Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Esacalator Party

Via @bromanw William Broman WMATA press conference?

Via @Silvio_Marcacci This totally makes up for months of broken escalators at the Union Station metro @unsuckdcmetro

State of the Union Station/Foggy Bottom Address

So Metro's throwing an escalator party!

They're celebrating their victory over escalators at Foggy Bottom and Union Station, both scenes of many a vertical transport defeat over the past several years.

Hey, it's a big day at Metro when some escalators work, and it's all befitting of some soaring, feel good rhetoric.

Here's a leaked copy of Metro GM Richard Sarles' prepared remarks to be made during today's gala events.

From a reader:
One score and 15 years ago our fathers brought forth on this city, a new subway, conceived in escalators, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equally unable to climb stairs.

Now we are engaged in a great war, testing whether that subway, or any subway so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a near final resting place for those who here gave their thighs that that subway might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and winded, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The city will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they climbed here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who trod here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored winded we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of locomotion -- that we here highly resolve that these winded shall not have nearly died in vain -- that this subway, under WMATA, shall have a new birth of escalation -- and that a subway of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Now let's pop this Cristal, beyotch! I get paid over $300K to run this sh*t! You're welcome!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To Sit or Not to Sit?

From Jamie:
We all think we know when to give up our seats on Metro. The elderly, the pregnant, the disabled – obviously they get priority. I think every last one of us would leap to our feet for an 80-year-old pregnant blind lady on crutches.

But there’s a big gray area, and every time I’m faced with it, I don’t know what to do. I need help from my fellow riders to figure out just exactly what constitutes proper seating etiquette. In most of these cases, my habit is to let the person take a seat if one opens up (as in, I won’t race them for it), but I’m not likely to actually get up and offer them my seat. But maybe I should ...

The obese
Let’s get this tough one out of the way first. I am an avid runner, and as such, my rear fits comfortably into a Metro seat. Some days, when training for a race, I will rack up 8-10 miles before heading to work. My legs are tired, and if I get a seat, I sink into it blissfully. One such day, I was reading the newspaper in the aisle seat near the middle of the car when an obese woman waddled up and gripped the pole next to me. She was in her mid-30s and didn’t appear to have any other physical ailments except her size, so I ignored her and went back to my reading. A few minutes later, the guy in the window seat next to me asked to get out. Turns out he was giving his seat to the large lady, which made me feel like a real jerk. Am I really expected to give up my seat to someone just because they’re 100 pounds overweight?

The suitcase-wielder
I have had the pleasure of taking Metro to the airport during rush hour with a large suitcase. It sucks. I did my best to wrangle it through the station without blocking anyone’s path or running over feet, and I think I did alright. One thing I did NOT expect, however, was for anyone to give me their seat just because I was fool enough to bring a big suitcase with me. When someone did that, I thanked them profusely and gratefully sat down with my suitcase in the aisle next to me. While I appreciated the gesture, is this the standard? Am I supposed to surrender my seat to people with suitcases? This category also includes people who are carrying a lot of stuff (I usually give them my seat if possible, to improve my karma for next time I need to bring six shopping bags and a box of cupcakes on the train).

Moderately-sized children
Obviously if someone has wee little babes with them on the Metro, they should sit. But what if the kid(s) are old enough to hold on to the poles, and actually seem to be enjoying it? Should I give up my seat for such families? I often feel bad when I don’t, but I’m not sure they even expect people to do it.

Pregnant or chubby?
When someone is eight months in, you know it and you give them your seat. But what about that awkward stage at 4-5 months when you’re not sure if they’re knocked up or just need to switch to lite beer?

Ambiguously elderly
Let’s say there’s a man in his sixties on the train. He isn’t frail, he doesn’t seem ‘old’ … maybe he’s a member of AARP, but does he count as elderly? Does he need to sit, and more importantly, is he going to be offended if I offer him my seat?

I’m sure this is only a small fraction of the whole gray area, but these are the cases that drive me crazy the most often. Help me out here, people!
Other items:
Preliminary 2013 budget has $124 million gap, get ready for fare hikes (PDF/WMATA)
Get ready for the yearlong closure of Dupont's south entrance (PDF/WMATA)
Track work this weekend (WMATA)
Fireworks shot off at Farragut West (Examiner)

Monday, November 28, 2011

What's the Pee Policy?

