Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Operation Hot Air?

The following is from a March 15, 2011 press release:
Last month, Metro’s Car Maintenance department launched an initiative called “Operation Cool Breeze,” a program designed to inspect and overhaul the air conditioning units inside the agency’s 1,142 rail car fleet. Under the program, maintenance personnel are cleaning condenser motors, checking auxiliary power units and other key vital components associated with providing air conditioning, and making sure the units are ready when they are turned on at the end of the month.

“We hit the ground running in February by checking all the vital components inside every rail car,” said Dave Kubicek, Metro’s Acting Deputy General Manager for Operations.

“It has been a monumental task, however our dedicated car maintenance personnel have been working diligently during the last several weeks to help ensure our customers will be comfortable throughout the spring and summer months while riding Metrorail,” he said.
When we started to see reports of hot cars ballooning during this recent heat wave, we asked Metro for some concrete information about what was done during the operation. They haven't gotten back to us with numbers, saying only the goal was to have all the cars checked by April 1.

We asked a few sources in Metro car maintenance.

The car maintenance personnel we talked to had never heard of "Operation Cool Breeze" and were not aware of any major AC work initiative being done in February or March.

One source involved in the air conditioning maintenance said Metro's approach to fixing the AC problems is "like treating stab wounds with Band-Aids."

They'd never heard of "Operation Cool Breeze" and added that Metro lacks many of the parts needed to make the AC fixes needed.

Another source confirmed the Band-Aid approach adding that the "fixes" sometimes only last a day or so. They, also didn't know of "Operation Cool Breeze" and added that they didn't think it was physically possible to get the AC working in all the cars given the scope of the problems and age of the cars. Furthermore, they said that testing them in March didn't really make sense since the AC is not stressed then.

Another said there had been some cleaning of some cars' AC evaporation coils, but that it was nothing even close to the scale of work described in the press release.

Another source said there were "not enough hours in the day" to complete the kind of work conveyed in the press release.

"An 'overhaul' is as much as a week project per car," they said.

They added that "checking of electrical circuits is futile. The systems can only be checked under load, in other words when it is 90 degrees 90 percent humidity and a crush load of passengers."

Yet another source called the operations "standard Metro BS."

More troublesome is that some of the problems with the AC appear to be unrepairable, said one source, even if Metro had the dedication, parts and manpower.

The source said fixing the air conditioning in many of the 5000-series cars was next to impossible because the auxiliary power supplies (APS), which are integral in the proper function of the AC, "are flawed" in their design.

Because of the persistent APS problems, the AC often doesn't work correctly on 5000-series cars, leading to a decision by Metro engineers that it would be OK to have 50 percent AC in two cars.
Well, I guess if the trains were running in Montana or Canada where it doesn't get as hot as DC, this would be sound judgment, but anyone who has ridden Metro in August knows this is as bad a decision as ever made by Metro. Instead of two semi-cool cars you end up with two hot cars.
The source said that when they reported 5000-series "hot cars" they were told to "isolate" the hottest of the pair.

This source said that one day last week, they'd been called to troubleshoot 8 hot cars, 3 of which were 5000-series cars.

Last summer, a blogger, FixWMATA, asked people to report hot cars to them. While the list is in no way meant to be interpreted as exhaustive, when you look at anecdotal numbers, 79 of the 206, or 38 percent, of reported hot cars were 5000-series cars.

They are also collecting hot car reports this summer.

5000-series cars make up about 16 percent of Metro's fleet.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Metro-Themed Kids' Books

Metro's Home Brewed Signage

via @nicolevins Spotted at Ballston... #goodidea #wmata yfrog.com/h2uicjnj

Via Matt

Via @allunso If you don't know which "eslator" you need to take, just follow the signs at McPherson sq

These used to be funny, but after seeing so many of them, they're just kind of sad as one begins to understand how deep-seated many of Metro's problems truly are.

Several current and former Metro workers we've spoken to all point to poorly educated workers as a major problem for WMATA.

Can the makers of these signs read and understand Metro training or regulation manuals? Can they read or understand written communication from management? Can they express safety concerns in a coherent way? Can they study, learn and pass tests for more responsible jobs?

Sadly, these problems are beyond the scope of more Metro funding, new by-laws, a newish GM or a new board.

Other items:
Metro promises to be nearly unusable this weekend (WMATA)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Train Directly Behind will be here Momentarily

From Darren:
I am convinced there was an aspiring political adviser who took on an interim position with WMATA to come up with the words that we hear every day riding the Metro system.

