Was the City Ready?

Photo courtesy of
‘Train approaching’
courtesy of ‘brianmka’

As you are all aware, the Fed has finally reopened today after nearly a week of closure.  With roads fairly clear and sidewalks mostly shoveled, it seemed like the right call.  But I’m beginning to suspect that maybe it wasn’t.  Metro appears to be woefully unprepared for the return of the Federal workforce.  Trains and buses are running sporadically and we’ve been getting reports of measured chaos at many metro stations.  Personally, I want to know what the deal is.  According to the WMATA website, all lines are on schedule and Metro has “expanded service for Friday.” Problem is, expanded service apparently means one train every fifteen minutes.  In my book, that’s not quite enough for rush hour.  So, what do you all think?  Was it a good call to open the Fed, or did your commute tell you otherwise?

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

18 thoughts on “Was the City Ready?

  1. Ballston Metro is closing the gates and only letting people down into the station after a train goes by. It is an absolute goddamn madhouse. OPM should be embarassed of this decision- and Metro has absolutely dropped the ball on getting bus routes running, to say nothing of the horrific rail experiences.

  2. My commute was actually uneventful — picked up a train immediately upon entering the concourse at Pentagon City, the train was only half-full, and there were no long pauses or delays on the trip. Very smooth.

    But when I got to work, I heard wildly different stories from others taking the Orange and westbound Blue Line trains…

  3. OPM made the right call. its WMATA that should be embarrassed … there is no reason they should not be running at full rush hour service

  4. It took me an hour to get from Ballston to Rosslyn this morning. The ballston metro station was a disaster so I couldn’t ride the metro. A friend gave me a ride but we drove in bumper to bumper traffic all the way here. So no, the city (metro) was not ready yet…

  5. Madness!! Metro underground wasn’t ready; the buses were (well the 16 on Columbia Pike was). Thus scores of people existing the bus couldn’t even get down the escalator to the platform at Pentagon City. Trains running every 20 minutes. Packed trains pulling up to Pentagon City without room for more.

    One co-worker spent 2 hours on the train from New Carrollton to Federal Triangle. Something about two trains stuck in a tunnel (isn’t it all a tunnel?)?

  6. WMATA service is so poor these days I do not even know what to say. More than 8 inches of snow – plow the frakkin tracks.

  7. No, the city was not ready, and wmata and opm should have figured that out before sending the workforce out. We are an impatient citizenry, however, regarding snow, which isn’t quite fair given the fact that the city doesn’t have adequate equipment or staff for a weather aberration. I forgive you, wmata and opm, but wish you had not been overconfident about the city’s readiness and likely won’t…forget.

  8. Not ready yet… after walking around Arlington for about an hour, its clear that turning all 2 lane roads into 1 lane roads, adding additional pedestrians, and the short-fuses that come with a bit of cabin fever have added up to a pointlessly frustrating mess…. All this for a partial day is silly. Plus, putting all of this in motion puts traffic on the roads and sidestreets that prevents roadcrews from working efficiently. I understand the call: its possible to get places, and an entire lost week is pretty painful… but it was a bit too optimistic.

  9. Not ready, but I agree that it’s on WMATA’s head not OPM’s. Blue line to yellow line commute was a nightmare, and obviously the red line wasn’t ready either.

    The snowbanks at the corners are ridiculous. It’s almost impossible to cross the street, I have no idea how anyone with mobility problems can get anywhere.

  10. Last Saturday WMATA said it had trouble digging out its trains in the rail yards. I’ve not heard more about this, but they could attempt to alleviate public anger at today’s service problems if they explained themselves better.

    It was mainly WMATA that wasn’t ready.

  11. Metro bashing is becoming too fashionable.

    WMATA put this in their press release this morning (which I read on several other DC blog sites):

    “Metrorail trains are operating at 20- to 25-minute intervals above ground and 10- to 15-minute intervals below ground. The longer than usual intervals are a result of 35 mph speed restrictions and the snow-covered switches.”


