Friday, November 30, 2012

Caption Contest: Captain Choo Choo

Photo via Matt Johnson via Flickr

Long time since we did one of these. Previous ones are here.

Mine would be "Mauve Line to Mars, next station stop, the moon. Please use all 1000 doors."

Other items:
Silver Line could cost millions more than expected (WaPo)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another Low for Metro Employees

Via Facebook:
I was on the Orange Line yesterday morning when a man sitting close to me suffered a series of seizures while the train was at Federal Triangle.

I was completely shocked by what seemed to be complete incompetence and bad attitude from Metro employees!

Passengers were attending to the man and calling 911, while Metro employees were just walking around aimlessly, in no rush to assist.

After what seemed to be about 10-15 minutes, I asked whether they alerted paramedics, and the response was “if they get here, they get here. If they don’t, they don’t.”

I’m disgusted of the lack of professionalism, but more so by the lack of sympathy towards a suffering human being.
Other items: 
Two takes on the FTA safety audit: Examiner and WaPo 
Traffic woes will linger for decades (Examiner)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chill Wind for Metro Whistleblowers

From CS:
If ever an organization needed strong whistleblower protection, it’s Metro. At substantial risk to themselves, whistleblowers buck the system, attempting to bring to light waste, fraud, safety violations, mismanagement, and other abuse. Metro itself has recognized the value of whistleblowers, with a whistleblower rights policy that includes purported protections against retaliation for those who speak up. This policy was strengthened in the wake of the 2009 Ft. Totten crash when investigators discovered a culture of retaliation against Metro employees who tried to speak up about potential safety concerns.

Unfortunately, as recent release of Metro documents reveals, a major whistleblower protection is turning out to be pretty toothless. Which is a shame, because it makes it all the harder for would-be whistleblowers to try to call attention to the wrongs they encounter. And as we know too well, Metro has plenty of unsavory practices that could bear some sunlight., which proclaims its mission as “rummaging in the government’s attic,” obtained copies of the decisions by Metro’s Whistleblower Retaliation Hearing Panel. This is a trio of senior Metro executives, which hears cases of alleged retaliation against Metro whistleblowers.

The documents cover six cases back to November 2010. Although Metro has committed itself to full investigation of problems and protection of employees from retaliation, the documents show the review panel hasn’t exactly been breaking a sweat to get to the bottom of things. The documents show the panel has made minimal independent investigation of cases; for example, deciding to forgo investigation of incidents with those complaining or their supervisors.

In addition to that relaxed approach, the panel has also done scarcely anything to explain the thinking behind its decisions. (Assuming there is any thinking.) It’s important to lay things out, because only in seeing how the panel weighs evidence can would-be whistleblowers evaluate how much protection they’ll get – or not. Put simply, to see what flies and what doesn’t.

Customarily, legal decisions state the rule at issue in a case, present the facts and evidence considered, and then provide a line of reasoning based on things like precedent and case law that allow parties to see how a decision was reached.

What the panel’s decisions do instead is summarily state the outcome and leave it at that. They barely break half a page each. Thus, they’re of no use to anyone trying to gauge when it’s worth laying their career on the line. Any law student would flunk if they turned in work like this. (It’s possible the decisions could be short case summaries, but they are not described that way in the documents released. They are described as the “written decision(s)” of the review panel.)

Put it all together, and the message is pretty plain: Whistleblowers, we don’t have your back.

Whistleblowers take tremendous risks from the start, and the panel is supposed to be the last line of defense against unjust retaliation. But with friends like this, it’s easy to see why whistleblowers would feel an even bigger chill as they weigh whether to step forward.