If you consult a dictionary, the uses are technically correct, but after years of abuse by Metro, they've lost all meaning and now only cause pangs of dread in every rider's gut.


No hardened Metro rider has fallen for the pass-off trap for years now. Used as a premise to alleviate overcrowded trains, we’re often told that the next train is “directly” behind the train we need to board to make it to the office, school or in my case, Krav Maga on time.

The truth behind this is that there really is a train 1 to 20 stops behind the train now full and departing. Given that this is a rail system, the word "directly" is still technically correct regardless since there's nothing in between the two trains. That is, of course, if you’re not counting the mountain of sighs now piling up from those who either believed the message or couldn’t even get standing room on the first train.

“Directly” pales in comparison to the most dreaded of the "technically correct" words and phrases that are heard on the Metro.


How long is a moment is the question. I have had this last from a minute to over an hour, and still, it never sounds that long when crackled or boomed over the intercom. My favorite use is when stuck in a tunnel "momentarily" only to be interrupted momentarily over and over again to remind us that, yes, the train will be moving momentarily.
What are some other words that should be removed from the Metro spin lexicon? My first suggestion is "falling out."

Other items:
Carjacking at Largo Town Center (WaPo)
Riders may get more chances to speak out (Examiner)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Nearly Killed by Metrobus"

From J.
On May 16th, in the afternoon, I was nearly killed by a Metrobus that jumped a red light turning from 15th left onto K St. NW.

A bunch of us were in the crosswalk already, and the 16Y (2666) bus tried to follow another Metrobus that was in front of it.

So I backed up quickly to avoid getting hit, then raised my arms in the air like "WTF?" to which the driver gave me the finger.

So I went over to his window, and he told me to "shut the f*ck up, b*tch" and slammed the window shut.

At this point, many of the other pedestrians were cheering me on, because they had also almost been hit.

I started to walk away, but then got more angry, so I returned with my camera phone.

Just as I was about to snap the picture, the driver told me to "f*ck off" and ducked out of the way.

The light was about to turn green, so I had to get out of the middle of the street to avoid getting run over.

When I got onto the Metro, I attempted to report it to the station manager.

He gave me an incident report and sent me on my way.

When I got to Pentagon City, I told the Metro police officer about what had happened. He was more helpful. The officer, along with the station manager, gave me a direct line to call and told me I should insist on talking to the bus supervisor, no matter what the person taking the call told me.

I did call. and I was transferred to a L. H. Rucker, who took my complaint.

He also gave me his email address so I could email him the pictures that I had taken, which included the bus number, and the driver trying to duck out of view of my pictures.

What I am really worried about is that he also took down my name and home address, under the guise of needing to send me some kind of letter. No letter has arrived.
Other items:
Charges dropped against man in wheelchair (WaPo) Less weaselly article (WJLA)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Guest Blogger: Dan Stessel, Metro's New Chief Spokesman

When we learned Metro had hired Dan Stessel to be their new chief spokesman, we reached out to him over Twitter to welcome him to DC. We also invited him to write a guest post for the blog, which he did--on the first day he was at Metro.

Here it is:
Why I’m Here

Over the past few weeks, a few of my close friends have tried to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into as I assume the role of Metro’s chief spokesperson. You can probably imagine the typical reaction: “Oh.” [pause] “Really??” [pause] “METRO?!”

For my introductory Unsuck blog post, I thought I’d take the opportunity to not only introduce myself, but also to explain why I believe being here is a unique opportunity that, for me, was impossible to pass up.

I first fell in love with DC during my college search back in 1994. I knew immediately that no other place would compare, and ultimately, I applied only to one school (GW) because I was so determined to be here.

Metro, of course, was one of the things that made the city stand out. It was safe, efficient, modern, clean and reliable.

Most readers of this blog are well aware of the changes that followed. Age, deferred maintenance and other factors all seemed to catch up with the system. When I came back to visit Washington earlier this year, I was dismayed to see how the system had deteriorated. The first very train I boarded at Union Station experienced door and brake problems and had to limp toward Judiciary Square at walking speed. It was obvious that the system was not what it used to be.

I’ve been a communicator in the transportation world for more than a decade now – first at Amtrak, then NJ TRANSIT and now Metro. One of the things I learned early on was that, in order to do this well, you must be absolutely passionate about that which you are communicating. And that’s really why I’m here. I believe that Metro is America’s transit system. I believe it deserves to be restored to what it used to be – the system I remember. I believe Metro customers deserve clear information, using a multitude of channels (including social media), to enhance their experience. I believe in the efforts by our Board and GM Rich Sarles, now underway, to return the system to a state of good repair over the next few years. And I believe that we can do it.

