Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Yin and Yang of Metro

I heard this sentiment from several readers.

From G.:
Contrary to your last poster, I thought Metro did a pretty good job with Sandy. I think it was a good idea to stay open until closing on Sunday, for example.

Also, the alerts they sent out were good, except for a few I got about 10 times in a row. Thank god I have unlimited texting.

Since I have no car, I was also very happy to see Metro open up yesterday at 2. It's got to be hard to stop and start a system like that.

I was pretty pleased with Metro until I read MTA in New York was waiving all fares yesterday.
Contrast that to this line on the Metro website: "Please note: All regular weekday fare policies will apply, as will weekday parking rates."*
Ugh. Really? Not even weekend fares for weekend service?
Yeah, DC didn't get hit quite as much, but I think Metro could have at least made a gesture to the few people who were going out to ride today and waived fares. What a PR win that would have been.

I mean it's kind of like saying 'hey we're in this with you. Come enjoy a free ride as we get life in DC back to normal.'

Another missed chance for Metro.

I guess you have to take the good with the bad, but for me, this washes all the good away.
*Some reported being charged full, rush hour fares because Metro had not reset the computers. (Confirmed here)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rider Concerned by Metro's Sandy Planning

UPDATE 3:  Limited rail and bus starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday

UPDATE 2:  Metro will be closed tomorrow.

UPDATE:  Feds closed Monday.

Metro has changed their information since I received the below email. It now reads:
Based on the current weather forecast, we plan to operate scheduled bus and rail service on Monday, October 29. However, modifications to service levels are possible based on changes in the forecast, electrical power status and actual weather conditions, including flooding.

If sustained wind speeds reach 50 mph or greater, Metro would consider a suspension of above ground service.  Current forecasts do not contemplate sustained wind speeds greater than 50 mph in the Washington, DC, area.
From Tom:
Am I the only one concerned about the so-called "planning" for Sandy posted on Metro's Website?  When Isabelle came through in 2003, they shut down  (they said then 40+ mph winds would cause suspension, now, they say 50+.) Metro because of concerns that the trains would blow off the tracks.  Now, the word is that if the winds get to 35-40 mph, they'll slow the trains down?  Yeah, that's great for the 35-40 mph sustained winds - but what about the 50-60 mph gusts?  I don't know about you, but I don't want to be on the Red Line train approaching Rhode Island Avenue station when those hit.

Metro is behaving like this is just going to be a stiff breeze, while the forecasters seem to be predicting much stronger winds and even stronger gusts.  I don't know that I want to go to work Monday morning, only to have Metro suddenly change its mind and stop running the trains, leaving me stranded in downtown DC because they couldn't do some simple math.  Or, worse, try to run trains in unsafe conditions.  Oh, but Metro would never put its passengers' lives in danger, right?  Wait, never mind - we already know the answer to that.

I'm told that the MTA in New York has already announced that it will stop running trains at 7:00 tonight.  Admittedly, their concerns are probably more for track flooding than wind, but at least they seem to have realistically assessed the potential problems. Again, though, realistic assessments aren't exactly Metro's long suit, are they.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stalin would be Proud

From CNN last January

Looks like NBC wanted to obtain videos of Metrobuses involved in accidents. The request was made by the same reporter, Adam Tuss, who used to work at WTOP and obtained similar videos less than a year ago while there.

Now, Metro has changed their policy and won't let the public see video taken on taxpayer-funded buses by taxpayer-funded cameras.

According to the story, Metro now says:
WMATA does not release its DriveCam videos because WMATA installed the DriveCam system for internal training purposes and to assist in the evaluation of Metrobus operators.
Worse yet, Metro board member Mort Downey, one of the people who is supposed to watch Metro for us told NBC "I don't think there is anything to hide."

It's laughable.

The GM, Richard Sarles and his board are making Metro more and more secretive and opaque every day.

I wonder if people are able to subpoena the videos if they're hit by a rogue Metrobus. Metro's new policy would lead one to believe not.

Take, for example, hit and run.

From A.R.:
I was hit, while driving, by the 54 bus on 14th St. NW in the southbound lane Wednesday morning and didn’t get the bus number.  I am hoping that someone who reads this was on that bus and could possibly help me out.