The station manager at East Falls church regularly lets riders into the restroom there, no questions asked.

Then again, I've had other station managers rudely tell me "no" without explanation.

Then, there's stuff like this.

Looking through the WMATA website, I found this audit of restroom accessibility. In it, it recommends revisiting the rules, which were summed up as follows:
“The Station Manager on duty has sole discretion to accept or reject customer requests for use of facilities.” The Special Order also states that WMATA’s “policy is to make a restroom available to customers in limited circumstances. The limitation is necessary to control crime and maintain security.”
The report also recommended Metro look into allowing station managers to remotely open restrooms so they wouldn't have to escort riders.

It also mentioned studying restrooms like these. (Is this still there?)

No idea if Metro followed up on any of the recommendations, but it would appear that restroom accessibility remains solely up to the station manager.

Could a more liberal or consistent policy help with the sick passenger problem?

What has been your experience?

Of course, it's unclear if some employees use said toilets at all.

Other items:
Transit benefits on chopping block (Examiner)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks, Metro, for Being You

From Dave: Epic WMATA parking job - note the empty reserved street space next to the WMATA car blocking the sidewalk.

Via @TweetJeanster You aren't going anywhere anytime. And you'll like it. @unsuckdcmetro

Via @PINGINGinPINK @wmata: Metro Opens Doors BUT looks like the City closes 'em #Welcome2DC

Other items:
Montgomery County looks to add bike sharing along Red Line (Examiner)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rider Hall of Shame: Occupy

Photo via anonymous.

Complete Hall of Shame

Other items:
If this is true, wow! (Access the DMV)
Fairfax could lose Metro board seat (Examiner)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Are Metro's eAlerts Useful?

From anonymous:
So after being stuck between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom for over 20 minutes, missing my connecting bus, and being late to work AGAIN, I was continuously checking my Blackberry to see an email update to let me know how much longer I'd be stuck, but lo and behold, there were no email updates!

Yet, my email account got spammed overnight by 10 different email updates, reading the same exact thing, about construction on the Blue and Yellow lines.

My question is, Metro, when, if ever, are you going to get your act together? I signed up for these updates so that I can call my office and let them know when I'll be late, but since I almost NEVER get them, I'm always late, and don't call ahead.

Am I the only one that has the problem?
Here's part of Metro's disclaimer about eAlerts:
There are inherent problems associated with providing text messaging information. As such, Metro does not warrant that the service will be uninterrupted or error-free nor does Metro make any warranty regarding the reliability of information on the status of Metro operations and services. The customer who subscribes to Metro's text messaging service agrees that the use is at the customer's sole risk and expense and without any liability on the part of Metro.
Other items:
Metro and union likely to tussle over OT limits (Examiner)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tres Equis

"I don't always close the airport station, but when I do, I prefer the weekend before a major holiday."

Other items:
Metro board weighs in on fatigue (Examiner)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Metro, Always have a Plan B

From anonymous:
Leaving a concert at DAR Constitution Hall Sunday night, we caught the Red Line from Farragut North a little after eleven o'clock, headed home to Twinbrook. The ride was fine, the train was not crowded, no drunks.

When we got to Twinbrook my wife and I stood up as the train slowed down. It stopped short of the platform, then pulled forward, then slowed, lurched forward again, pulled up and then started accelerating and went right through the station without stopping.

I got on the intercom and said "What happened to Twinbrook?"

The driver started to answer me then made an announcement which kept cutting out, but he did say clearly that there would be a train coming through Rockville station in five minutes to take us back to Twinbrook.

Of course, you know the next part. Eight or ten of us exited the train at Rockville, to learn that the last train of the day had already left.

Luckily, we were able to call our adult son to get us.

While we waited, a somewhat panicked man pulled up and asked what had happened -- he had been at Twinbrook when the train passed through with his wife on it, he said she doesn't ride the Metro often and was probably scared.

