metro station: a mysterious dark puddle, likely urine, a stack of pancakes from IHOP, an empty booze bottle, and the remnants of graffiti on the granite. There are several garbage cans within a couple of dozen feet, and public restrooms in DCUSA right across the street.

From Matt:
Woodrow, the White House Mouse has a lot of cousins ... the WMATA mice. Here's a shot of one taken at Waterfront Metro. I couldn't get a good shot of the four I saw at L'Enfant Plaza. They're almost cute, unlike rats, but it was a bit alarming to see one start to climb the wall.

Other items:
BART cloth seats are nasty, and WMATA is considering them for its new cars (NYTimes)
Metro CIO suddenly quits (Examiner)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Metro Mouse Finds Operating Escalator, Gets Workout

Based on the YouTube description, the mouse made a safe getaway.

Other items:
Major track work this weekend (WMATA)
ACLU may challenge bag searches (WAMU)
Is your bus driver armed? (WUSA)
Metro security grants could take hit (WaPo)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Twinbrook Station Manager Upset by Interrupted Phone Call Yells at Riders

Early reports indicate the bid to oust Jackie Jeter was a flop. So, be prepared for more of the below, and remember Jeter's famous quote: "Our members go to work every day cognizant of their responsibility to perform a job on behalf of our customers – the riding public."

From Brian:
I got off at Twinbrook the other morning at around 9:00, and neither of the faregates were working. There are only two gates to exit at Twinbrook.

It was a slow time, but there were four of us who could not get out because when you swiped your card it said "see manager" or "out of service."

I looked in the booth, and the guy there was on the phone, and we could not get his attention. I tried repeatedly for five minutes to swipe my card. I was trapped in the station.

The guy in the booth was still on the phone, ignoring the line of people asking for help.

I finally just went through the "emergency" gate as I saw about six others do, and then tried to get the guy's attention on the other side of the booth to pass him my card.

He yelled at me to get back inside!

Finally, he got off the phone and shouted obscenities at us.

We argued with him that we had been standing there for over five minutes, and he'd ignored us.

He kept yelling.

Then, finally, he clicked something on his computer and said "try now."

We were free.

Don't you think that with the gates not working so often that there should be someone available let you out? That would be a lot better than someone ignoring you and swearing at you like it's your fault Metro equipment is so crappy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Escalators are Hard to Maintain, but who can Screw Up Stairs?

From Matt:
The "closed" stairs at Branch Avenue. The best part is that I lifted up the cones, etc - looked up for a leak, or overhead work - any reason why they would need to close that side of the stairs. There were absolutely none. Note the scissor gate at the top of the stairs, too. Oh boy. People don't realize how much maintenance stairs apparently need.
Other items:
Another alleged mob attack on Metro (NBC Washington)
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