That’s bad for the employees, but even worse for the agency and the traveling public.
Other items: 
Metro screw ups lead to cell phone delays (Examiner)
Metro paid $35,000 in legal fees over controversial ads (Legal Times)
More details on Woodley Park stabbing (Examiner)
MindMixer site gets trolled, Metro picks up ball and goes home (FixWMATA)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Broken Escalator Theory

Metro's response seemed odd. Surely even Metro would not order something as absurd as custom made glass panels for its escalators, so I asked an expert.
Sounds like more B.S. I believe they use 1/2" Lexan panels.  Lexan can be purchased as a sheet like plywood and cut with the same tools. If they don't have it in stock, it can be obtained locally same day or overnight shipped.
Another escalator source said leaving shattered glass like this was "rolling the dice" because if that glass shattered there's be a "significantly more expensive" cleanup and repair job not to mention injuries to riders.
Other items: 
Teens charged in Metro stabbing (Examiner)
Whistleblower faced retaliation (Examiner)

Monday, November 26, 2012

'Please Stop Reenacting Rush Limbaugh'

A couple of weeks ago, a reader, "Spataps," called me the "Rush Limbaugh of transit." It would have been better if they'd called me the Rush+ Limbaugh of transit but regardless, I invited them to guest post, and they did. It is unedited.

A Letter to the Blog and its Readers –
I was invited by the site’s author to write this because of comments I posted in his article expressing frustration at WMATAs slow response to FOAA requests. My question for the author and readers is this. Do you really want to improve the Metro? Or do you take your pleasure in attacking it and its employees, much like Limbaugh does with the federal government. If it's the former, as I hope, than I ask you to reconsider your reporting style.

I read Unsuck because I want to improve Metro. I hate when trains stop for no reason or have 30 minute headways. I wish metro employees were more courteous. And this blog is the main game in town for only covering Metros' needed improvements. Yet the attitude that the blog takes really frustrates me. I believe yelling at an alcoholic does nothing. To me, your style feels much like that. Much of the time, having taken the metro almost every day for 7 years, I've found it runs okay. Sure, there are problems, but to read this blog, one would think metro was a Florida DMV run by Chicago goons from the 1920s. It's not good, but it's not that bad. To ask for change, I think you need to acknowledge that, or risk being ignored.

While ideally metro would respond to FOAA and improvement suggestions systematically, they are human. They're going to be suspicious of the intentions of someone who reports only negative news in an unobjective style. For example, the October 26th update titled "Stalin Would Be Proud." The subject matter, Metro should reconsider its policies on releasing video from bus cameras is fair. The title and delivery are inflammatory, coming close to Godwin's law. This article almost certainly will not lead metro to release its videos, or take the blog seriously in the future.

The comparison to Greater Greater Washington is inevitable. GGW has become a widely read blog in the area, with David Alpert turning into the go to guy on smart planning for many in the media and city politics. They are critical at times but write in a style of constructive criticism and also identify bright spots. I'm not saying you need to support GGW's policies, since it's clear many of this blogs readers don't, but Unsuck should follow their growth as an example of success if it really wishes to improve WMATA.

Some suggestions to unsuck Unsuckdcmetro:

-Close the comments for a while or moderate them more strictly. Readers also read the comments and associate them with the website. Many commenters create elaborate conspiratorial, cartoonishly evil, and sometimes racist, depictions of WMATA and its staff. This is not a group that a WMATA staffer considering responding to a question from a reporter cares about pleasing. It'd be great if the comments were a place to share experiences and have real conversation. However, when I came in with some criticism, my comments got voted down and called out as trolls.

-Enact some journalistic standards. Not an insult, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you have set up some guidelines. Often posts are put up that blame the metro for something that later turns out to be not their fault. See the fire alarm that closed the new Dupont escalators. While you put up a correction, the damage was done. Instead of instantly posting, make sure you’re right first.

-Get more contributors. I don’t know if Unsuck is run by one person or if you have help, but a diversity of opinions only improves a news outlet. How to best unsuck the Metro is a topic with a lot of different views that are not represented. By diversifying your writers, you will attract more readers who also care about improving the metro but are turned off by your currently inflammatory style.

-Avoid anonymous sources. You frequently cite anonymous metro employees as to the secret real reason why something bad has happened. I have no idea who these people are or if they are even who they claim to be. Maybe they’re about to be fired for sexual harassment or maybe they’re actually right. Many newspapers limit their use of sources or have laid out clear standards for their use.

-Lay off the union bashing. I’m not saying unions are perfect, but they do perform an important role in protecting workers.