I am under no illusion about the challenges that lie ahead. The next several years – the “era of rebuilding” at Metro – are going to require patience, dedication and focus. I am committed not only to doing whatever I can to keep our customers informed of these efforts, but also to listen and advocate on their behalf.

Let the conversation begin.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Disturbing Video (NSFW: Language)

Via @punditintrigued

Update: NBC4 has more on the story.

The patches appear to be those of Metro cops.

It's hard to imagine why they'd need to take someone in a wheelchair down like that.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Metro is lowering its performance targets in several key areas, including on-time rates for trains and buses as well as availability for escalators.

In a presentation scheduled to be given to the Board next week (pp. 16-18), Metro says it's lowering its on-time target for rail from greater than 95 percent to greater than 90 percent. The reasons (their words):
  • 5% reduction due to manual train operations
  • Operators need additional time to manually stop at the stations and open/close the doors and there is greater variability between train operators
  • Trend data and prior experience validates new target
Bus on-time targets are being lowered from greater than 80 percent to greater than 78 percent. The reasons:
  • Metrobuses get caught in traffic on area roadways where congestion is bad and getting worse
  • Washington, DC is the most congested U.S. region according to the Texas Transportation Institute
  • Metrobus selected a stretch target of 78% even though historical trends indicate 75% as more attainable
For escalators, the goal is now greater than 89 percent availability as opposed to 93 percent, which they say is a stretch as "performance in 2011 is anticipated to decline." The reasons:
  • Needed capital overhauls will take almost twice as many units out of service
  • Improving to 60% preventive maintenance compliance will identify a backlog of repairs that must be addressed
Metro does say it expects to raise the bar for escalators in 2012.

Elsewhere in the presentation, Metro says they "will evaluate and revise escalator maintenance procedures with an emphasis on 'getting things right the first time.'”

-- - Rapture ARR

Pregame at Grosvenor!
Via @chr1sHunter This photo doesn't suck. Rainbow over Grosvenor metro tonight

False hopes
Via @JohnCTownsend DC Metro: Where Hooters and The Rapture vie for attention (via )

Will there be cutlery in heaven? Better safe than sorry, I guess.
Via @vcsjones Why yes, a spoon in a hat. #wmata http://t.co/H2rbe6V

"U lead a good life. Hugz-me."
Via @markalves Double-fisted, DC style cc

"Dignity and Elegance" or "Theater of Absurdity and Cruelty?"

Photo via Flickr o palsson

Like the Metro system, the architecture of Metro engenders love or hate.

Places, "an interdisciplinary journal of contemporary architecture, landscape and urbanism," has an interesting write up on Metro's chief architect, Harry Weese.

In the article, Weese is said to have wanted to design the system that would allow riders to travel with "dignity and even elegance."

Critics, however, have likened Weese's creation to a "repressive monolith."

One of those critics, Marshall Berman, an American philosopher, was quoted in the article with this description of Metro's architecture:
Walls and ceilings were massive monoliths, with facades unbroken by colors or diverse materials or signs. We passengers were encased in enormous voids shaped by barrel-vaulted ceilings, and by vast blots of blackness at the platform's ends, pressing us toward them like black holes in outer space. Meanwhile, pulling us upward, escalators seemed to surge up from the bowels of the earth. Lighting was not only too dim to read by, it also transformed people of every color into shades. You couldn't get a clear view of the person next to you, or else, getting off a train, you lost your view of the person next to you. ... Before long, I realized that the system was a kind of theater of absurdity and cruelty, whose scenery seemed contrived to create anxiety.
Sounds like he was at least there on a day the escalators were working.

The author of the article further argues that Weese rejected "functional richness for grand, rational spaces."

Of transfer stations he article writes:
two vaults intersect in a bilevel cruciform with no transfer mezzanine, forcing nearly every passenger to squeeze through the same narrow widths of platform at the center. Spatial majesty comes at the price of inefficiency and crowding.
L'Enfant Plaza comes to mind.

The author concludes that Metro's look and feel is impressive to the visitor or infrequent user, but regular use renders it "tedious and stuffy" and "obdurate and overbearing."

