Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is Rush+ Over on the Orange Line?

From Brian:
Just an open question from an Orange Line rider (East Falls Church station). 
Over the past few months, it seems like the frequency of trains going into DC has slowed.  I get on around 7:30 a.m. each day, and lately I've gotten onto an already crowded train that's 5-6 minutes after the preceding train, and the monitor shows another 5-7 minutes until the next one comes.  Granted, there are other windows where a train might be 2-3 minutes behind, but all in all, it sure seems like WMATA has quietly reduced the number of trains coming through. 

This link about the Silver Line says there would be 19 Orane Line trains per hour during Rush Plus.  I really have a hard time believing that there are 19 Orange Line trains per hour right now. 
I have a job and don't have time to monitor this, but I'm curious if anyone has the ability or wherewithal to simply plant themselves at one of the Arlington Orange Line stations (Clarendon, EFC, whatever) and simply count the number of inbound trains from, say, 7:00-9:00 a.m. 
If WMATA is correct, then 38 trains should come through over that 2-hour period, give or take one or two.  I dunno; just curious if anyone else has noticed anything, and I'm weary from being on one packed train after another.

Editor's Note: Posting is going to be hit or miss for the next little while as real life has been encroaching on Unsuck time.

Other items:
Ride Metro at your own risk (Examiner)
Ridership continues to fall (Examiner)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dating Via Emergency Intercom?

Photo via @nevermindtheend

From Jim:

I saw the STRANGEST thing this morning!

I was at the back of the very last car on a train from Silver Spring to downtown. At one of the next stops, a guy gets on, presses the emergency intercom button at the back of the car and starts chatting up the train driver.
"Hey, baby, this is Cooper.  Remember Cooper? Yeah, so, how are you?"

He obviously knew her from somewhere and was "interested," but she didn't remember him as much as he thought she would.

The driver was clearly flabbergasted and said "What, huh? Who is this? Can I help you?"

"Cooper, baby, it's Cooper. How you doin'?"

Eventually, she just said,"OK. Hi. OK. Have a nice day" and cut off the conversation.

That was new. I've seen people use the intercoms to ask for directions to the museum or whatnot, but that was new.

Other items:
Pedestrian killed by Metrobus (Examiner)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Does the Transit Subsidy Make Metro Worse?

From Steve:
I live in Arlington and commute to DC on Metro daily. So does my roommate.

I pay every cent of my Metro costs out of my pocket. No pretax discount, and my employer doesn't chip in a dime. My roommate, on the other hand, is a federal worker and doesn't have to pay a single cent of his own money for his daily commute on Metro.

Our levels of frustration with Metro are quite different as a result.

My question is whether or not Metro would be better if it couldn't count on 40 percent of its riders being heavily subsidized. Shouldn't Metro have to compete for all riders rather than just counting on a large chunk of riders saying "I know it sucks, but at least it's free." (Yes, I know Metro is not completely free for all federal workers.)
Another reason to question the subsidy is that it allows Metro to raise fares with very little grumbling from a huge portion of the ridership. I just don't think that's a fair system.
I ask this question in all seriousness. It's obvious that Metro needs some kind of fundamental changes at the very foundation, and I'd like to know what others out there think about this particular topic.
Other items: 
False alarm evacuates McPherson Square (Examiner)
Metro workers lends helping hand (Fox)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just How Safe are the Trains?

From Steve:
I experienced something alarming on my Metro train the morning of May 9 that I'd like to report.

I was traveling on the Red Line between Union Station and Silver Spring. Silver Spring was the final stop of this train, as it was reversing and going back into the District. I was in car number 4088, and it was the train the arrived at Silver Spring at 8:38 a.m.

Around Ft. Totten, a Metro employee who appeared to be some sort of an inspector entered the rear of my car from the last car and contacted the train operator on his radio.
He told the operator the last car had brake problems and that he needed to keep his braking "below B3." Further down the line, as we approached Silver Spring, the inspector contacted the operator again and told him, "Come on, man, I need you to hold that braking to below B3. I want to try to get this train back over the line."
The operator apologized and said something about "overspeeding." The inspector said, "Then keep your speed 5 miles below the limit to keep from overspeeding." The operator responds that "it just changed by itself."