-Get into more detail. What are rail ties? Why do so many of them need to be replaced? Does it really need to take so long? I don't know but I would like to. This leads down the road of more constructive criticism instead of repeated broad attacks.

None of this excuses bad bureaucracy, bad employees and late trains/buses. It is an attempt to try and improve those situations in a more constructive manner.

Maybe this letter is a waste of time.Maybe you all really just want a place to talk about how much you hate the Metro, much like I doubt Limbaugh cares about changing government for the better. But if you truly care about improving WMATA, than please consider a different type of reporting.

Other items:
Metrobus is not so green (City Paper)
Metro's busiest stations (GGW)
VRE could lose some funding (Examiner)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks, Metro Style

I'm off til the next Monday barring some big Metro news.

Have a great, and hopefully Metro-free Thanksgiving.

 Via Tumblr*:
Looks like the DC Metro fare collection system was having some systemic problems on Oct. 27 late night.

Getting on at King St. required several tries and the Crystal City gates had some hand scrawled messages saying that “MetroPass didn’t work.”

Several of our party had between $10 and $27 wiped off of our cards according to the exit gates and the add money machines.

The stationmaster at Crystal City (about 12.45 a.m.) refused to deal with an inquiry about the missing money, and instead said that the exit gates don’t show card values. (Not that it has to do with anything.) When challenged on this point, the stationmaster started shouting and being very aggressive.

You’d think that when missing money is visible on the readouts, or the system was down, the stationmaster would put two and two together and have a standard response.

Something like “If there’s a problem with the amount on your card, please contact XYZ” or “Here’s a form if you think the money is missing,” etc.

I guess that’s too much to expect. 

*There are issues with Tumblr notifying me of new posts. Emailing your stories to unsuckdcmetro(at)yahoo(dot)com is the best way to post. Anonymity guaranteed if you so desire.

Other items:
Metrobus driver rack up traffic citations (WTOP)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

'Flagged by Big Brother'

Dec. 21, 2010 bag checks at Braddock Rd. via @deafinthecity.

From anonymous:
I entered the Bethesda Metro after work the other week. As I came to the bottom of the escalators in a crowd of commuters, a security official caught my eye and waved me over to what I'll call the "TSA table."

I complied although another security person a few paces away made sure to remind me!

Having never seen this setup before, I asked amiably if it had something to do with the election.

One replied (and I later learned) that they've been doing this for awhile.

My bags were swabbed down while I waited. After the swab tested positive in their little machine for possible explosive material, several more security personnel were called over to the table. There must have been five or six security people gathered around me. I'm not sure if all of them were TSA, but all seemed armed.

They somewhat awkwardly swabbed my bags down again, and I was told the dog would check my bag before being escorted to the other side of the tunnel where two officers began asking me whether I'd come in contact with hand sanitizer, etc.

They also began writing down my personal information: name, address, phone, place of employment, job title. One officer asked to see my ID. I told him it was in my bag on the other side of the tunnel where they'd left it, and he laughed embarrassed. "Oh, yeah, everyone says that," he said.

They seemed suspicious when I told them I had an out-of-state area code for my cell phone.

After questioning, I was lead back to the TSA table where the embarrassed officer poked through my bags, then let me go.

The officers had this weird mix of friendliness, awkwardness and scrutiny. The whole ordeal was pretty creepy, especially considering the government's ability to detain citizens indefinitely under the NDAA.

Had I known my rights, I might have had more courage to protest this search. Now I'm just left feeling unnerved by the thought that I've been "flagged" by Big Brother.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Three Free Ideas to Make @wmata Better

From Kara:
People often say your blog doesn't offer constructive suggestions. I think they're wrong, and here's one Metro can do now, for free. I know it's not the most important thing facing Metro, but I think it would help.

Break up the Twitter feeds!

The last thing I want to see in the @wmata stream is response after response to every rider with an issue.