What do you think? Is Metro an architectural masterpiece worthy of the #106 spot in the list of America's Favorite Architecture, or is it a pee pee soaked heck hole?

If you want a complete rundown on all that went into Metro's creation, this is a great book.

Other items:
Metro has "saftey stand down" (WTOP)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Give Metrobus a Wide Berth

Illustration from this Flickr

As frequent DC bike rider, I ALWAYS give Metro buses a SUPER wide berth. You never know what stunt they're going to pull. They're hulking menaces a lot of the time, second only to the "DC Flyer" cabs, which must be where failed Metrobus drivers end up.

From a reader:
In March, I was riding my bike northbound in the bike lane in the 1300 block of 7th Street, NW (between N and O Streets). A car was double parked, blocking the bike lane. I looked behind me, saw a 70 bus, but determined that I had enough time/space to ride into the travel lane in order to pass the double-parked car and then get safely back into the bike lane before the bus passed.

Well, I was wrong. The bus sped up and tried to pass both me *and* the double-parked car at the same time.

The bus didn't have room to do that safely. It ended up sideswiping me, sending me flipping over my handlebars, and landing in the bike lane about 10 feet away from my bike.

DC Fire/EMS came, took me to Howard University Hospital, they checked me out, and luckily I emerged from the incident with just a few bruises.

The bus, however, never even stopped. Since it was the back part of the bus that sideswiped me, I have my doubts if the driver even realized he hit someone (I don't know if the driver was able to feel the impact all the way up at the front of the bus).

I got in touch with a WMATA claims officer, and she recorded my account of the incident. She also got in touch with a witness who had given his contact info to a Metro police officer.

WMATA reimbursed me for the Fire/EMS bill, my hospital bill, the painkillers that were prescribed to me, the damage to my bike, and my clothing (my pants and jersey were torn to shreds).

I got my reimbursement check about one month after the accident, which is not too shabby.

However, as far as I know, the driver has yet to be found.

I wrote to my claims officer ten days ago: "I received my check, thank you very much. I'd like to follow up on whether the bus driver has been found, and if so what action has been taken?"

She wrote back today: "To this date, I have not received notice the bus operator in this incident was identified and/or located. The employee records containing disciplinary actions are confidential."

I wrote to ask her if this means that the case is closed, but I haven't received a reply yet.

OK, I'm happy to have received my settlement so quickly, and I'm even happier that I'm in one piece physically after the incident.

But don't I have the right to know if the driver was identified? It can't be too hard for WMATA to figure out who it was, when there are only a certain number of 70 buses driving northbound on that block at that time of day.
From Caitlin:
I think I've been flipped off more in this city by Metrobus drivers than by any other group. And, as a bike-commuter, that's saying something.

Case-in-point Thursday night. My boyfriend and I were walking home to Adams Morgan, when we had a close call with a 42 bus at the corner of Mount Pleasant St., Harvard and Columbia.

The bus driver blew through the stop sign, took the turn wide, and almost hit us in the crosswalk. He then proceeded to give me the finger when I yelled at him to watch it.

I really wish there had been a cop at the corner to pull the guy over ... or around any of the other times I have interactions with Metro staff.

Half of them deserve to be fired for recklessness and lack of attention to laws.
Other items:
Could the Dulles extension become the next Big Dig? (Washington Times)
Metro cocktails (Irish Breakfast)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Hottest Brand in DC is Back!

2011's must-have accessory?

Lost in the kerfuffle over Metro finally agreeing to get on board with Google Transit was perhaps even bigger news.

After being unavailable for some time, the DMV's hottest brand is back--in more ways than ever. That's right! Metro has unveiled its completely overhauled online gift shop!

Who wouldn't want a plastic Metro pen, Metrobus piggy bank, Metro carabiner, Metro sports bottle, Metro watch or Metro Ultra Cotton Long Sleeve Pique Polo? You can also pick up a copy of this "captivating" book. Thank God the Metro train stress reliever is still available.

Now you can bring mementos of those great commutes into nearly aspect of your life, and they keep adding items daily, it seems.

Got any ideas for more Metro schwag?

According to Metro, there was no money spent on the site, but a percentage of the proceeds will to go APISource who built and maintains it. Here's the RFP for the job, if you're interested.

Over the past three years, Metro earned about $13,500 per year from the previous version of the online store.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pickpocket Metro?

Several weekly bus pass users have written saying they've been having their bus fares subtracted from their main SmarTrip balance despite having bought passes.

