Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is MetroForward Making Any Difference?

We're coming up on two years of enduring MetroForward, Metro's "rebuilding" project. The self-congratulatory PR (look we fixed some tiles)  has been constant, but what about the results? There's no doubt Metro needed serious work, but have Metro managers, in their zeal to spend capital funds, lost track of Metro's mission?

We've tolerated weekend closures, bus bridges, endless single tracking, weeknight track work, mid-day trackwork, single tracking on Columbus Day and Veteran's Day when a lot of people still have to work. A lot of people I know have simply given up on Metro and are likely never to go back.

Metro has spent hundreds of millions on MetroForward, but is it paying off? Are they just placing new equipment on top of a rotten foundation--namely a completely ineffectual board of directors? Is there ever going to be an "ah-ha" moment when things suddenly get better?

By the looks of the daily disruption reports,  number of derailments, train malfunctions and switch malfunctions along with numerous cases of trapped riders, it's hard to see much, if any, improvement.

One Metro source explained that trying to maintain Metro is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you finish, you have to go back and start painting again. Metro itself admits that there are likely at least several more years of these kinds of service cuts, particularly on the weekends. Is this the new norm? No one is talking about that.

What do you think?

Monday, April 29, 2013

In Tough Economic Times, it's Important to Cherish Your Job

Other items:
DC plans to expand Circulator (Examiner)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Watch Out Pedestrians! Metro's Culture of Safety is Coming

Thursday, April 25, 2013

An Ugly Scene

From Paul:

On April 17, at about 8:30 p.m., I entered the Potomac Ave. Metro stop.  As I walked down the escalator to the platform, I heard the scream of a little girl.  I quickly walked past a dozen or so passengers waiting for their train, seemingly oblivious to the death cry from this young girl.

About halfway down the platform, I saw a woman with two young children -- maybe 7 and 4 years old -- sitting on a concrete bench.  With an open hand and her forearm, she attacked the older child over her face and head, again and again.  The girl screamed and tears streamed down her face.

I ran over to the woman.  "Stop," I yelled.  "You're beating your child!"

The woman stopped and looked up at me.  "This is none of your business," she huffed, pushing her child away from her.

"Yes it is my business.  You cannot hit your child."

"Well," she said, "I am teaching her a lesson."

"I don't care," I told her.  "It's one thing to spank her on the butt, but this is different.  This is abuse."

"I can deal with my child however I want."

"No you can't," I told her, my voice straining.  "It is illegal to hit your child."

"No it's not," she responded.

I turned away from the woman and ran down the platform, past the dozen obvious people, up the escalator, and to the manager's station.  I knocked on the window and went around to the door.  The station manager opened it.

"This woman down there is beating her child," I told him, nearly out of breath.

"I thought I heard a girl screaming," he said.

The manger walked out of his booth and I followed him as he walked down the escalator and towards the woman.  At that point, a train heading into town pulled up and the doors opened.

"That's her," I told the manager, pointing to the woman with the two children.  "She's getting on the train."

We jogged to the door, where we were joined by another Metro employee.  She asked what was going on and I quickly explained the situation.  The manager signaled to the train driver to stop, but either the driver did not see the signal or he did not care, because the doors began to close.

I quickly stepped onto the train, along with the other Metro employee.  She punched the emergency call button near us and spoke into the radio -- I don't know what she said, but shortly after, the train departed towards Capitol South.

Looking at the woman with her two children, I explained in further detail about what I had seen.  I pleaded with her to alert Metro police so they could arrest this woman at the next stop, but she said there was nothing she could do.  She opened her phone and tried to make a call, but apparently there was no service because she put the phone back into her pocket.

At that point, the woman with the two children began defending herself, claiming the same excuses as before -- she was teaching her child a lesson, this was none of my business, etc.  While she spoke, I looked at the two little girls and apologized for what they were going through.  They looked helpless and afraid.  Bruises spotted the older girl's face and dried tears lined her cheeks.  If this woman would attack her child in public, I could not imagine what she would do in the privacy of their home.

As the train approached Eastern Market, the woman stood up and walked towards the door with her children in tow.

"She's going to get off at this stop," I told the Metro employee.