I'm not saying ignore riders, but put all that on another feed--@wmatacares or something. Metro is good at coming up with slogans. Maybe Mind Mixer will help---for a fee, of course.
Most of Metro's "help" on Twitter apart from updates of train locations and the reasons for delays isn't really help. Metro pretty much tell riders to contact customer service if they have a complaint.
Keep @wmata service related. That's the number one thing most people want from the Twitter feed, so don't dilute it with so much stuff 99.999 percent of stuff riders don't care about. Quantity does not equal quality.
I don't know about everyone else, but I read the @wmata feed on my cell phone for the most part. Sifting through tens of tweets between @wmata and a customer over some, mostly mundane, problem keeps me from the key information: Are there any delays?
An even more obvious thing for Metro to do would be to make another feed for buses.

Finally, and most importantly, don't sass customers! I've seen it way too many times. @wmata needs to turn the other cheek, even if a rider sasses them.
Anyway, check out @SFBART to see how social media for a mass transit system is done.

Honestly though, I'd rather Metro just work so I'd never have to check twitter about them again.

Other items:
Metro HQ has bed bugs (Examiner)
States running out of money for roads, transit (Examiner)
Stabbing suspects due in court (WaPo)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Metro's 'Big Idea'

Original photo via @julio_gonzalez#wmata's invitation to think..on@WaPoExpress. shall we dance@unsuckdcmetro?

So this whole Momentum/Mind Mixer thing got off to a rocky start. The first accomplishment was to get rude with riders on Twitter. And from there...

At yesterday's board meeting, Metro GM Richard Sarles said the Mind Mixer site had a total of 2,700 unique visitors. He also said the ad pictured above will appear in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean.

From Mike:
So, I opened up the Express and saw Metro is asking me for the next "Big Idea." Really? Don't they have any themselves? Take a look around. Ride the Metro! Read this blog. Tons of no-cost ways to make Metro better right now. Right this instant. I don't get why they spend money to start a conversation that's already happening and has been for years. Maybe if Metro management got out and rode the system a little more, they'd come up with some ideas themselves.

Here's what I'd put in the form: (added to the photo)
From a Metro source:
Why don't you do something on the Office of Long Range Planning. I thought things would get better there after the credit card scandal (details), but they've gotten worse.

They are showered with money they don't know what to do with, so they spend it on stuff like the what if there were no Metro study and websites like Planitmetro and Momentum.

The office does study after study of things that will never happen at Metro. A lot of people around here shake their heads with some of the stuff they come up with. The executive leadership team seems to think it can do no wrong. I guess it gives them more pie in the sky stuff they can "wow" the  board with.

I know for a fact that much of the "conversation" on the Mind Mixer site are people in the planning office. From what I hear, a lot of Metro's highly paid "senior planners" spend a lot of time on the Mind Mixer site talking about things with students and transit geeks about stuff that will never happen at Metro.

I'd be very leery of those sites as the artificially generated "conversation" can easily be turned into anything whim the planning office has. Many feel they are a costly distraction from what should be all about a back to basics movement.
Several other sources at Metro confirm widespread internal suspicion about Metro's planning department.

One of those implicated in the planning department's unbelievable credit card scandal, who later left in its wake, is former WMATA chief planner Nat Bottigheimer. While I can't say for sure it's the same person, someone named "Nat B," from Princeton where Bottighemer now lives, has submitted two ideas to the Mind Mixer site.

One is for a Facebook page for each Metrobus line, and the other is to hold a short film competition about the area's transit future.

Mind mixed!

If you want to make your own Photoshop, here's the blank image.

Other items:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Clocks are Back

VIA@NOTrynaBRude:@unsuckdcmetro So I finally get to see @wmata do something useful with my money. 

Last summer, Metro started installing flat screen monitors throughout the system. For months, they remained off, serving only to to block the kiosk clocks.

Yesterday, some of them appeared to come to life--as clocks.

Hopefully, Metro has more ambitious plans for them, but they've been tight lipped about what these displays will eventually show. 

Other items:
Dull rail board member defends nepotism (Examiner)
DC disputes Metro's account of rock throwing at buses (Examiner)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where's the Dupont Escalator Party Now?

Transit grade: F. New escalators already out of service at Dupont South. #wmata (via @MT2DC) 

It seems like just days ago that Metro's GM Richard Sarles was out at a live streamed ribbon cutting celebration when the Dupont South escalators opened after over eight months of repair.