The fact that the train was having some sort of braking problems that warranted the operator to drive below the listed speed, and that when talking about the train's speed the operator said "it just changed by itself," and that despite all this the train continued to carry passengers, are alarming to say the least.

Other items:
Metro "fires" two workers for stealing (Examiner)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Happy Bike to Work Day from Metro

From Joseph:

I was riding my bike home on May 17 at 5:50 p.m.  I was on M St. going straight near the Key Bridge. The D5 bus #2387 merged left and almost hit me. 
The driver then looked out his window and began yelling.  He used a lot of profanity. 
He stated that bikes belong on the sidewalk and that I better get out of the road and on the sidewalk or he was going to hit me.  This was while he was still driving. 

Other items:
Two new Metro entrances coming to Pentagon City (Examiner)
Riders ask for better refund policy (GGW)

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Open Letter to Dr. Gridlock

Washington Post reporters talk with Metro GM Richard Sarles during a Google+ Hangout. Via: The Washington Post

From Fake Dr. Gridlock:


I am writing as a reader and a daily Metro commuter who is fed up on two fronts. I'm fed up with the lousy deteriorating service provided by WMATA, and I'm even more fed up with the lousy coverage provided by Dr. Gridlock and the transit team over at the Washington Post. I'm not even sure I should even call it coverage, because it barely even scratches the surface.

On Tuesday, May 14, there was an mini-explosion and fire on a Red Line train outside of Silver Spring. After writing an initial story on the incident, there was absolutely no follow up in the Dr. Gridlock blog as of Thursday. After the Green Line meltdown a few month ago, Dr Gridlock said Metro needed to improve communications during situations like this. The Red Line incident was a perfect test for Metro to prove they were fulfilling their promise. Metro failed miserably. Not only was there a giant, restless crowd outside of Takoma station, but Metro's Twitter feed had the nerve to actually blame the fire department for the delays. Dr Gridlock decided it wasn't necessary to call out Metro for failing to fulfill it's promise of better communication. The Dr Gridlock team was able to write about important stories like a crosswalk opening and Captain America being filmed in town. Another mini-story that came of the Red Line fire that has been picked up by other local outlets (but not Metro loyalist Dr. Gridlock) was that Metro's Twitter (run by self-proclaimed Twitter guru and social media trailblazer) blocked prominent critic FixWmata for calling them out for thanking the fire department after blaming them for the delays at least five times. Both stories portray Metro in a negative light and were ignored for trivial matters.

Most of the articles regarding Metro (track work, etc) are eerily similar to press releases put on the Metro website. When there is an article "covering" an incident at Metro, most of the articles don't do anything more than report what happened through the eyes of Metro. They will report what happened, ask Dan Stessel, Metro spokesman, for comment and leave it at that. A good deal of the time, Stessel is not being honest (he has a terrible track record with the truth). Dr. Gridlock does nothing to ever follow up or pressure him when he's being dishonest. He just takes it at face value. This is not journalism. And this SHOULD be embarrassing for the Washington Post. This is the same newspaper that was instrumental in uncovering Watergate. Could you imagine if those reporters just dropped everything at "I asked Nixon's press secretary about it, and he said there is nothing to see here." If Dr. Gridlock and Dana Hedgpeth were pulling their weight, the LEAST they could do was develop a relationship with sources at Metro to find out what is going on. Dr. Gridlock is very supportive of weekend track work. What he fails to notice is the sections that are "repaired" over the weekend often cause problems the following Monday. Same goes for the escalators. There is a system of sheer incompetence at Metro that he fails to even address, let alone investigate. I don't think he's mentioned once the fact that there is almost no accountability whatsoever at Metro. Metro's union has a stranglehold over disciplinary measures, making it borderline impossible to get fired. Yet these problems are never brought up.