As we got ready to leave, another woman tapped on our window. Her car was at Twinbrook, and she asked if we could give her a ride. We were going there anyway, so she got in.

We left another couple and a woman inside the station trying to reason with the station manager, I don't know how that worked out for them, but we didn't have any more room.
Other items:
SHOCK: Metrobuses unsanitary (Examiner)
Dulles rail money OKed, more needed (Examiner)
MTPD steps up (WMATA)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Sick of Sick Passengers"

From Mark:
I've commuted on the New York subway and London Underground for years before moving to D.C. recently, and I can't ever remember a delay because of a sick customer. To be honest, there weren't many delays at all for any reason.

Last week, it seemed like every commute I had was marred by a sick customer. When it happens, it's as if the whole system grinds to a halt.

What's wrong with D.C.?

Are there too many workaholics that insist on going to work even if they're sick? Is all the burning brake smell the reason? Something they use to clean the cars? The jerky rides? Is Metro just saying "sick customer" when something else is wrong?

Anyone have any idea?
From Ashley:
I'm getting really sick of all the "sick passenger" incidents on Metro.

The other day, I was delayed by at least 35 minutes during rush hour because trains were "single tracking between L'Enfant and Pentagon City" due to a sick passenger.

If this had never happened before, I would be a bit more patient.

However, just the other week, I also had serious delays when commuting to work in the morning because of a "single-tracking due to a sick passenger."

What strikes me as a bit odd is that
a) this happens all of the time
b) why the single-tracking? I have heard the "sick passenger" fairly frequently in the past, but the "single-tracking" due to a sick customer seems to be new.

I have lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, spent a considerable amount of time in London, and have visited countless cities with metro systems. Never ONCE in all my memory do I recall delays in any of these places due to a "sick passenger."

And there are far more people riding on these systems than on Metro in DC.

Please explain to me how "sick passengers" don't seem to be an issue in other places, but cause half-hour (minimum) delays on Metro?

Does Metro just have a really poor procedure for dealing with sick passengers, or is Metro just making up this excuse to avert blame?

Do we have confirmed sightings of these "sick passengers?"

Again, I'm willing to accept that people do get sick on Metro, and that there may, from time to time, be a minor delay (and maybe rarely a major delay) but this is at least a weekly occurrence here in D.C.

Something has to be up...
Other items:
Metro is hiring a deputy chief spokesperson (LinkedIn)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rider Hall of Shame: Business Class

Via Facebook

Via Brandon

Via Ken

Via Ashley

Via Joe

From Timothy: Are these the new Business Class seats on the Orange Line?

Complete Rider Hall of Shame

Monday, November 14, 2011

Union Work Rules Add to Overtime (Ab)Use

That Metro uses (some would say abuses) overtime (OT) is old news, but now that there's an official report, the Post is all over it.

A good chunk of the OT is the result of NTSB recommendations that Metro get the system fixed and Metro's subsequent scrambling to act after decades of being asleep at the wheel.

But a lot of the problems associated with heavy OT use, such as fatigue, could be avoided, Metro sources say.

According to them, there is tremendous waste.

A major source of waste?

Union work rules.

Remember how union work rules interfere with the efficient maintenance and upkeep of the escalators? Many of the same issues effect the amount of OT Metro "needs" to use to repair the rest of the system.

For example, if OT job X requires a team comprised of two workers proficient at task A, two workers proficient at task B and one proficient at task C, the union contract with Metro limits Metro's ability to ensure those workers with those skills actually arrive at the work location to do the job.

Seniority--nothing else--determines who shows up, say the three workers we talked to. The work that needs to be done is secondary, if it is considered at all.

It all adds up to delays and more OT.

"They just go from the [seniority] list when assigning work," said one Metro worker. "You're not getting the best or right people in the right situations to get the job done."

The source said it's not uncommon for workers to show up to a job location with people only proficient at one task--not necessarily the task that needs to get done.

"There's no continuity," they said. "At every OT job location you have different people, different skills."

Another worker added to that.

"A lot of the time, the OT is 'necessary' because the job didn't get done right the first time," they said.

They added that a lot of the time it's because people who don't know what to do because they are not qualified to do the work that needs to be done or don't speak English well enough to understand what needs to be done.