Worse yet, Metro is giving them a nightmarish Catch-22 runaround in refunding their money. And EVEN WORSE, Metro does not appear to have let riders know of a major problem that is basically robbing them blind and apparently has been occurring since January!

Here's what one rider said, which is typical of the emails we've recieved:

WMATA's 7-day bus passes haven't worked right since they started, with a delayed roll-out. Users are often charged the bus fare after loading the $15 pass on the SmarTrip card.

My wife has lost about $20 just this week to bus charges with a valid pass. Many riders might not even notice the extra charges, as their cards seem to run down a bit fast. Despite months of problems, I've seen no notice to riders. Perhaps this is a WMATA effort to recover funds lost in countless liability matters.

Hope you can warn the public!
Another rider wrote the following:

SmartTrip card has been taking from my cash reserve instead of reading my weekly bus pass, and I keep getting the run around. WMATA says the readers are out in certain buses and you have to call in every day to get them to credit cash back through fare machines. They don't.
Many riders said they'd experienced similar problems, usually first noticed when the main SmarTrip balance seemed to dwindle faster than it should have, despite the presence of passes.

Another rider said they were warned by a clerk at a Montgomery Country TRiPS store not to ever buy the weekly passes because "passengers were losing hundreds of dollars."

Those who contacted Unsuck DC Metro said Metro promised refunds, but most have had to battle tooth and nail--including never-ending times on hold with customer service representatives--to recoup their money, if they've been able to refund the money at all.

I have wasted hours recovering about half of the unauthorized deductions from the "Service Center." [My husband] was also a victim on his personal SmarTrip card; he now keeps no rail money on the card for the bus pass, to avoid these phantom deductions. We have received NO replies to our repeated emails this week.
After huge email chains with this customer, Metro did, obliquely, acknowledge some kind of problem, but the email seems to be a cut and paste job from an email directed at those who manage transit benefits for organizations rather than the average rider.

Here's what their email said:

We, unfortunately, have encountered a problem with the new Autoload product that is part of the SmartBenefits migration process that you and your employees were participating in. It has been determined that the use of the new SmartBenefits® Autoload product disables the bus passes of subsequent customers. Our research shows that SmartBenefits® Autoload has been an indirect but significant contributor to the problems we’ve seen with use of the pass.

Therefore, we are delaying your migration to SmartBenefits® Autoload. It will not occur with June benefits. Your employees will claim their June benefits at the Farecards & Passes machine. A follow-up notice will be sent to apprise you of when the SmartBenefits® Autoload process will resume for your account. We apologize for the inconvenience to you and your employees.
We asked Metro about this, but received no response.

Why didn't Metro immediately let riders know they were being ripped off?

Is this Metro's stealthy way of shrinking the budget gap?

Perhaps, the skimmed money is going to a highly-paid army of PR officials. Who knows? Metro?

Other items:
Purple Line delayed as costs rise (Examiner)
Public/virtual input sought on budget gap (WMATA)
Vote for your favorite hypothetical Metro map redesign (GGW)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sarles Talks 7000-series Cars, Farragut Virtual Tunnel, Changing Fare System

At a May 12 speech before the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, Metro GM Richard Sarles elaborated on several issues of interest to DC commuters.

At the 9:06 point, he talks about the coming 7000-series cars, which he promises will be the "best cars in the U.S., I guarantee you."

Along with automated, audible announcements, there will be lighted signage that tells you the next station. Thought we already had that.

Just please, please don't upholster the seats or keep anything resembling the current seating configuration, Mr. Sarles.

At the 11:20 mark, he talks about the possibility of a new fare collection system and a simplified fare scheme, though he offers no specifics other than to say his grandchildren laughed at him trying to figure out the current fare system.

At 17:42, he talks, again vaguely, about improvements to Union Station, mentioning also that 12 stations will be improved--at least given better lighting--annually.

At 18:22, he says the Farragut "virtual tunnel," which will allow people to transfer between the two Farraguts without paying exit and re-entry fare, will be in place this fall.

At 18:48, he says there's currently no proposal to close Metro early on weekends, but he does say that there might be periodic early closings so that work can be done to keep the system in a "state of good repair."

At 20:35, he looks 15-20 years into the future when it is predicted that ridership will be at inauguration levels every day. He says currently there's no money to improve the power supply so that every train in the system can be an 8-car train.

He adds that in the medium term, work can be done to enhance the bus system to take some of the pressure off the rails. He says the buses can carry a lot more people, especially if the planning of routes is approached differently, including dedicated bus lanes and paying fares off the bus, like with Metro rail.