Actually, it wasn't even a month ago that Sarles said the following:
This project is just one visible example of how we re working to improve safety and reliability throughout the entire Metro system. Thanks to projects like this, along with improved maintenance across the system, we are seeing results. Escalator availability today is above 90 percent, an increase of 8 percent over last year.  
The ever elusive Sarles was nowhere to be seen yesterday when riders reported all three escalators were out during the evening commute.

Here's what Metro riders had to say: 

Other items:
Metro noncommittal about future closures on Veterans/Columbus Day (Examiner)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Automatic Train Operation Coming Soon

Metro is aiming to restore Automatic Train Operation (ATO) on the Red Line December 1, said a source with in-depth knowledge.

ATO, which basically takes the train operator out of the equation and ostensibly provides a smoother ride, was suspended in 2009 after the Ft. Totten crash that killed nine people.

Over the past years, Metro has been replacing hundreds of Automatic Train Control modules along the Red Line. Put simply, the modules are small radios placed along the tracks that tell trains to stop, go, speed up or brake. Fundamentally, they are supposed to keep the trains from colliding. The system failed on June 22, 2009. When working properly, these modules can allow for Automatic Train Operation.

During a Nov. 1 meeting of the Safety and Security Committee meeting, Metro's number two, David Kubicek said "the Red Line, for all practical purposes, is done."

But don't get too excited for smoother rides just yet.

Another action Metro took after the 2009 crash, namely bellying the1000-series cars in a PR stunt, will likely eliminate any smoother ride ATO might offer.

According to another Metro source:
Even though the engineers say they brake and accelerate the same, we out here know better than to buy that line of bullsh*t. All one needs to do is stand on the train in the middle where anything is coupled to a 1000 series. All you hear and feel during [acceleration or braking] is the train couplers bucking, and on some, you actually feel it in your feet.
Oh, and don't get your hopes up for a return to ATO on the other lines any time soon.

At the  Safety and Security Committee meeting, Kubicek said it would be two to three years before ATO could return to the other lines.

He said 900 ATC modules needed to be installed on the Orange and Blue lines while another 220 were needed on the Yellow and Green lines.

Kubicek said the warranty on the new modules was one year, but could not give information about their failure rate when pressed by board member Anthony Giancola.

A source in Metro tells me the failure rates are very high on the new modules. That doesn't mean another crash is iminent, but it could lead to more delays.

"It's brand new stuff, but it's garbage," said a source. "Metro signs the contract and buys it. We're stuck with it. [Vendors] just install it and leave, and the next morning the stuff starts to fail. For all the money we're spending, we should be getting better return on our investment."

As an interesting side note, the Silver Line is being built with Automatic Train Control modules made by a different vendor from the ones Metro is installing.

Other items:
Potomac Yard Metro station could cost half a billion (Business Journal)
MoCo backs away from bus system (Examiner)
Man struck by train lives (Examiner)
Transit groups slams Metro for Veteran's Day service (Patch)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Did Metro Do Something Right?

There have been a lot of positive comments about the new bus seats being spotted on Metrobus lately.

From Brittany:
This morning, my usual D1 (bus 4404) transformed from a regular commuter bus into some sort of posh VIP bus/limo.  While this isn't the lap of luxury, the plush seats are definitely an upgrade from normal Metro plastic. It was an older bus so I'd really love to know when and why this revamp was done. 

Other items: 
No parking at Silver Line stations in Tysons (NBC4)
MoCo looks at bus rapid transit (WTOP)
Metro takes a year to build a staircase, NYC performs 'magic' (NYTimes)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

$1,818 for Public Information!

From C.S.:
It’s no secret that despite great public puffery to the contrary, Metro remains the very prototype of the closed, Stalinist bureaucracy. But even acknowledging that, Metro’s day-by-day tactics in how it executes its shut-out-the-public strategy can still be stupefying,  as recent events have once again shown.

All of which leads to an Unsuck challenge to Metro’s board of directors. More on that in a moment.

Faithful readers will recall that Unsuck filed three public record requests with Metro for information of vital concern to riders. One was about doors on Metrorail cars, which so often don’t work, throwing trains out of service and regularly delaying many thousands of riders. Another was about the affliction of manual train control, and when the system will return to automatic operation.