The accident occurred at about 7:57 near 14th and Fairmont. The driver was African American with long braids (she looked small) and didn't appear to have one of the sweaters on that I've seen most bus drivers wearing recently.

I attempted to stop the bus at the stop at 14th and Euclid by banging on the door, but the driver looked away and drove off.

The passenger side mirror of my car was pulled off the car from the driver drifting from the right lane to the left (where I was). There was nowhere for me to go because there was oncoming traffic.

So, if anyone remembers a semi-crazed looking blonde girl banging on their bus door this morning or a loud noise from the bus hitting a gray Dodge Avenger and happens to know the bus number or ANY information that could be helpful to me, I would greatly appreciate it.

I know that I should have seen and remembered the bus number, but it all happened so fast that I totally blanked. Again, I would really appreciate any help that people can give me as far as a more detailed description of the driver or the bus number.

I called the police and a Metro representative showed up but, the Metro rep refused to help because I did not get the bus number.
I feel as though they should be able to identify the bus by the time, route number, driver description and location but they say they need the actual bus number.
Other items:

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Via @MeisnereCMP: New escalators at DuPont south not working. @wmata @unsuckdcmetro #fail

Update 2: @MeisnereCMP reports there were no fire trucks of any kind around Dupont when the photo was taken. They also said Metro employees in the kiosk were chatting normally.

Update: Metro says the escalator was out of service because of a false fire alarm.

As Metro GM Dick Sarles gave his report to the Metro board, his first self congratulatory comment was about the reopening of Dupont South. The room erupted in applause.

At the same time, at least one of the new escalators was already out of service, not even a week after the grand reopening ribbon cutting, which Sarles announced Metro had streamed online.

If you're interested in the root causes for Metro's escalator woes, and why throwing money at the problem won't help, check out this post from a while back.

Transparency Fail

The Metro board is meeting today. For starters, at 9 a.m., they'll kick things off in executive session. Above is the published agenda of that session.

Looks like some pretty important stuff, particularly the labor matters. But that's all the board made public. Seriously. That's it! What a kick in the teeth to even publish an insulting PDF like that. They do this every time.

So much for transparency.

As Metro GM Dick Sarles once said, "I don't want to hide problems. That's the worst thing you can do."

But during Sarles' and the new board's reign,  they've pretty done nothing but hide. Literally. Apart from Sarles stopping by Rosslyn, none of these people show their faces at anything but ribbon cutting ceremonies.

But the hiding doesn't stop there.

On the eve of the board meeting, Metro has yet to post several key documents online, including Dick's' report to the board. Guess they don't care if it's late.

Also missing is the chairman of the board's report. No due date?

Also missing are a whole host of other reports. WTF?
To contrast, reports that actually link to actual information appear in blue on the Metro website.

Oh, and apparently gone is the language promising to post board materials on time. (This is from a cached version.)

Every day, Metro becomes more secretive and alienated from the people who pay for it to "run."

Oh, and the Metro board is hiring a secretary. Hope it pays less than the essential,  $114,733 senior writer job (first on the list) Metro is going to fill for their already massive and failing PR department. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bad Data, Bad Decisions?

You may have noticed groups of Metro employees gathered at stations.

They are traffic clerks, and you can see what they are supposed to do in this August job announcement.

This group in the photo was on the southbound Green/Yellow platform at L'Enfant Plaza during Friday's rush hour. I saw another, larger group at Mt. Vernon Square a few days earlier. Both groups were congregated at the front of the platform. Anytime I've seen them, they are always standing in a group at the front of the platform.

 I asked a couple of sources about these groups.
They are there to count passengers who exit or enter cars and approximate the amount of people on the cars. There is to be one at the front to get the train ID number and time of day. The others are to be spread out along the platform to monitor certain cars. One does the first car, one the rear and a couple in the middle.