Other items:
Union responds to overtime issue (GGW)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Have a Footloose and Fancy-Free Weekend

Via @ah0404 @unsuckdcmetro don't worry, I'm sure the red line floor is clean #wmata http://t.co/DcYzAdp

Via @itschristacular @unsuckdcmetro Second confirmation of Red Line floor cleanliness #metrobarefootfriday http://yfrog.com/h871wusj

Pardon the Interruption

Just hours after the good news that Metro had decided to join Google Transit, Google's Blogger product crashed. Coincidence?

Yesterday's post comparing transit systems around the world (cached) will hopefully be restored soon, along with the many comments.

Today's planned post is also missing, so I'll post when/if it's restored.

We'll be blogging momentarily.

Other items:
Escalator at Foggy Bottom and Dupont to be shut down for a year (WaPo)
Metro is listening, and they want your name and address (WMATA)
Metrobus drivers schooled in cell phone use (NY Times)
Does your car make you fat? (Fast Company)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Restored Post: How does DC Stack Up?

Image via

This is a restored post from 5/12, which Google's Blogger seems to have been permanently deleted. Google's transparency over the course of a 20+ hour meltdown has been sorely lacking. Comments, which thankfully aren't through Google anymore, still work, but I couldn't figure out how to make them appear on the clickthrough.

Today, the Brookings Institution published a study on mass transit in the largest 100 metropolitan areas of the U.S.

According to one of the study's co-authors, Adie Tomer, its the first-of it's-kind "inventory" of U.S. mass transit supply ever done.

Furthermore, the study, titled "Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America," attempts to measure how connected American mass transit is with demographic and employment trends.

"There's a bit of a transit moment happening in the country," said Tomer, citing higher gas prices, rising ridership as well as changing attitudes about urban living and car ownership.

The DC area comes out fairly well in the study (here's quick graphic snapshot), ranking 17th overall.

It's a pretty wonky report, and the whole thing is here for those who want to know more. They say they've also made a nifty interactive map. There's also a webcast about the report, which starts at 9:30 a.m. and will feature, among others, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter with the #transitaccess tag.

It's an ambitious project, two years in the making, and Tomer said he hopes the study will start to break down some of the "siloing" that exists regarding transit planning, economic development planning and residential planning. Let's hope the study leads to holistic, smart decisions regarding future development.

With that in mind, we've been wanting to create a user-generated comparison of DC with other cities for a long time, so this presents a good hook.

Since the DC area is such a cosmopolitan and transient city, there are a lot of readers who've no doubt commuted (or ridden) in other cities, including cities outside the U.S., which the Brookings report doesn't cover.

Here's how it'll work.

I'll populate the comment with a few cities with mass transit I've used as a commuter. If you've been on that specific system and have a comment or observation, use the reply feature in the comments to keep everything about a certain city in the same comment thread.

If you don't have a comment, but want to vote for it as the best (or worst) one you've been on, use the thumbs up/thumbs down feature.

If you want to add a city to the list, make two comments, one with just the name of the city and the other, as a reply to yourself, with your comment or observation about that city's mass transit.

Got it?

Other items:
Metro finally on Google Transit (GGW) If you think about it, send a thank you tweet to @perkinsms who was instrumental in making this happen.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Coat Ripping Bandit

From Sarah:
About a month ago, I was riding the Green Line between L'Enfant and Waterfront. The train was pretty packed because it was rush hour. It was one of those sardines-in-a-can type situations where everyone was jammed up against each other.

While those times are usually pretty awkward, I understand that we are all just people trying to get to our destinations.

However, the train was also quite jerky. It started and stopped several times during that pretty short ride.

A gentleman behind me decided that the pole between us, the pole on his other side, and the pole above him were too far away to hold onto. Instead, he grabbed onto my coat with all of his might.

I heard a rip, felt the tear, and immediately turned around to see who ruined my favorite jacket by putting a fist-sized hole in the back.

This man knew what he had done and shifted his gaze like a guilty puppy.

I confronted him and asked if he ripped my coat.

He refused to answer me, and the passengers around us all nodded their heads to indicate I identified the correct assailant.

I asked him again if he ripped my jacket, and he refused to acknowledge me (which was extremely awkward because, as I stated before, we were cramped like sardines). I asked him for his information, since he damaged my property, but he continued to ignore me and actually turned to face the other way.