"Because this is my stop," the woman said, her voice cold and defensive.

When the train stopped and the doors opened, she ran out of the train and into a train that had stopped in the opposite direction.  Both the Metro and employee and I followed her out of the train.

"Please stop that train," I pleaded, pointing at the woman.  "She's going to get away."

The Metro employee repeated that there was nothing she could do.

"I'm not able to stop service," she said.

I ran towards the door and for a split second considered following the woman.  It was no use, though -- I did not have the power to arrest her myself and I don't get phone service on the train.  My best bet, I figured, was to follow the Metro employee to the manager's station and report what I had seen.  Perhaps they could arrest her at another stop.

I watched as the doors shut and the train pulled away.  Then I turned and followed the Metro employee up the escalator and to the manager's station.  She took my name and number, and then picked up the phone and reported what had happened.  To her credit, she described the woman and her two children in much greater detail than I could have.  She spoke with emotion in her voice, explaining that the older girl had bruises all over her face.

I waited at the manager's station for about thirty minutes, talking with the Metro employee and three different plain clothed Metro agents.  All of them were angered by what I told them and insisted that she would be apprehended.  Eventually, the Metro employee opened the manager's door and told me that the woman had been "cleared."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"They stopped the train at Benning Road and found her, but the agent let her go.  He said he didn't see any signs of abuse."

I could not believe it.  "So that's it?"

"Yeah," she said, nodding her head.

The three plain clothed agents shook their heads, clearly irritated, but seemingly powerless to do anything.

"Can't you pull up the video from Potomac Ave.?" I asked.  "There are cameras everywhere."

"We'll file a report, but right now, there's nothing more we can do," the employee told me again.

I left my card with her, walked down the escalator, and boarded the next train into town.  Later that night, when I returned to the Potomac Ave. Metro station, I asked the station manager if they were able to apprehend the woman.

"We've filed a report," the manager said.

"That's it?" I asked.

"That's all we can do," he said.

Once I got home, I called the DC child abuse hotline and reported what I had seen.  Apparently, the police will open an investigation.  It should not be hard to find this woman, though.  There is a camera directly above where she had been hitting her child.  I am willing and able to serve as a witness against her.

You can report child abuse or neglect 24 hours a day, seven days a week to 202-671-SAFE (7233). 

Other items:
MetroAccess driver arrested for sexual assault (WMATA)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Riders Trapped Yet Again in Another Derailment Close Call

From Chris:
I enjoyed being trapped on Metro's Red Line last night (April 22) for over 35 minutes on a broken down train just outside Van Ness station.

We were told by operator, we were single tracking but that wasn't the case. We were finally off-loaded through one of the last cars, apparently there was a track issue or a wheel had derailed. But of course Metro never told us what was going on.

Plus the rude Metro workers just made the evening/morning so much fun.
According to a Metro source, the train ran a red light at the Van Ness-UDC interlocking at around 11:30 p.m.

"They had to let people out of the back of the train, then back the train up," the source said. "The train stopped before hitting the 3 switch, which was laying for a reverse move, which would have derailed the train."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Metro Even Endangers Non-Riders

From Brian:

Dear Mr. Sarles,

I wrote to you back on January 14 about your Metrobuses blocking fire hydrants on 9th Street N. in Arlington (Ballston). I wrote after you solicited feedback from riders on a local radio station.
I thought you took this serious in that you had the bus GM contact me, [who said] corrective action would be taken, and he promised that this would not happen again, and more importantly, it would be monitored.

Imagine my disgust and disappointment when around 4:40 p.m, April 22 again a bus (#2170) was parked on the fire hydrant and left unoccupied.

In your bus GM's word this is a gross safety violation and in my mind puts thousands of residents in danger should their be a fire at the high rises, mine included, and the hydrant cannot be accessed.

I sadly believed your bus GM when he promised it would be monitored. I don't know why I did, as it seems that is not the case and the takeaway would be all WMATA does is lie.

I await your response.


Brian added that the bus GM apologized profusely back in January, mainly for the fire hydrant issue and agreed it was a huge safety issue. The GM told him the operator was identified and instructed not to park there. He also promised that all the Ballston operators would be told the same thing and Metro staff would monitor it.