What they do when I watch is the first person gets the pertinent info from the operator. The others stand around. Every so often they gather to copy the numbers from the one person who is doing their job. Then back to doing nothing. 
What happens with the information these people are supposed to gather?
I think it goes downtown to planning. What they do with it I am not sure. They never change headways. Maybe they use it to decide whether to run 6 or 8-car trains.
Another source said:
This is typical Metro. By standing in front like that, they're only counting the least crowded cars. If Metro is making decisions based on those numbers, they're making bad decisions.
Other items:
Metro violated contracting rules (Examiner)
Metro claimed controversial ads could make people fall onto tracks (Reason)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Well Played

Via Via @dullman82: @unsuckdcmetro Thank you to whoever put up this sign at McPherson Sq.--just saying what everyone else is thinking
Via @fredosan: Well played! @unsuckdcmetro @FixWMATA

If you're behind this, let me know (unsuckdcmetro [at] yahoo [dot] com. You can remain anonymous.

How do you Cope with Metro?

Via I am on the train and this woman behind me opened a bottle of wine and commenced the sippage @unsuckdcmetro 

Via @jhuster: @wmata @unsuckdcmetro Car 1226 has a nice, empty bottle of MD2020 taking a ride to Shady Grove...klassy with a k. 

From constant delays to rude passengers, Metro can be extremely frustrating and stress inducing. Looks like it even drives some to drink. 

What's your coping mechanism?

Other items:
Metro to add disclaimers to controversial ads (Examiner) 
MetroAccess riders say fares unfair, confusing (WaPo)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Keys to Escalator Success: Maintenance and Competence

So, after eight and a half months and $13 million dollars, Metro finally reopened the Dupont South entrance with three brand new escalators.

Metro touts the new escalators as "transit grade." That term did not seem common among other transit systems, so I asked some experts about it.

"It's marketing," they said. " In my opinion, statements like, 'transit grade is a level of ruggedness previously not offered by escalator manufacturers' is nothing more than Metro trying to sell the public on the project."

Another escalator expert added:
No there is not a 'transit grade.' It appears to me that it is another way that Metro is diverting their lack of maintenance in previous years to a lesser quality that was installed in years past. With that being said, there are cheaper made products out there. Some companies give their customers an option of a China, Germany or United States made unit. You guessed it, China being the cheaper made. 
The first source said no reputable escalator manufacturer would likely sell Metro an escalator that would, for example, be more suited to a retail store where there is less use and less exposure to elements.

 "A normal escalator would not hold up, and the manufacturer's name would be tarnished," the source said.

The source made sure to point out that all escalators meet minimum standards for safety and come with all required safety features.
I have not seen the new units yet. I'm sure they are good. Nothing magical or significantly differently from what was removed though. They are new. What do you need to keep any of them running? Maintenance and competence. 
Yet another source said "Metro can throw as much money as they want to at the escalator problem and make up terms like transit grade, but until they maintain them, we'll be right back to massive outages in a few years. Look back over Metro's history, and you'll see this same cycle repeated several times."

There are several root causes for Metro's escalator woes, including the union's pick system and escalator technicians that don't know what they're doing (and here). Also, when Metro finds systemic issues with their escalators, they sweep it under the rug.

I hope this $13 million investment of taxpayer money will inspire Metro to break bad habits, not new escalators.
Other items:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dupont South to Reopen Sunday

In an email newsletter sent out to employees, Metro GM Richard Sarles said the Dupont South entrance will reopen Sunday "on time and on budget."
The Dupont Circle South Entrance will reopen this Monday for peak rail service. Unlike the Foggy Bottom project where one escalator was available for use prior to the other, all three brand new escalators at Dupont South will be available for customers. Riders and businesses have waited patiently as we worked to improve escalator reliability at this location, and I thank all of you who have been part of the effort to support the project through effective management, safety and contingency plans, and emergency response. Congratulations to Dave Kubicek and his team. We’ve now completed 6 full escalator replacement projects since our Metro Forward capital improvement program began in 2011, and we continue our efforts to restore the system to a state of good repair.

Here's the official announcement.

Metro Still Insulting Riders with Security Theater

Via @Julie Borowski: Bag checks at Foggy Bottom metro. More security theater. #wmata 

Update: During the last Finance Committee meeting, Metro agreed to accept $7.7 million more from the feds for more anti-terrorism efforts. You can hear the committee ask about it at 4:47 here. (H/T FixWMATA)

From Luke: 
The other day at Foggy Bottom, during the evening rush, there was an extensive security detail present outside the turnstiles. There were three police officers at the top of the escalators, five in the lobby at the bottom, and what I believe were two TSA agents standing behind a folding table with what appeared to be two of those bomb sniffing machines they put the swabs in. It did not appear they were searching any bags, or doing much of anything for that matter.
As if the fare hikes, poor service, lies, and empty marketing schemes aren't insulting enough.