Furthermore, Dr. Gridlock's interaction with readers is pathetic. His Twitter consists of nothing other than promoting his articles and retweeting Metro. His weekly chats, which should have SOME value, are completely worthless. A week after some passengers were injured when an escalator panel fell off, Dr. Gridlock spent the majority of the chat discussing with riders how far apart cars should be spaced at a red light. I couldn't possibly make this one up. There couldn't be a more inconsequential, ridiculous, and irrelevant subject to discuss, yet Dr. Gridlock felt like this was more important than riders being injured by an escalator. In the last week, Dr. Gridlock offered a steadfast defense of Metro's out-of-touch decision to remodel the Bethesda Metro Station. Despite the fact that 67 percent of riders polled were against this decision, and the vast majority of comments reacted negatively to this decision, Dr. Gridlock and friends classified this as "some riders" being opposed to the idea. He is deliberately misrepresenting the feelings of the riders with this nonsense. And last weekend, Metro was unbearable. People would wait 30 minutes for a train if they were lucky. So were these items discussed? Of course not. Waze and I-66 message boards took priority.

I'm not asking Dr. Gridlock to be as negative as, say, UnsuckDCMetro or FixWMATA, but it sure would be nice to feel like he has the riders back once in a while. It would be nice if just once in a while, he'd do a better job following up, calling the PR department out on their misleading/dishonest statements, and doing some investigative journalism for once. As the newspaper industry is having financial troubles, I have to ask if you have considered the fact that Dr. Gridlock gets outdone on the reporting front by UnsuckDCMetro, who is an UNPAID BLOGGER. UnsuckDCMetro reports on Metro as a hobby, and has been able to break more meaningful stories more frequently than the Washington Post, has been able to develop relationships with sources inside Metro, without being paid a penny. Meanwhile, you are paying a full year's salary and benefits to a guy who does little more than parrot Metro PR talking points and discuss irrelevant topics such as car spacing at a red light. Not only should the Washington Post's journalism department be embarrassed, but their financial department should be as well.

I have to ask whether the soft coverage is the result of a cozy relationship the Washington Post has with Metro. In addition to the Post having an agreement in terms of The Express distribution outside Metro Stations, they have even teamed up to host events. The Post hosted a media event "Conquering the Commute" which was sponsored by Metro. Of course, nothing of importance to improving Metro was discussed, and notably absent from the panels was anyone who is critical of Metro. They had nobody to counterbalance David Alpert, a strong Metro Apologist, (who also writes articles for The Post, and has been given guest blogging duties by Dr. Gridlock) who has no background in transit or planning whatsoever. Of course, nobody can forget the Google + hangout with Dr. Gridlock and Richard Sarles, where he was, asked a series of laughable, softball questions, most notably "Why are some platforms on the center and others on the side?" This is unacceptable. This is not journalism, and you, as Dr. Gridlock's superiors, should be embarrassed. Metro is becoming increasingly unreliable and unsafe. If things keep going this way, its not a question of if someone will be fatally wounded by Metro negligence, its when someone will be fatally wounded. Dr. Gridlock does not represent the interests, safety, and wishes of Metro riders. In two months, Kytja Weir and Liz Essley will be let go from the Washington Examiner. Personally, I'm not a fan of the Examiner because I find their political writings to be extreme. But these two young ladies do a phenomenal job when it comes to covering Metro.  They have sources, they acquire records and comb through them. They probably do more work in a week than Dr. Gridlock and friends do in four months. If Dr. Gridlock doesn't want to change his approach to covering metro, I'd be glad to recommend these two to replace him and Dana Hedgpeth. You would get a lot more value out of real journalism.


Fire Dr. Gridlock
Fancy pants Washington Post

Other items:
Metro to roll out short trip passes (WMATA)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Silver Line Sticker Shock?

Photo via: wfyurakso

From Timothy:

Residents of Reston anticipating the opening of the Silver Line late this year, may be in for a surprise as the cost of the daily commute will jump significantly.

The first phase of the Silver Line will start at Wiehle Avenue. At present, Reston residents can travel from this area with free parking, a net bus fare of $1.10 (taking in account the 50-cent transfer discount) to West Falls Church and a train fare of $3.95 to Metro center or $4.30 to Union Station. The total daily round-trip communing cost to these stations is $10.10 to $10.80.
Once the Silver Line opens, free parking will vanish. If other Fairfax County park-and-ride lots are any indication, the daily cost of parking will be set at $4.75. According to Metro representatives at recent open houses, the train fare from Wiehle Avenue to downtown DC will be at the maximum rate of $5.75.