Other items: 
Metro does what Metro wants (Examiner)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kudos to an Outstanding Operator

Sorry for the service disruption. 

I appreciated the many concerned emails. 

Just to confirm, I was not kidnapped by Metro's PR staff. ;)

From Raphaela:
I know that often, there are many complaints of rude or unprofessional Metro operators, station managers, and other workers. Combine this with the frequent mechanical failures, and one’s experience with riding Metro can be downright dreadful.

I want to take this time to highlight the exemplary customer service of one Metro operator who handled a bad situation very well and was courteous throughout the entire trip. I hope that others follow his example.

I was on waiting for the Blue Line train the other day around 5:15 p.m. at McPherson Square. The train I boarded started to have problems with the door closing. Mind you, it had already taken 6 minutes for that train to arrive at the station, so the platform was already packed.
After several attempts, without any update from that particular train operator, the train had to be offloaded. 
The next Blue Line train arrived two minutes later.
The operator on this train was very professional and tried to inform everyone that he would provide enough time for passengers to exit and board. He politely and continually asked the crowd to be patient and board in an orderly fashion.  In the subsequent stops, including Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza, he kept updating the crowd on the platform of the situation regarding the crowded train and asked that passengers please let others exit first. He also informed everyone when he would be closing the doors. Overall, he was explicit in his instructions and requests, as well as polite the entire time.

When the train finally got to Largo Town Center, the train operator exited the train and began to apologize to every individual he saw, saying sorry for the inconvenience and the delays. He never once expressed an ounce of frustration or impatience. He was very kind and polite.

I understand that it is frustrating when there are mechanical delays on the Metro, but sometimes, the attitudes of its workers exacerbate the issue. This train operator was very professional and I appreciate his level of customer service. He made a delayed and crowded trip a lot more manageable for passengers.

Other items:
Board members don't ride Metro (Examiner)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Things Never Change at Metro

Via Leah on April 8 on Facebook

Update: Metro says this operator was "fired" on March 27.

Metro can create a big buzz among the local media with a video about one station enhancement that may or may not happen years down the road, but...

Other items:
Metro to Blue Line Riders:      (Examiner)
Horrible harassment case (CASS)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Metro Board Does Not Have Your Back

From CS:
Regular readers will recall that Unsuck has been working for nearly three years to pry vital safety and rider information out of WMATA via a series of public record requests (covering railcar doors, automatic train control, and the practice of “bellying” older and more dangerous cars in the middle of trains).

After agency staff utterly stonewalled our requests, violating their own policy and asking that we pay tens of thousands of dollars in costs for what should be public information, we recently turned to the supposed ultimate bosses, WMATA directors, for help.

We asked each of them (less one for whom we did not have an address), in their capacity as a board member with oversight responsibility for the transit system, to request from WMATA staff the same information we have sought in our requests, and then share the information with us, so that we could distribute it publicly right here.

We thought that new, highly trumpeted, reform-minded directors might seize a chance to liberate information important to riders and the capital region.

We thought at least some directors would understand that in the end, transparency really is a good thing for all concerned, and see that leveling with riders is the best course.

We hoped that among the bunch of them, at least one would be committed enough to stick their neck out and put riders first.

We were wrong.

And wrong.

And wrong.

Not a single one responded.

Never mind that no one said they’d help. We didn’t even get a single acknowledgment. Not even the pablum of, “Thank you for your concerns. We want to assure you that safety is our highest priority…” or some such thing. And keep in mind these folks are politicians – they ordinarily leap at the chance to blather about their commitment to public concerns.

Thus, it appears that the capture of the would-be reformers is now complete. Recall that after the preventable, fatal Red Line accident, a new slate of “tough” directors was supposed to keep more attentive watch over transit system operations.

But today, the WMATA echo chamber is working better than ever before. The staff tells the directors what a great job the staff is doing, and the directors chime in to sing the staff’s praises. Everyone is pleased.

During recent meetings, for example, the directors have been atwitter with praise about the new “safety culture” they say has taken hold, and the success of the rebuilding program.