How many terrorist plots have random bag checks foiled? WTOP reported in June that there had been no arrests as a result of the two-year program.

How many crimes has this misallocation of resources enabled?

Here's a post from a while back about bag searches.  I have yet to hear an argument to counter it.

The dog is a nice touch. Poor thing having to hang out in a Metro station. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Time for Revolution?

Via WMATArage:
I’m sick of it. You’re sick of it. Metro has reached levels of critical disrepair. Constant offloads, door malfunctions, closed stations, skip-stop service, etc. have rendered Metro maddening during commutes and essentially useless on weekends and off-peak hours.

But you know what? We don’t have to just sit there and passively take it. There are solutions. Consider New York in the 1980s:
By the end of 1980, complaints about subway and bus services replaced inadequate sanitation as the number one issue complained about to City Hall. On January 8th, 1981, over 1,000 angry passengers refused to leave a Manhattan-bound CC train at Hoyt/Schermerhorn Streets that was ordered out of service due to door trouble. Many complained that they had already been ordered off other trains that had also been taken out of service due to mechanical problems. Police were called, yet passengers refused to leave (and may have been unable to leave, because the platform was extremely crowded). Finally, token clerks handed out free transfers good for other subway or bus lines. The following day, about 2,000 passengers refused to leave a downtown IRT Broadway local that also had door problems and was ordered out of service. However, the crew was able to resolve the door problems and the train continued on its route running 18 minutes late. These were just two of many similar incidents that occurred in the early 1980s, where during rush hours, 25% of the scheduled trains, on average, didn’t run.
But such a revolt is not unique to New York. Hell, we’ve done it here before - and that’s how you get the awfulness of WMATA back in the news. From 1999:
On Wednesday, when Metro ridership hit an unprecedented 617,000 trips and broke Tuesday’s record of 600,061, passengers aboard an already delayed Blue Line train reached the boiling point and refused to obey orders to exit a train with door problems, first at Smithsonian and then at L’Enfant Plaza. It took transit police to clear the train, which is still being examined by mechanics… 
When the mutiny train pulled into the Smithsonian Station shortly after 5:30 p.m., it was the first eastbound Blue Line train witnesses said they had seen in nearly 45 minutes.
Now, that particular article goes on to attempt psychoanalysis on the passengers who stayed put, and to get spokesmen from SEPTA, the CTA, and the MBTA to claim that they’d never expect such a display from their passengers…but then again, an authority that actually respects its passengers issues apologies like this one yesterday.

The 1999 mutiny seems to have accomplished little. But how did the New York one fare? Just ride the subway there. You’ll see how reliable it is.

Next time you’re ordered to get off the train…don’t. Let’s make some noise. Let’s literally take this sitting down. Because I’m just absolutely fed up with it, and I know you are too.
Other items: 
Metro doesn't always bring development (WaPo)
More controversial ads could be coming (WTOP)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'The Contempt is Amazing'

Illustration from this Flickr

From Katie:
Just got verbally harassed by the bus driver on the 92 bus #6562 going South while getting on the bus at Constitution Ave. A police car was in front of the bus, trying to squeeze through traffic in the right lane where the bus should have pulled up, so the bus stopped about 10 feet away from the stop, but did not open the doors.
I wasn’t sure if it would pull up, so I started walking toward it, at which point the driver opened the doors.
As I got on, the driver looked at me and said aggressively, “Get the f*ck on.” (The bus was at a red light, and I wasn’t holding up anything.)
I stared at him in disbelief and a few moments later decided to make a note of what happened on my phone. He noticed me doing this (I was standing at the front) and rudely called out, “You want my name, too?”

Not the first time I’ve seen or experienced bus drivers treating passengers like sh*t on this route. The contempt is amazing.

From Niko:
The female bus driver opened her window and started screaming at the top of her lungs at a man outside. I believe the reason was because she almost hit him. She was screaming out foul language, and called him “WHITE TRASH”. She was so aggravated that she missed the next stop that was requested and yelled  at the passenger. Ok, the crazy mentally unstable drivers of WMATA are no news but the “white trash” part - is that normal? You never know in this country.