"The ones who know how to do the job end up doing it all while others stand around," the source said. "We don't have the time to teach them how to do it."

Lack of coordination by Metro is another reason there's so much OT.

Workers on an OT shift often show up at an OT work site not knowing what has been done before they get there. There's no systematic way of documentation, sources say.

"We spend a lot of time figuring out what has been done and what's left to do," said one source.

That's if they're actually able to work at all.

Sources said that often there are no tools or radios available, so they have to sit around and wait.

But there's another reason causing more sitting around, all the while collecting OT pay.

"There's no coordination between departments, so if the Track Department needs to get in to a work area, another team working on something else will get bumped and end up sitting around and do nothing."

It happens all the time said another source who said they'd actually worked about half the time during their last OT shift.

Will Metro change its use of OT?

Will the union protest management's "abuse" of workers?

What's the solution?
(from the Post article)

“It will require having more people on the payroll if you’re going to have less hours of work from people when they shouldn’t be working,” [Board member Mort] Downey said.

Where will the cash-strapped agency find the money for new hires?

“We’ll figure it out,” Downey said.

I'll give you one guess as to what that means.

There's more to the OT situation at Metro, including insight into both the union's and management's addiction to it. You can read about it in this excellent post by a retired Metro worker. Here's an excerpt:
...Sadly, many employees come to rely on OT just to pay their bills. OT in Automatic Train Control (ATC) has been somewhat cyclical over the years. When there wasn’t enough to go around (for some employees there’s never enough) people would start to squabble and fight over it. Some would go so far as to break into a field office and alter the OT ledger so that it would appear as though they hadn’t received as many assignments as their coworkers!
Other items:
Metro closing National Airport stop on weekend before Thanksgiving (WMATA)
Passenger shot on Metrobus (NBC4)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

They're Baaaaaack

From anonymous:
Illegal parking at Huntington has been going on for some time. I recall Metro Transit Police were going to look into it. Guess not.
Remember the uproar this video caused, along with Metro promises to crack down on the practice?

Looks like that lasts about 6 months.

Is illegal parking by Metro employees back at your station?

Other items:
Boy survives impact with Metrobus (NBC)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Healthcare Fraud at Metro Under the Microscope

Unsuck DC Metro has learned that Metro, along with ATU 689, has hired an outside contractor to conduct a massive, first-time-ever audit of thousands of current and former Metro workers and their dependents in the hopes or rooting out what is believed to be alarming abuse of Metro healthcare, done largely by adding ineligible people to the plan.

"Although we believe the majority of our enrolled dependents meet our eligibility requirements, there may be some instances when a member mistakenly covers an ineligible dependent," reads the document that was sent to ATU 689 members.

One source we talked to said they knew an employee who openly boasted about having relatives on his plan who should not have been. Another employee, according to the source, said he had an ex-wife and her new family on the plan.

Apparently, and unsurprisingly, Metro has been very lax in updating dependent/spouse information.

One worker we talked to said that every year he gets a letter from the plan asking him if anything has changed in his family situation. The worker, who is divorced, said the year he got divorced he made sure his ex-wife was taken off the plan. But it was all done on an honor system, and he could have easily left her on the plan, and no one would have checked, he said.

"No one is cross checking with public records," they said.

Another source, recently retired from working at Metro headquarters, said:
It doesn't surprise me that HR never bothered to check paperwork on dependents for health insurance. But to give HR a break, the Local 689 healthcare was not administered very much by them, but by the union's own Health and Welfare Office who signed people up and then passed the bill on to Metro. In retrospect, it now occurs to me that the unions didn't have a reason to adequately police the rolls of the insured because some of their members would be getting something extra from big, mean and oh-so-profitable Metro.
Another source said it was commonly known that Health and Welfare office would turn a blind eye to questionable documents regarding dependents.

I called Secova, the outside entity conducting the audit, and was told "some bad apples have spoiled the pie; there were instances of employees claiming brothers and sisters as dependent children."

Two other Metro sources we talked to confirmed health insurance abuse is believed to be widespread.