Then, like clockwork, comes something like the latest derailment (an out-of-service Red Line train, as it was leaving a rail yard Saturday) or another in the series of track problems, power problems, and all manner of other problems that seem to be increasing, not decreasing, in frequency, judging by the daily service alerts.

A full discussion is for another day, but I’ve reluctantly come to believe that the only solution left is for Metro directors to be directly elected by voters in the member jurisdictions.

Otherwise, no one’s ever accountable. And the assortment of pols and other hacks, often on their way to somewhere else, that pose as “leaders” is just not up to the job of staring down Metro managers. WMATA management may not be able to run a safe, reliable transit system, but they certainly know how to take care of themselves. And management will continue to win as long as the best Metro directors can do is lay back, paws in the air, and ask for a belly rub from the staff they're supposed to command.

Other items: 
New Twinbrook garage has cracks (Examiner)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Metro Escalator Boss to Run Rails

According to the Washington Post, Rodrigo Bitar, general superintendent for Metro’s escalator and elevator division will be promoted to assistant general manager for the agency’s transit infrastructure and engineering services division. He'll run the rails, essentially.

Totally makes sense.

According to the Post:
Bitar joined Metro in 2008 and worked on the quality assurance group, which supported the 2000, 3000 and 5000 series rail cars. Those rail cars have had troubles with brake parts falling off of them.

We all know Metro's escalator and elevators are a shambles. Even the new, "transit grade" escalators at Foggy Bottom and Dupont South, break way more often than they should.

Below is Bitar's track record for this month alone.

Other items: 
Metro to install glow-in-the-dark signs to prevent self evacuation (Examiner)
Silver Spring transit center opening more than a year away (Examiner)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Only at Metro are Bus Routes Optional

From Debra:

I've been commuting on the J5 route for over three years.  It leaves from a Silver Spring bus bay six times in the morning and from Twinbrook Metro station six times in the afternoon/evening.

Almost everyday in the evening the 5:08 pm and the 6:13 pm buses (this is the last bus) never show up!

This has been going on for months.

I've talked with a supervisor who always says "those buses are always caught up in traffic on the beltway."

But when I ask other drivers about that route, they say that no driver is dedicated to that route. They come in and pick routes from a board.  If they find another route that pays them more money, i.e. overtime, shift differential, they'll take that route versus the J5, and the route goes uncovered.

It's a limited route, if you can't find drivers to make sure the route is covered Monday-Friday why even have it at all? A lot of private industry and federal workers take this bus.  Why drive on the beltway if the bus can take you there?

When the last bus doesn't come, a lot of people can't make their connections to other buses they need to get home and end up paying for taxis.

Metro, are you going to cover that tab?  Because it seems you're covering little else.

Other items:
Metro says they'll replace 4000-series cars (WaPo)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Metro Holds Riders Hostage--Again

Metro had yet another derailment Saturday night, leaving riders stranded yet again for over an hour without any communication. Metro told the Post it was a non-passenger train.

In recent months, Metro has held riders hostage on the Orange Line, Green Line and now on the Red Line.

And of course, a derailment is a pretty serious event, even if no one was hurt. I think it's just a matter of time.

I don't understand why local politicians refuse to see just how bad Metro is. Instead, if the Metro board discusses this event at all, it will most likely be a long back slapping celebration of how no one was injured.

The derailment was not the only incident this weekend.

From Susan:
Was stranded on a disabled metro train underground near Tenleytown from 12:30 a.m. 2 a.mm Sunday with hundreds of others.
I'm not upset that the train broke down-things happen. But we had no communication about what to expect. Police and a supervisor finally boarded the train (after 60+ minutes) after another train attempted to push us and failed.
We had to walk through all the train cars to board another train behind us and then go back to Tenleytown and switch trains again.
You think they'd have a communication and action plan by now on how to deal with disabled trains.
People were crossing between cars and peeing behind the door because we didn't know how long we'd be trapped.

Here are some reports from FixWMATA, who was caught up in the mess.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

On Vacation for the Rest of the Week

I'll be on vacation for about 10 days barring some major Metro news.

I'll keep the Facebook and Twitter active.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Site Meter