These two come via Tumblr.  Something seems to be off with the notification system there, and I don't receive messages that people have submitted.  It's best to use unsuckdcmetro{at}yahoo{dot}com. I promise complete anonymity. If you still want to submit via Tumblr, that's cool, just realize I might not see it immediately. Thanks to all who take the time to submit their stories!

Other items:
Cell phone coverage not a safety issue for GM Sarles (Examiner)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When did Metro's Slide Start?

When did Metro begin its long, sad slide into suck?

On a post a few days ago, a comment sub thread developed that hearkened back to the good ol' Metro of yore.

I lived in DC in the '90s, and while I didn't commute via Metro, I rode it a lot, and I don't remember it being so bad. I know for sure I never dreaded having to take Metro.

More importantly, it actually seemed to be a friendly, responsible part of the fabric of the DC area community instead of a Stalinist, secretive, inefficient and expensive excuse machine.

So, while I know DC is home to a lot of newcomers, it's time for some old timers (always a relative term in a city as transient as DC) to chime in about how they remember Metro in the past.

Share your memories and remind us that there is perhaps some hope and that Metro didn't always suck.

Other items:
Man sitting in street hit and killed by distracted Metrobus driver (Examiner)
More on those ads (Examiner)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Another Escalator Close Call?

Via @ Graffiti on the metro. "What's going on here? Sheer incompetence!"

So in addition to Metro's social media faux pas after the Nats' devastating loss, there was a scary post-game incident at Navy Yard.

@aka_tk wrote with a few more details:
We were all walking down two sets of stopped escalators, as the station was packed.

About half way down, the escalator next to us just started to slide or fall about five feet or so. So people just grabbed onto the railing to hold on. Then the escalator seemed to catch itself. I don't think anyone was injured at least. I have never seen that before.
Another reader, Peter, claimed to be on the escalator that slid and said people were "terrified" as the escalator slid "at least 10 feet" before stopping.

A source familiar with Metro's escalator operations, said he couldn't be sure what happened, but that "an escalator that does that is not properly maintained. I would never get on a fully loaded Metro escalator. They are just not safe."

Two years ago, a Metro escalator brake failed leading to several injuries at L'Enfant Plaza after the "Rally for Sanity" event.

After the incident, Unsuck DC Metro broke the news that Metro had been made aware of the brake problems through a report by their escalator consultant, VTX. Metro appeared to ignore the warnings issued by VTX until after the L'Enfant incident when they ordered an emergency inspection of the escalator brakes.

Was this Friday another close call?

After the 2010 report, VTX came back in the Spring of 2011 to assess Metro's progress in addressing the numerous problems found in 2010.

VTX did, but now, well over a year later, Metro will not release the report to the public.

Another source familiar with Metro's escalator operations filed a freedom of information request for the report but was denied because the report was not "completed/finalized."

Regardless, it is unlikely that Metro addressed the fundamental problem at the core of its escalator problem.

Here's the horrific footage of the L'Enfant incident:

Other items: 
Cell phone coverage still three years away (Examiner)

Metro's failures bring entrepreneurs into breach (Examiner) 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Metro Fares: 'Massive, Massive Failure'

From Mark:
A couple weekends ago, my wife and I had four visitors from out of town.

They had never been do DC before and were excited to see the sights.

Without thinking about it, I thought it would be best for the six of us to use Metro to get from our nearest stop, Vienna, to the National Mall area.

Big mistake.

First off, the fare is $3.50 each way. Times that by 12 (6 round trips) and you get $42. Then, add $1 to each of the guests' trips because they don't have SmarTrip.

Grand total for taking public transportation? $50! That's $8.33 a person--to take Metro!

That is insane. 

We went back into town the next day, and even though it was a squeeze to get six of us in a sedan, we drove. Parking was $10. If you use the Federal reimbursement rate for driving, add another $15.50. Grand total? Half Metro's price, and the kicker is driving was easily twice as fast.