The third, to which Metro has finally provided a response, was about safety and reliability issues after Metro began the practice of placing its oldest cars in the middle of trains following the fatal Red Line accident. (Still no responses on the other two.)

We filed that third request in July 2010. Compelling rider interest couldn’t be plainer. Safety issues can get you killed, of course. And there has been long-running concern, reiterated again recently, that “bellying” the older cars is contributing to alarmingly low reliability for Metro trains, which causes all manner of delay.

It was 2 years, and over two months after we filed the request – under a Metro public records policy that requires the agency to repond in no more than 20 working days – that Metro recently delivered up a complete response to our request. After lo those nearly 800 days, here’s how it shakes out:

No urgency: Metro’s records policy allows for expedited consideration of requests,  including for matters for which there is “an urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged WMATA government activity.” Despite rider deaths and system meltdowns, Metro said there’s nothing urgent about what we wanted, as it denied Unsuck’s request for expedited treatment. The agency also refused to consider an appeal of its denial.

Nothing to see here: Metro’s policy provides a fee waiver if the information sought is “in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations of WMATA and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.” Even though Unsuck, a free public website with no revenue or paid staff, would have distributed the information publicly; even though local news media regularly pick up on items that Unsuck breaks first; and even though Unsuck provides the most regular, critical coverage of Metro (no brag, just fact) of anyone in Washington, Metro said it could not determine whether the records sought would be disseminated in a way that will contribute to public understanding. (In turning thumbs down, Metro had insisted on independent evaluation of how many hits the Unsuck site receives, even though the agency’s records policy has no such provision. The agency also cited shaky case law to support its position.)

Just pay up: After denying any urgency, and refusing to provide any fee relief, Metro nevertheless deigned to say it would be willing to fulfill the request – just send a certified check or money order for $1,818.

So, folks, that’s the ground game – how Metro puts on its fantasy goggles and twists its own procedures to keep things close to the vest.

So, if as a long-suffering rider, you might like some information about the safety or reliability of the trains you’re riding, not only doesn’t Metro think that’s important, but it also wants to hold you up for the privilege. Metro is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of  dollars of your money to roll out things like its “Forward” or “Rush+” propaganda campaigns. But if you want to learn about things that could kill you, or that regularly delay your travel, sometimes for hours, then you’ve got to pay extortion to the same outfit that creates the problems.

All of which leads to the Metro directors challenge.

Plainly, the Metro staff, headed by cloaker-in-chief Richard Sarles, is out of control (on this and so many things) and will do what it wants. That leaves only the board.

Unsuck will now provide all the details of this request to each of Metro’s directors. We’ll ask them to stick up for the riders they represent. We’ll ask them to request in their own name, under authority of their position as director, the exact same material that Unsuck has sought, and to provide it to Unsuck if they get it.

We’ll see if even one director has the guts to step forward. (It’s worth noting, even though some directors don’t seem to understand, that the Metro staff works for the board, and not the other way around.)

And we’ll name names and let you know the results.

Also by C.S.

Other items:
Interesting article on Metro's legal status (Maryland injury Lawyer)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rider Declares Independence from Metro

From Paul:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the bands which have connected him with his mass transit system, and to find alternate routes to work, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Travel and of Travel’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of the DC Metro area requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Metro customers are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are timeliness, safety, and a cost-efficient means of transportation.--That to secure these rights, mass transit systems are instituted among cities, deriving their just powers from the appropriate governing body, --That whenever any mass transit system becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of an aggrieved person to forego mass transit as a means of transportation, and to drive to work, thus maximizing  their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that mass transit systems long utilized should not be abandoned for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer delays, while delays are sufferable, than to right themselves by finding alternative means of transportation. But when a long train of delays and fare hikes, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to inconvenience riders without relief, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such forms of travel, and to provide alternate means of transportation for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these riders; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former method of going to work. The history of the present Metro Rail System is a history of repeated injuries and even deaths, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Incompetency. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Metro has refused an open accounting of its internal deliberations.
Metro has instituted a bizarre and cruel pick system for escalator repair, thus causing such repairs to be of an unduly long duration.
Metro has repeatedly caved to the local union, thus enabling boorish, discourteous and even illegal behavior among its employees.
Metro has increased fares with no corresponding improvement in service.
Metro officials repeatedly deny malfeasance, its public relations representatives insisting that, to quote Kevin Bacon in Animal House, “all is well.”
Metro service has continually deteriorated, to the point where riders must now factor excessive delays into their travel time.
Metro officials refuse to provide adequate security, rendering certain stations and sections of the system completely unsafe for travel.
Metro’s flawed initial design and lack of a third rail means that future systems will be insufficient, and riders will continue to experience lengthy and unnecessary delays.