"There's an ongoing joke around here that some employees will adopt every niece and nephew to load them onto the health insurance," wrote one Metro employee. His sentiments were echoed by another source.

However, one former union president believes the audit is a waste of time.

Mike Golash wrote the following in an email:
This has never been done before, mainly because it was felt to be unnecessary. When an employee is hired he has to document his dependents to get them on the plan. I am sure there are occasions when an employee fails to report a divorce in a timely way or the death of a child or spouse but I have never known of any cases of fraud.

Metro is trying to save money on the cost of health insurance. They feel the audit will do this. I am willing to bet that the cost of the audit will be greater than any money saved by it.

I received the letter. It told me I had to produce a marriage certificate and my 1040 form. I have been married 40 years and have no idea where my marriage certificate it, so it is somewhat of an inconvenience.
The recently retired source, who is very familiar with Metro's finances and auditing processes didn't think the audit would make any difference.
Don't expect much [to come from the audit]! If the problem is too big, it'll be swept under the rug for fear of antagonizing Local 689. My guess is that they'll make an example of a couple of mechanics to show some effort and then it will go back to business as usual, hoping that the public will be more interested in screwed-up elevators than in girlfriends' kids on the Metro health insurance dime.
Sounds like pretty much the way Metro handles everything.

(Here's a list of the contributions employees make the the various plans, along with Metro's contribution.)

Other items:
Examiner picks up RAC story

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Metro Riders' Advisory Council: All for Show

From Metro:
On September 25, 2005, Metro's Board of Directors established a Riders' Advisory Council. The Council advises the Board on issues affecting Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroAccess service.
From Chris:
November 7, 2011

Catherine Hudgins
Board of Directors
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Washington, D.C.

Dear Chair Hudgins:

When you nominated me as a Virginia representative to the Riders’ Advisory Council (RAC) of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), I looked forward to advocating for rider interests with an agency sorely in need of transparency and reform. Unfortunately, recent events demonstrate that the RAC has lost the independence necessary to be credible with its rider constituency. As a result, I must respectfully resign.

The issue here is independent access by the RAC to crucial Metro information. As you know, in my capacity as a RAC member, I recently submitted requests for information in two vital areas: Metrorail on-time performance data, and efforts to restore automatic train control, which has been suspended since the fatal Red Line accident. In the case of on-time data, many riders, myself included, do not understand how Metro’s official, upbeat reports of its on-time performance match the reality of the poor performance we see daily on the platform. As for train control, return to automatic control is likely the single biggest factor for restoring system performance, which has deteriorated so markedly in recent years. Yet WMATA management has made only limited, conflicting statements about automatic control since the accident. Taken together, these two issues affect every Metrorail rider, every day, and thus they are of vital rider interest.

My requests followed adoption earlier this year of WMATA bylaw amendments where you and fellow directors declared that “[t]he Board recognizes the value of the RAC having access to WMATA information and encourages WMATA staff to assist the RAC by providing such information[.]” Thus, I was hopeful the new policy would spur more transparency in an organization noted for its failure to be forthcoming to the public.

This, however, was not to be. WMATA staff declined to provide any information in response to my requests, after which the matter passed to you and the general manager for consideration. In an e-mail October 27, my two requests were denied in their entirety. I believe the denials were capricious, contrived, and unreasonable.

These developments effectively kill RAC independence. They show, notwithstanding the board’s purported support for RAC access to information, that the RAC’s ability to carry out its functions depends on the vagary of WMATA leadership. If a topic is judged safe or innocuous, Metro may well decide to provide information. For anything more substantive, it is not clear that any information will be provided. In this case, it was not.

I’m afraid that I cannot, in good conscience, serve on the RAC with its independence so restricted. It is not possible to reconcile the RAC’s stated mission with the refusal to provide information that is clearly in riders’ interest. By way of comparison, for example, imagine if the WMATA board, or the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, had the broad mandates to govern that they do, but with vital areas of information being summarily ruled off limits – and without ever knowing in advance what those forbidden areas would be. Obviously, that would be unacceptable.

Thus, with the RAC having become a captive to the agency, I must resign, effective immediately.