I reached my stop and tried talking to the station attendant, but they didn't have time to talk to me (I'm assuming their Facebook status needed updating). I'm curious to know if I'm the only victim of the coat-ripping bandit.
Other items:
GM reorganizes staff (Examiner)
GM defense overtime payments (Examiner)
Metro buying new buses (WaPo)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rider Hall of No Shame (NSFW, Gross)

A man pleasures himself in broad daylight on a crowded bus in what has to be the most disgusting video yet to emerge from the wonderful world of Metro.

If you'd like to know how this kind of deviant behavior makes others feel, here's an account.

Other items:
Metro workers cleaning up on OT (Examiner)
Group wants farmer's market at Naylor Rd. (WaPo)
Few attend meeting on Metro crime (Fox)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rider Hall of Shame: Gymnastics Fail

See the entire Hall of Shame

Other items:
Train terror advisory issued (NBC NY)
Dulles tolls to rise to pay for rail (Examiner)
Man shot in leg in Petworth station (WaPo)
Cool video on what happens to old buses in NYC (NatGeo via @dressage74)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Well Done, Vienna Metro Employees!

From anonymous:
I got on an Orange Line train at Vienna station yesterday morning around 8:30 a.m. I sat down and then heard a man asking if anyone had tissues.

I'm used to people making strange requests on Metro--the other night a drunk man who boarded at Metro Center was directing people where to sit and stand--so I ignored it, until he said he needed the tissues to stop the bleeding.

He had apparently fallen and hit his head on the metal bar atop one of the seats and he was bleeding profusely.

A woman jumped up and gave him a stack of napkins and ran out to flag down a Metro employee on the platform.

I ran up and gave him a package of Kleenex.

He was cut rather badly, and as soon as the tissues were applied, they became soaked with blood. I won't go into the details, but it was a really nasty gash.

I was standing next to the man handing him tissues and was boxed in between the partition and the door. Another woman stood up to offer tissues, and just then, the announcement came on that the doors were going to close.

I yelled for the woman to hit the emergency button, as I couldn't get to it, and she did, telling the operator we had a medical emergency.

Another rider stood in between the doors to stop them from closing. The man started to become dizzy, and the woman who had hit the emergency button told him to sit down to avoid hurting himself further in case he passed out.

This all happened in a minute or two, but it seemed like a lot longer.

To everyone's relief, the train operator responded in a calm and respectful manner, stating he had heard us and help was coming.

A few seconds later, the first woman returned with a WMATA employee, a man, who very kindly took the injured rider by the arm (He was older, likely in his late 50s or early 60s.) and lead him off the train.

Another WMATA employee, a woman, got on the train a few seconds later, looked around and saw the blood on the seats and floor (It wasn't a lot, but you could see it.) and said that due to the blood, we all needed to move to another car.

She said the operator would give us enough time to switch cars, and she apologized for the inconvenience.

As we started to move, I saw that the male WMATA employee was supporting the man as they walked toward the elevators.

All in all, the train likely only departed Vienna two or three minutes late.

Considering the horror stories I've heard and have experienced with WMATA, I was beyond impressed at how responsive and professional the staff at the Vienna station were.

When the announcement came that the doors were about to close, I assumed we were about to experience the worst case scenario: The emergency button wouldn't work, the first woman wouldn't be able to flag down a WMATA employee, we likely wouldn't have much luck at Dunn Loring, but I was thankfully proven wrong.

Kudos to the WMATA employees at the Vienna station yesterday morning and for the professional way they handled an unexpected situation!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ever Wonder Why Metro Breaks so Much?

According to an audit report released today, a key component of Metro's $2.6 million dollar MAXIMO computer system, which tracks work, labor and materials, is not being used properly, leading to waste, lack of accountability and safety concerns across huge parts of the authority.

The report focused on the work order part of the system, which it said was not being used correctly
We found that some work orders in MAXIMO did not contain essential maintenance information, such as failure codes, labor hours, status, description, and type of work.

The failure to have accurate and complete maintenance information could result in inefficient maintenance management processes, skewed report data and inaccurate statistics relating to labor hours incurred, materials used and services provided. This condition could also allow errors and irregularities to go undetected and unreported, as we as omit critical repair information necessary for the Work Orders Module to function as designed.
One big problem is that work orders aren't being closed properly.
The failure to properly review, approve and close out completed work orders in the MAXIMO system makes it difficult to determine whether corrective and/or preventive maintenance work was actually initiated and/or completed.
A random sample of 256 work orders revealed 75 (29 percent) had not been closed an average of 113 days after supposed completion of the work.
For example, ELES [Elevators and Escalators] work order number 7256221, initiated on July 30, 2009, indicated that the work was completed on the same date but remained open in MAXIMO as of November 10, 2010 (468 calendar days later). In addition, we could not determine who performed the work. The fields in the WORKORDER table used to capture information on the supervisor who reviewed and/or approved the completed work, were not completed.
The report went on to say that this "created an opportunity to manipulate the work order after the maintenance tasks had presumably been completed."