Even if Metro ran like a well oiled machine (it didn't the day we rode because it took nearly an hour each way), these prices are just incredible. For this, they should serve complimentary drinks.
Based on price alone, Metro is a massive, massive failure. Their pricing discourages ridership.
Other items: 
Metro board spends $800K to find Metro board is corrupt (Examiner/WaPo)
Purple Line station would include trail access (WaPo)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Classic Metro

Reader @Rizzz rightfully complained to Metro about the Sept. 19 Red Line mess.

Metro replied (see the above letter), giving four "complimentary free ride" tickets.

There was just one catch.

For the record, Metro managed to send me one.

Oh, and with the great unveiling of the 7000-series mock cars, what could go wrong?

Other items: 
Who are the media, according to Metro? (FixWMATA)
Report says cars are the future for region (WTOP)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beware of the Shoe Bandit!

From "Jo Fu":
I was at Greenbelt Station at 1 p.m. Tuesday. It had been a pretty stressful week, so I was pretty on edge.

I got on the train and sat down, called up my mom to tell her about my doctor's visit. Four minutes into the call, a small, squat black woman came into the car, looked around, and walked straight up to me. I was in the very back seat of a car, and she blocked my path of escape.

"GIVE ME YOUR SHOE," she yelled.

"What? No!" I replied.

I was still on the phone with my mom, and let out a pretty profane, "Jesus Christ."

Two other people on the train start looking our way.

"GIVE ME YOUR SHOE," she yelled, louder this time.

"No, you can't have my shoe."



Panic sets in.

I glanced really quickly at her feet and she had one pristine sneaker and one completely bare foot.

I stood up to protect my shoes (I've had another shoe-related incident on the Metro before), and she lunged at my lunch bag.


She grabs at it, I fall down, and get dragged a couple feet.

The bag spilled, and a Honeycrisp apple fell out.



She grabbed the apple from off the ground and, without running, sauntered onto the next car.

After casting a terrified glance at the two others on the train, both of whom were getting out of their seats, I chased her to the other car.

No one came running when I yelled, so instead of staying on the train (She wasn't much larger than me, but a citizen's arrest was out of the question), I ran down to the station manager's booth to report the incident. I was hysterical, somewhat asthmatic, and in tears.

Three men were there, and they reported it immediately, though I did end up standing outside sobbing for about five minutes, until another Metro employee offered to open up the bathroom for me so I could get my knee cleaned up.

Then he stayed by me and chatted, apologizing profusely while we waited for the Metro police.

The officer, R. A. Sanchez, showed up after a while. He took my statement, hung out with me, and and we waited while dispatch tried to track down the train and perpetrator.

I was close enough to hear the radio chatter, and I have to admit they put a bunch of effort into my missing apple (and the assault.)

They dispatched units to several stations, looking for the woman.

Officer Sanchez stayed with me until they found her, thanks in part to the discovery of another victim--one whose shoe was actually stolen.

This woman was caught due to a very detailed description, and yes, two mismatched shoes.

Thanks to the efforts of the Metro police and the WMATA  staff who stood by the whole time (I'm sorry I didn't catch his name.)

The station manager was genuinely concerned about the lack of WMATA employees on the platform itself.

I'm glad, at the end of the day, the woman was caught, or else this might have been a real Cinderella story. 

Other items:
Brace for a fun evening commute (WaPo)
Metro wants to cash in on Inauguration Day (Examiner)
Metro ridership still down (Examiner)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How was Weekend-plus?

Via @Sparticus11:@wmata Farragut north is a hot hot mess. Guess I'll catch the next one. 25 minutes on the platform now. 

From anonymous:
 Right now at 4 p.m. on Oct. 7, the WMATA webpage trip planner says that a train is leaving every 7 or 8 minutes from Shady Grove toward Metro Center.

In real life there is a train leaving Shady Grove every half hour this weekend.

You can go watch the web PIDS predictions and see this. It's not easy to see because PIDS works so poorly on weekends.

Note that the promulgated standard (which everyone objected to) says that the max wait for a train should be 20 minutes off peak.

So not only has the standard from the base weekend schedule of every 7 minutes been lowered, it's been lowered way below the threshold of 20 minutes, all the way to 30 minutes between Red Line trains from Shady Grove.