I also note the disappointing performance of the RAC itself on the issue of seeking information on behalf of riders. Most notably, for example, when the bylaw changes noted above were being deliberated, the RAC acquiesced, voting down a request to object, to a WMATA staff amendment that sharply narrowed the scope of information potentially available to the RAC. That change put the RAC – WMATA’s official riders’ representative – on a footing no better than the general public. (WMATA, of course, has a long history of frustrating public requests for information.) Also, when my information requests cited above were recently denied, the RAC voted, 14-2, against appealing the denial to the full WMATA board.

Regrettably, the RAC has contented itself with being a passive receipient of what information WMATA is willing to share. To my disappointment, the RAC has shown no willingness, in my year on the council, to proactively seek meaningful information important to riders that goes beyond what WMATA chooses to provide.

Taken together, the denial of the information requests, the resultant loss of the RAC’s independence, and the unwillingness of the RAC to defend its own interests mean that there is no institution within Metro dedicated to transparency and aggressive pursuit of information that is of significant rider interest.

I thank you for providing me the opportunity to serve on the RAC, and I sincerely regret the need to step aside now before my term is complete. Despite some limited improvement, Metro remains a deeply troubled agency, rife with problems that demand accountability and transparency, and which are too numerous to enumerate here. I hope that in the future, a greater dedication to meaningful information access will develop. This would be a starting point for necessary reforms, as well as for establishing the RAC as an independent, robust voice on behalf of riders.

Respectfully yours,

Christopher Schmitt
Other items:
Metrobus, fire truck collide (Fox)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beware of Pickpockets!

From Sarah:
This is a story of suck and unsuck.

On Nov. 1, I was pick pocketed at the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro station.

I left my office in Penn Quarter just after 7 p.m. and walked to the Verizon Center entrance (7th and F Streets NW). As I walked down to the platform for the Green and Yellow lines on the lower level, I noted with dismay that the escalator down to the lower platform was broken (typical) and, thus, had been turned into stairs.

Usually this doesn’t bother me (at least not when I’m going down) but I had just ran my first marathon two days ago, and stairs and I are not getting along too well in either direction right now. I grasped the handrail and started to hobble down.

As I was nearing the bottom, I felt someone bump into me from behind. For some reason, this push struck me as something out of the ordinary—not your average rush hour nudge. Gut instinct told me something was wrong.

Within a span of milliseconds, I turned to see who had bumped into me and realized that a small bag I keep within my bigger purse which housed my wallet, keys (car/house/office) and various other miscellany had disappeared.

Without thinking, I turned and confronted the woman who had bumped into me, asking, “Did you take my bag?” I couldn’t hear if she responded because I had my headphones in, but mid-question, I noticed my small, orange bag peeking out from under her coat, behind a handful of large shopping bags.

Without thinking, I reached out, grabbed my bag, and yelled more than one accusatory profanity.

The woman started walking away from me on the Green/Yellow platform, quickly weaving from one side to the other, obviously trying to lose me. I instinctively followed her, and heard someone yell to call 911.

In a state of shock, I dialed 9-1-1 on my phone. I told the operator I was in a Metro station and was rerouted to D.C.’s Metro Transit Police line.

In the few seconds, I was waiting to be connected and still following the pick pocket around the platform, a transit police officer arrived. Apparently, someone at the top of the escalator saw what was happening and notified a police officer standing nearby.

The Transit Police officer quickly identified and apprehended the thief. I was taken upstairs for questioning, photographs and a recorded statement.

Incredibly, once the suspect was under arrest, police discovered thousands of dollars worth of stolen merchandise in her possession; they believe she is/was a professional thief.

Amazingly, I was okay, no one was hurt, and I had my stuff.

While talking to the police, they told me that I was a very rare case. Generally, pick pockets target tourists and/or the elderly; I am neither of these things. I am a 26-year-old, physically fit and active female who has lived and worked in the D.C. area for years and rides Metro very frequently.

In addition, it is very rare for a victim of a pick pocket to catch their assailant. Usually, victims don’t realize they have been robbed for a few hours, and statistics show that thieves will generally use a stolen credit or debit card to fill a SmarTrip card or at a business very close to the Metro station within ten minutes.