For these and other causes, and because now I have a parking pass and can drive to work, I consider myself a free and independent rider.
Signed this 31st day of October, 2012, AD.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stopping Optional

Monday, November 5, 2012

Riders Report Early Metro Shutdown


Did Metro really close at 2 a.m. on Saturday/Sunday despite saying they would close at 3?

Several riders reported getting stranded. WTOP tweeted that Metro apparently had a change of plans at the last minute.

Maybe Metro forgot to turn their clocks back.

Other items:
Metro will go for emergency funds to pay for Sandy shutdown if available (Examiner)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Communication Problems Continue to Plague Metro

Via @Mags4059: @wmata fail. DuPont circle metro @unsuckdcmetro

 From Teo:
My evening commute from Judiciary Square to Bethesda generally takes 40 minutes, but yesterday, it took over an hour and a half.

Part of the reason was an apparent track fire near the Friendship Heights station and the accompanying single tracking.

Part of it was a breakdown in communication between Metro and its customers--and other Metro employees, it seems.

Almost immediately after getting on the train, we were informed that we would be single tracking because of the fire, so we did the customary long waits in the stations with the doors open.
However, once we got to Tenleytown, the train operator informed us that she had been asked to run express past the next few stations but that the train directly behind her would run all stations.

I got off and waited for the next train.

I got on that one and went one stop when the train operator of that second train informed us that he would be running express to Grosvenor, but that the next train would run all stops, so I once again exited the train.

The third train finally entered the station and ... didn't stop, but rather went right through.

The Friendship Heights platform was getting pretty crowded by now.

Then the fourth train came through the station and also didn't stop.

Finally, I got on the fifth train of my evening and took the train the one mile to Bethesda.

Assuming they weren't lying to us, why wasn't there better communication between the drivers and central on this issue?

Had I known I'd be stuck at Friendship Heights as trains bypassed the station, I would have likely gotten out and taken a bus or a cab home. I could've even done that the first time I disembarked a train under false pretenses at Tenleytown.

Oh, and to top it all off, once I got to Bethesda, one of the escalators was temporarily stairs and the other escalator came to a screeching halt halfway up the ride.

Glad I had the privilege of paying the $3.50 fare for all that excitement.
Other items:
Great Toles cartoon (WaPo)
Full Automatic Train Control years away (Examiner)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reprogramming Faregates: 'Not Hard at All'

Dan Stessel told the Washington Post that Metro didn't "have enough time to reprogram the fare structure to match this afternoon’s service level" on Tuesday when the system reopened. Consequently, riders were charged peak (rush hour) fares between 3 and 7 p.m. while only receiving Sunday levels of service.

I read Stessel's comment to mean Metro didn't want to charge rush hour fares, but that it just couldn't be helped.

A tipster in Metro told me they didn't think Stessel was telling the truth.

"They 'reprogram' the faregates four times every weekday, again late night Friday, again Saturday, again late night Saturday and again Sunday and Monday," they wrote in an email. "I don't know the details, but it doesn't make sense that it's some complicated thing."

So I checked with another source deeply familiar with Metro's revenue operations.

"How hard of a process is it [to change over the faregates]?" I asked.

"Not hard at all. It is done on-line from a central location," the source said.

"How long does it take?" I asked.

"Maybe 10 minutes," said the source, adding "Metro does not want to lose the money."

I emailed Stessel asking for an explanation of the process to reprogram the faregates. He did not respond.

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