Also note the WMATA twitter account says the trip planner takes into account this weekend's special schedules. No, not really, it still claims a train every 7 or 8 minutes from Shady.
These look like dead-obvious observations that anyone standing at Rockville platform would see.
I know WMATA management isn't standing on the platform there waiting for a train.
From JK:
Am I the only one who notice Metro's advertised time between trains was a total lie? 26 minutes would have been great this weekend, but they never approached that frequency.

I guess that might have been excusable on Saturday and Sunday, but on Monday, the time between trains approached 40 minutes.

During rush hour, the platforms were dangerously over crowded.

I understand Metro has a lot of work to get done, but leaving so many DC riders screwed is just unacceptable.

For once, I wish Metro would be honest so I could make an informed choice about an alternate way to work.

From Adam:
Please don't torture us with PIDs that aren't accurate. I actually make decisions based on what they say. If they're not going to work accurately during track work, tell us. Just FREAKING tell us!! Or just turn them off!
Other items:
Controversial  Metro ads get makeover (Examiner)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Richmond's Interest in Metro was Fleeting

I thought perhaps officials in Virginia would have some concern about what Rush+ and other Metro practices are doing to their constituents, so I wrote a letter to Virginia's governer Bob McDonnell.

You'll remember not long ago McDonnell took great interest in Metro when he wanted to make a direct appointment to the board.

He got his appointment, James Dyke, and at the time, I supported the move, mostly because I thought anything to shake up the know-nothing board might be a good thing

My opinions seemed to be shared by Virginia's transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton, a McDonnell appointee.

Back then, he told me "We’re very concerned about the club atmosphere that prevails on the Board of Directors. This needs to change."

Connaughton replied to my letter to McDonnell, which is embedded below.

Needless to say, he seems to be singing a different tune about Metro these days. Seems he now thinks all is hunky dory with Metro.

It's especially disconcerting that he bought the Metro line about what Rush+ really is.

We're on our own folks.
Doc-9_20_12 19-26

Other items: 
Metro's bumpy tile installation: Delayed (Examiner)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Metro doesn't want to Hear Riders' Ideas

According to the Metro website, the Rider's Advisory Council (RAC) is supposed to advise the Metro board on "issues affecting Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroAccess service. The 21-member Council includes six individuals from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, two at-large members, and the head of Accessibility Advisory Committee."

It does nothing of the sort.

The council has proved spineless and to be immune to reform from the inside, and now,  year later, nothing has changed.

A council that "represents" riders still won't stand up for them.

Here are the comments given by @FixWMATA at last night's RAC meeting (It appeared here originally):

I want to make sure that in my allotted two minutes I make myself clear tonight:
This council is a failure.
You have failed at representing WMATA riders by not being more demanding of answers from WMATA and letting incident after incident pass by without demanding answers.
You have failed at reaching out to the riders you represent. I offered resources last month to you to introduce yourself to riders - you declined to do so. I’ve seen no other attempt at outreach in the last month.
Kurt and I have told you time and time again there is a valuable WMATA conversation on Twitter - one (and a half) of you is on Twitter. Your technophobia is failing riders.
You’ve spent half a year planning a town-hall meeting that is so limiting it too will be a failure.
You’re failure has run off valuable members of this council while others have simply given up. Some of you fail to attend meetings. Some of you are here only because you feel you have to be - not because your heart is in it anymore. This is failing riders.
Each one of you represents 55,000 riders each. YOU are the checks and balances between WMATA and paying riders. If you don’t want to be here anymore don’t be here anymore.
I feel this failure has been a long time coming - but the current failing state of this council rests on Chairwoman Bracmort. SHE has failed to provide you with leadership. SHE has failed to engage the riding public. SHE has limited public participation in your process. And SHE must go. I call on Chairwoman Bracmort to offer her resignation so that someone who IS willing to lead this council can step forward.
You CAN do better.
You MUST do better.
Rider safety is dependent on it.
Thank you.
Other items:
Metro wins accessibility award (Examiner)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Customer Service at its Best

Via Monica:

Night before last, I left my smart phone, a 4.5" black Motorola Droid Razr (in a hot pink Otter Box commuter case) on the last car that pulled into the Vienna Station.