In hindsight, what I did was very risky. Adrenaline was coursing, so I don’t know if I could have consciously made a decision to do something different, but I was incredibly lucky things turned out as well as they did. The pick pocket could have been carrying a weapon, been violent, or worse. In doing what I did, I endangered myself and everyone else on the platform. Again, I was very, very fortunate the situation turned out so well.

I urge you, fellow Metro riders, to please be aware of your surroundings. Keep your valuables close and out of sight. Keep your bags and briefcases closed and close to your body. I tweeted about my experience and received a number of responses from people who said they had been pick pocketed, had their cell phones snatched right out of their hands, or had seen muggings at area stations.

Locals are not immune to transit crimes; it could happen to anyone.

I want to thank the Metro Transit Police for their speed and professionalism. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers who watched to make sure I was okay, called the police, and waited around to check on me after the suspect was apprehended.

We have an amazing, supportive community here in D.C., which I often forget about in my daily headphone-wearing Metro daze.

Incredibly, despite delays, high fares, and general annoyances, Metro doesn’t always suck. Please—be alert and be safe. It can happen to anyone at anytime.
Other items:
Finally, the media picks up that radio problems plague Metro (Examiner)

Friday, November 4, 2011


So a DC cop chased down an armed perp on the Metro the other day and attempted to contact the operator via the emergency intercoms.

They didn't work.

Surprise, surprise!

The galling thing about this is a Metro Transit Police spokesperson had the balls to say they had not heard of intercom problems before.

Oh really?

What about:
Of course, Metro is looking into the issue.


How Many Maps?

I haven't written much about station names because, frankly, they could be named after cross streets or numbered for all I care. It'd be just as helpful as "NoMa." Just get me around in a safe and timely manner without offloads and single tracking.

The Metro Board, on the other hand, urged on by those who seem to think station names are the most vital issue facing Metro in the past four decades, has spent hours and hours over the past months micromanaging a completely peripheral affair.

They abridge while Metro burns!

(If you want to know the changes that are coming, check out the Metro press release.)

Today, though, reader Chris pointed out something potentially oh-so-Metro about this whole fool's errand:
In Metro's press release today they said the following:

"New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U will be renamed "NoMa-Gallaudet U." "New York Ave" will be shown as a secondary name for one-year to assist customers during the transition."

If I read this right, this means we get new maps in 2012 and then in 2013, they CHANGE the new maps out again so that they don't read "New York Ave." anymore.

Is that right?

Furthermore, how much do you think it costs to change every map in the system, online, print brochures, etc? And then to do it again one year later for three words?

I've tweeted @wmata this question but of course got no reply.
WTOP has an estimate of what changing the signage inside each station costs.

I asked Metro if, in fact, there were going to be three maps in the coming years, the "New York Ave." one, the no New York Ave. one and then the one with the Silver Line station names. No word yet.

So here's your chance Metro. Jump in like you used to and answer this question. Tell us you're not wasting another chunk of our money with this naming/map business.

Other items:
Metro says it needs $2 billion more (Examiner)
Metro hired accountant convicted of bank fraud (Wash. Times)
Another Metro fight (YouTube)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is Mum the New Word on Red Line Delays?

Update: A Metro worker informs me that the delays may have been caused by a cable hanging from the tunnel ceiling.

From anonymous:
I was one of the many folks on the Red Line Tuesday afternoon who was stuck on a train, without moving and without any information, for more than 25 minutes.

When I contacted Metro via email after the incident, they replied "Per the Operations Control Center there is no evidence of any trains going in the direction of Glenmont or Shady Grove that held for longer than a couple of minutes ... We certainly hope to continue to be your choice for transportation services."

If that's the case, then their operations control center is worthless - hundreds of people waited on platforms or trains for a very long time during rush hour, and Metro seems to have no record of the situation.


There was absolutely no announcement, except for the normal (muffled) statement: "We will be moving momentarily" (which apparently means 25 minutes).

I was monitoring WMATA's website and Twitter account via my phone the entire time, and there was never any indication there was an issue.