So they can't say who did the work, but there's more. They often don't know what the problem is.

In the audit's review of two departments, Bus Maintenance and ELES, 38 of 67, or 56 percent of the work orders did not have the proper failure or problem codes entered.

Failure to used the correct codes "hinders WMATA's ability to accurately track the history of asset failures, its ability to analyze trends and patterns of failures to prevent and reduce future failures."

The bright side of the report: Metro management appears to have agreed with the findings.

Baffling Stickers

From Ben, who said "I can only hope the meaning is that Banksy has given up London and moved to Washington."

What could these stickers mean?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More Parking Abuse

FOX 5 Investigates: Placard Problem: MyFoxDC.com

More parking abuse

Safety Illusion, Another Chief, Taborn's Extension

UPDATE: Metro says Campbell was disciplined, but would not elaborate.

The overstretched Metro Transit Police Department has received new blows to its morale lately.


With the news of Usama bin Laden's demise, Metro made a big show of announcing it was yet again beefing up police presence in the system. A source inside the force said it was all a "lie" and added "there isn't one extra officer out there! In fact, we're shorter than usual!"

The source went on to say that Metro's promise of "an increase in uniformed officers in the system" is meaningless and that placing armed cops at high traffic stations like Metro Center does nothing more than create an "illusion" of more protection.

"It's a joke," said another cop.

Another source familiar with the Metro Transit Police said "they can re-allocate to different functions on a temporary basis in response to ongoing problems or threats, [but they] can't really beef up [but rather] just kind of move [people] around."

Deserving promotion?

A cop who hit a pedestrian while behind the wheel of a police cruiser back in 2008 has been promoted to deputy chief. In that incident, Leslie Campbell, who starts his new gig May 8, hit a pedestrian at Anacostia station while not paying full attention, but furthermore, he never bothered to report it despite a policy that states all incidents involving pedestrians must be reported.

According to several cops we spoke to, the events surrounding the incident are murky and widely talked about in the department. Some said the incident was more serious than portrayed by Metro and reported in the press, while others said they're less ticked off by the incident but rather that an investigation into the event just seemed to go away or "get swept under the carpet."

No source we talked said they knew of any repercussion stemming from the incident.

"[That case] is the first thing I thought about when I heard Campbell was getting promoted," said one source.

Another said it was surprising that someone with that on their record could be made a deputy chief, adding there are two sets of rules, one for the rank and file and another for those who have friends in high places.

Campbell is widely seen throughout the department as a crony of current chief Michael Taborn, with a poor reputation among many officers, several sources in the department claim.

We contacted Taborn to inquire about the results of the alleged investigation but received no response.


And finally, police are also miffed at the three-year extension of Taborn's contract. If you'll remember, back in January, there was no-confidence petition circulated against him, but that came to nothing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ambassador Metro

From Jenn:
I’m a native Iowan, but I’ve lived in the DC area for over 25 years. Over that time, I’ve had many out-of-town visitors. In many cases, I’m unable to go with them to see the sights, so I’ve often turned them over to Metro to get around.

Last summer, and then again this spring were the first times I can remember my visitors complaining about Metro. Previously, I'd heard nothing but compliments and “wish we had something like this back home.”

Now, they sound like me, complaining about delays, rude Washingtonians, broken escalators, hot cars, getting offloaded, crowds and rude employees.

I fear Metro is becoming a terrible ambassador for mass transit in other parts of the country when it used to be a model.

Think of all the tourists that come through here every year and what they’re starting to say about Metro when they go back home. If they’re anything like the folks I’ve had visit lately, the stories won’t be positive.

How do we build nationwide public support for mass transit and high speed rail, when Metro leaves a lot of people, including many of my fellow Iowans, wondering "why should I pay more taxes for THAT?"
Other items:
Does Metro have enough track inspectors? (WaPo)
Nats refuse to pay for late night service (Examiner)
Good job Metro! (Examiner)
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Site Meter