I was sitting three rows back from the end of the car. I got off the train, and according to my SmartTrip history, I exited the fare gate at 07:10:49 p.m. I noticed that my phone was not in my bag and re-entered the fare gate at 07:13:17 p.m.

I ran to the platform and was happy to see the train was still there. I checked where I was sitting, which was now the first car, and saw my phone was still on the seat.

I asked the train operator if she would please allow me to get my phone or could she get the phone for me since it was directly behind her. There was no hunting required - it was visible from the window and in the same car as the driver.

She informed the supervisor on the platform what I was asking about and told me that she had a schedule to keep but was taking the train to the depot and would check at West Falls Church. The train operator also told me to check directly with the Supervisor at the end of the platform.

I double checked the placement of the phone as the out-of-service train took off toward West Falls and ran to see the supervisor. He initially refused to make eye contact and eventually waved me away.

I went upstairs and told station manager and an off-duty MTPD officer about what happened. The station manager at Vienna and the off-duty officer were very considerate. They did everything they could to find out where the train went and who would be searching it. I commend their professionalism and their due diligence.

The station manager at Vienna also tried calling my phone to see if someone would answer it. I was told to wait at Vienna for news from West Falls.

The operator and the West Falls station manager both reported that they did not see my phone.

However, my husband stopped at West Falls Church to double check on the phone and the station manager told him that she had no idea what he was talking about.

 The train operator and the supervisor at Vienna failed to provide even the smallest level of customer service. I wonder why the phone would not have been seen by the train operator when she did the walk through of the train after taking the train out of service.

This is not a small smart phone and was very visible on the seat in the hot pink hard case. In the time it took to have the conversation either she or I could have grabbed the phone. For the response to have been "I have a schedule to keep" when the train is out of service and the standard commute schedule swings so widely was unbelievable.

As a regular WMATA customer, the idea that 60 seconds could not be spared was completely defeating. One minute of her time and this would be a note of commendation instead of a comment on extremely poor customer service.

It was awful to realize that I lost the phone, but I was so glad to see that it was still on the stationary train. To watch it ride away, when it could have easily been passed through the window, was awful. To find out that they couldn't locate it was suspicious.

To make matters worse, none of the pay phones at Vienna work, and it is a known problem.

I have routed all calls to my work phone and spent $100 deductible replacing the phone. It will probably be another $75 to get a new otter box and transfer contacts/ photos/etc. Many of which will not make the transfer because they were stored in the old SIM card.

Having my old phone back would be fantastic. Since the 4.5" hot pink phone would be hard to miss, and that the train made no stops between Vienna and West Falls, I'm hopeful that someone in WMATA will find my phone and contact me.

Last time something like this happened was December 2006 when the WMATA bus driver used my phone for a week and then offered to let me buy it back from them. I 'm hoping to never repeat that experience. 

Monica later wrote that she had been contacted by Metro customer service, which offered an apology and said they would look into the situation.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Metro's Holy Grail!

They do exist!

Considering its rarity, I think I'm going to keep this in the hope that one day it will be a collector's item.

What has your experience been in getting a refund from Metro?

Other items:
Ad controversy heats up (Politico)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Metro's Social Media Murder-Suicide Pact

UPDATE: Metro put Mind Mixer in the time out corner.

It has been an interesting few days on Twitter.

First, Metro's new, highly-paid social media consultants, "Mind Mixer," came out with a pedantic, lecturing tone toward DC riders and proved the Omaha, Nebraska-based company has absolutely no idea about all the constructive criticism offered to Metro via this blog by actual Metro riders over nearly four years.

Mind Mixer, which touts "optimal engagement," has 784 followers on Twitter and a skin as thin and you know who.

They also say they offer "#realengagement," but won't say how much Metro is paying for their services and did not respond to an invitation to guest blog here.

This was a distillation of the reaction to Mind Mixer's social media self immolation:

Then, Metro proved you don't need to ride Metro to be on the receiving end of their infamous 'tude.  It was some of the least professional behavior I've ever seen by an organization on social media. For example:

Here's a little free constructive advice for Metro (cc: Mind Mixer): Even if you feel frustrated by a customer on Twitter, take a deep breath, and type something to the effect of "we're sorry you haven't found Metro is meeting your needs. We're trying to do better and thank you for your patronage."

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