The only accounts were people tweeting #wmata and @unsuckdcmetro. Riders were trying to get the word out, Metro was oblivious to the situation.
Other items:
"We must ensure that the Dulles extension is built to the same safety and reliability standard as the rest of the Metrorail system," wrote Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel in an email. "The residents of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties deserve no less."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How Safe is Gallery Place?

Even lights don't appear to have made Gallery Place safe. (via @IMGoph)

Anyone else have any insight onto this incident(s)?

Sounds pretty scary.

A MTPD source I contacted didn't know anything about it.

From Chrystal via Facebook:
Did anyone else see the fight at Gallery Place Metro Monday night?

Complete mayhem. The "more police presence" is complete lip service.

Everyone was just standing around while these two kids were beating the snot out of each other.

I think it was more a diversion for about 20 to 30 kids who got out of paying Metro fare because as soon as the cops came, they BOTH took off running.
From Jessica:
On Monday night around 6, I was transferring at Gallery Place, and, as I was walking up the escalator from the lower level to get to the Red Line toward Shady Grove, I heard a woman screaming her head off.

Everyone was staring at her, and it looked like she was with some other people.

Anyway, as I got to the top of the escalator and started walking to the train, I saw three young African-American kids (teens or 20s, I couldn't really tell) just plowing through the crowded area and into people!

It looked as if they were chasing each other (coming from the direction of the train, so I'm not sure if they were originally on it).

I have no idea if they were joking around or seriously running from each other.

As I saw this I tried and move out of the way and stood against the elevator, but the last kid still brushed up against me.

I could tell he was holding something underneath his shirt with the end sticking out. I can only imagine it was a gun. I can't be 100 percent sure, but at the time this was all happening, I couldn't think of anything else it could be.

Once they all passed the crowded area, everyone was looking scared and confused.

I just bolted to my train, hoping it would leave as soon as possible.

Needless to say, I'll be transferring at Metro Center from now on.

I'm surprised there weren't more tweets on this - I only found two other people mentioning it. It all happened pretty fast, but there were a lot of people who saw what was going on.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Official Metro Complaints: Worth it or a Waste of Time?

Yesterday, the Examiner ran a story citing Metro's own statistics about how the number of Metrorail complaints had dropped not five percent, not 10 percent, not 15 percent, but a whopping 18 percent!

Same for the highly regarded MetroAccess!

Hallelujah! Sorta reminds me of this Metro miracle.

Sadly, the one bummer in this otherwise sunny story is that Metrobus complaints rose a meager five percent. It's always the damned bus.

Snark aside, I'm left wondering about this. Did Metro really get that much better, or have people simply decided that complaining is futile? Have you ever seen a resolution to a complaint you filed, or did you simply receive an email saying Metro would look into it?

Reader Tom asks the same question. Seriously, what do you think?
I had an incident on the N2 bus around 5 p.m. on Thursday that I wanted to share.

I was getting on the bus, and as I stepped into the doorway, the driver closed the door, basically squashing my body.

In the process, my arm was bruised and possibly worse (it still hurts after almost 2 days).

The driver said nothing, no acknowledgement that something happened, never mind an apology.

To be clear, I did not attempt to board the bus as the doors were closing; I was in the doorway when the driver closed the door.

By the way he drove, it doesn't surprise me that he was in a rush to close the door.

As I was getting off the bus, I informed the driver that he closed the door on my body and that it had hurt my arm.

He said he couldn't see me, and I told him, in a respectful manner, that he should be more careful as the operator of the bus.

He then turned it around to blame it on me.

I told him that he needed to learn how to operate his bus, and took the bus number. He then shot back: "Yeah you want my name too!?"

I was incensed and in a rush, so I did not take his name but completed an on-line complaint via Metro. I said that my arm hurt and may be injured, and that I'd be following up with further inquiries in that regard as necessary or appropriate.

I am still very angry and was wondering if the online complaint form is an exercise in futility and if you had other ideas on whom to contact.

I suppose I could e-mail the entire DC Metro management, but any thoughts would be appreciated.

This experience of atrocious treatment by Metro bus drivers certainly is not isolated.
Other items:
Metro could see ridership hit (Examiner)
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