The round trip cost of commuting to people parking will increase to $16.25 – a jump of about 50 to 60 percent. For those who take a bus to Wiehle Avenue, it will be $13.70, an increase of 26 to 35 percent. Those who are able avoid parking and buses with a drop and roll at the kiss and ride will see an increase of 33 to 45 percent.

Anyway you cut it, the convenience of the Metro will come at a cost.

Other items: 
Metro explains Red Line fire cause (WMATA)
WMATA blocks Twitter user (WUSA)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

'Fire Department Activity' Open Thread

Seems like whenever I take some time off, Metro has a big meltdown or, in this case, a flame out.

Metro originally called the incident "fire department activity."

Here's the Examiner's take and here's the WaPo's take.

Were you there? Were you caught up in the post-fire mess? How'd Metro handle it?

Friday, May 10, 2013

See Something? Wake Someone Up!


I wonder if Metro will be able to identify this guy so he can be awarded a two-week paid vacay.

Unsuck will be off Monday and Tuesday.

Other items:
Metro orders wrong parts for escalators (WaPo)
Metro won't pay Jim Graham's legal bills (Examiner)
Those in Purple Pine path put on notice (WaPo)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Metro Pooper

From Wes:
This past Friday, at 1:15 p.m., I encountered an unusual sight on the Farragut North Metro escalator.

As I was descending the second set of escalators to head down toward the trains, I noticed a station manager standing at the bottom of the escalator directing everyone to stay to the right. At the bottom of the moving escalator was what appeared to be human feces. It was moving.

The poo was caught between the steps and the comb plate, the poo was actually spinning due to the escalator's motion! It was strange looking, hilarious and stinky!! Anyway, I had to take a few photos of the spinning poo.

A few moments later the station manger stopped the escalator and placed an orange cone, marking the poo for any unaware travelers.

My train arrived shortly thereafter, so I do not know outcome of any of this crap!
Other items:
Moms say Metro police beat their kids (Examiner)
Circulator system could be expanded (WaPo)
Circulator fares could double (WaPo)
Metro's hiring protocols defended by board member (FixWMATA)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Doors Close with No Warning, Trap, Injure Rider

From Erica:
Last Thursday, May 2nd, at about 11:30 a.m. (Not rush hour),  I was waiting for a train to U Street at L'Enfant Plaza.  The platform was almost empty, and there were three others standing with me when the train stopped.

The doors opened, and they were open for about 30 seconds, just long enough for the three others to walk on (no one got off).

Then, as I was walking on, the doors slammed SHUT.  WITHOUT WARNING! No warning chimes.  No warning recording.

I couldn't get out. I was scared the train was going to start moving. Both my hand and leg were jammed and being squeezed so hard, I couldn't walk for a couple of minutes after the doors opened.

I have bruises on my hand and leg, and my hand was actually bleeding.

Of course, the guy driving the train didn't care. He yelled me.

The station manager didn't care, and merely threw a piece of paper at me and said, "If you have a complaint, fill this out and send it it."  He wouldn't event talk to me.  He walked away and shut the door of his cubicle.

Is there a reason why Metro employees are so miserable and surly?  And what is Metro's responsibility in this situation?  I want to know who that conductor was, and I want to see that he has been punished in some way.

Other items:
15 percent of Metro employees scared to report safety concerns (Examiner)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Frustration Calling Metro Transit Cops

From Josh:
This past Friday morning, while passing the Naylor Road station, I noticed something was up.

 Four, twenty-something ladies had another twenty-something lady encircled.  It appeared they all knew each other, and their discussion was becoming more volatile. 

As I passed the group, it became more physical with the women pulling each others' hair.  Since Metro is always saying "see something, say something," I called the WMATA police on (202) 962-2121.

After 30 seconds of ringing, I hung up and checked the number.

I called again and waited for another minute before the operator finally took my call and sent an officer.

In the normal world, if you need help, you can call the police by dialing the universally easy to remember number--911.  By calling 911 from your cell phone, the police can locate you using the enhanced 911 service.

In the WMATA world, you call a number that is difficult to remember.  If WMATA bothers to answer the phone in time, they would not have access to your GPS coordinates because your phone does not know the number you dialed belongs to the police.

Other items:
Careful with those iPhones (Examiner)
Metro says parking lot crime at record low (Examiner)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Copping Zs on the Job

Via @smclean84: @unsuckdcmetro: @wmata employee sleeping on the job at Woodley Park Metro.

Other items:
Riders help elderly woman who fell onto tracks (Examiner)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Unspinning Metro's Escalator Issues

@metroescalators is an interesting Twitter account that uses Metro's escalator/elevator API to provide insight into just how poorly run Metro's vertical transportation system really is.

The stat above is simply astounding.

Remember what ol' Danny boy told WUSA:

Dan Stessel says his statistics don't lie, "I can tell you that escalator reliability has improved 10 points in the last 18 months and it has, but if your escalator is out of service at your station, you don't care about that."  

For the WUSA reporter "10 points" was apparently good enough, and then she launched into regurgitating Metro PR.

Oh, and remember that the guy formerly in charge of the elevator/escalator department is now in charge of the track department!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Come on DC. Offer Your Seat to a Pregnant Woman

From Laurie:

As a professional (and human being) in both Washington, D.C. and New York, I have abided by many rules and adhered to unspoken etiquette.  A portion of the latter being: yield/hold doors for/give up your public transit seat to the elderly, parents with strollers or small children, and pregnant women.

You’d think that it would pay forward one day? Apparently, 50 percent of Metro riders need a refresher lesson from Miss Manners. It took quite a while for my now-seven months pregnant belly to look more than a post-Chipotle food baby, but the jig is up. I know I’m pregnant, you know I’m pregnant, I know you know I’m pregnant, and my stomach is actually heavy, so I can please have your seat?

I do my best to avoid crowded trains. I don’t like being stuck in some guy’s armpit on a normal day, so why subject my unborn child to inevitable elbowing? However, there are some days that you just gotta do it. Take the morning of May 1 for example. The Red Line was a mess due to a cracked rail, and there were no ghost trains running from Grosvenor, my home base. A woman (I’d put her in the 40-45 age bracket) standing on the platform right next to me, who very clearly looked at my belly (apparently no one has seen a pregnant person before, because everyone seems to stare at me), hightailed it onto the train and took the one empty seat. Really? Since I hadn’t quite woken up yet, I chose not to call her out, so I silently hoped she would burn her tongue on a cup of coffee. Thankfully, a very nice gentleman immediately got up. I wanted to ask for his wife’s phone number so I could tell her what a polite husband she has.

Those types are hard to find, however.  On the afternoon of the 30th, after letting one Red Line train pass by, I boarded the second. The lone empty seat was taken by an elderly man (age tromps pregnancy in my book). However, there was a very willing and able man sitting in priority seating, pretending that I didn’t exist. The woman next to him glared at him in horror, mumbled obscenities and two minutes later, told me to take her seat. In her honor, I loudly rustled my newspaper in his ear.

I’d like to thank the lady on an Orange Line train on Monday the 29th who told me that she remembers being pregnant on the train and would give up her seat in a heartbeat; and the guy on the Grosvenor-bound Red Line train on Thursday afternoon the 25th who looked around the train for a seat for me and body-blocked it until I got there.

For the chick who pushed her way in front of me to get on the escalator at Dupont Circle, and the guy on Orange Line who looked up from his book, saw my belly and then went back to reading…do you believe in karma?

I’m not pulling an entitlement card here. I’ve taken great care of myself, am in good shape, but my feet blow up like an allergic reaction gone wrong when on them for stretches of time. Think of last summer’s 100+ degree weather plus walking around the National Mall all day with your family and thousands of your closest friends during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Unpleasant, right? Besides, you’d be upset if an able-bodied person ignored your standing 7 months pregnant wife/sister/best friend/daughter/cousin, wouldn’t you? I’d do it for them.

Other items:
Stessel on riders' top 10 complaints about Metro (WUSA)
MoCo, Metro battle over Silver Spring Transit Center (WTOP)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cracked Third Rail Open Thread

Via @urbanbohemian

Another spectacular Metro commute. This time, it was reportedly a cracked third rail north of the NOMA station.

Scarily, Metro was working on the third rail in this area this past weekend. It's starting to seem like the more "rebuilding" Metro does, the more Metro breaks.

What was your experience this morning?
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