    I think the real issue is OPM. Perhaps you could contact them and ask them why they decided the system was ready for full government operations?

  12. When Metro is about to raise your fees by 180% in one year you’d start asking for better service. That’s not what is happening.

  13. I’m sure we would like faster recovery times, but I don’t think the public is willing to pay the price to get it.

    Look at it this way. Many people are complaining about not having all streets cleared within 24/48 hours after both storms. And that is the usual rule for the 5-8 inch snow we usually get around here. But you can’t do the same thing with 20+ inches.

    Now, you could have that same 24/48 hour service after a 20+ inch snowstorm, but it would cost a lot more money. Because that equipment will cost more. That means more taxes for better equipment that wouldn’t get used most years.

    The same thing is true for WMATA. They have equipment to clear the average snow. They “could” buy more equipment to clear this extreme weather faster. But then rates would go up MORE than they are going up now. And I’m pretty sure no one would want to pay more – so we have to live with longer recovery times.

    So basically the problem is economics, not service.

  14. You’re right, it is about economics. If the jurisdictions involved were finally all paying consistent long term amounts into Metro’s long term financial situation, Metro wouldn’t be struggling with service or safety issues. That’s not what is happening. We can all blame those that have not supported long term funding for Metro. When Metro doesn’t have the funds to maintain their trains and infrastructure the way they would want to, that’s a safety AND a service issue. Safety/maintenance lapses kill people and cause service issues. Take the derailment this morning on the red line as an example.

    With that said, if the jurisdictions don’t support long term funding for metro, Metro needs to raise their prices for their services – but they should be across the board for all users in equal amounts, not heavily weighted toward some users and not others. I’m about to get charged an 180% increase in my bike locker rental, but do you think you see car parking or rider fees rising that percentage? No. You don’t. I have every right to expect better service if they are going to charge me a 180% increase in my use of the metro services in a single year. Make those increases across the board and I’m more willing to compromise on the issue of service.

    So this is about economics AND service.

  15. No, the City wasn’t ready, imo, and truthfully that surprised me.

    I thought the City would be running much more smoothly and the buses/metro would be in a lot better shape.

    Numerous people I know took 2-3 hours to get to work. Many didn’t even have access to the Metro on several lines way out there and parking wasnt accessible in some areas.

    Many streets around me are STILL not even slightly plowed.

  16. The city wasn’t ready. Metro wasn’t ready. OPM was under a LOT of pressure to have a open day before the holiday weekend. There’s a receipe for disaster.

    I was suprised at how bad the roads/sidewalks were in the District. With Metro limping combined with road/parking/walking conditions, how did OPM expect to have everyone get to work in a reasonably safe manner? Honestly, I don’t believe that was a priority factor, and if you’re driving in with a reserved parking space at or near your building, its not going to be on your radar.

    I was as ready to get back in the office as the next person, but with between the Red Line and no school for my kid, it would probably have been better if I’d stayed home. (As it was, I just went in to grab work and get back. Luckily, I was on the first Glenmont-bound train out of Dupont following the Farragut North debacle and managed to keep my promise to the child-minder.)

  17. This city was definitely not ready. The streets may have been shoveled, but the snow banks on the side of the road halted traffic during the evening rush hour, on Friday night. The gridlock created by frustrated drivers trying to get through a light made matters worse. It took me two and a half hours to get home to Adams Morgan from McPherson Square – normally a 30-minute bus ride. This city was completely paralyzed.

    Like the new head of Metro said, the organization needs a complete culture change…a change of thinking. Can you imagine if the number of accidents Metro has had in the past couple of years and the constant elevator outages was happening in the NY subway system? There would be a major uproar. Maybe that needs to happen in DC for Metro to start taking its inadequacies seriously.

  18. It seems to me the consensus is that WMATA wasn’t ready. Therefore, the Feds should not have opened. Is it OPM’s fault? No. But it’s the right thing to do. OPM *must* consider WMATA’s readiness when deciding whether to open or not.

    Now, maybe WMATA exaggerated their readiness to the OPM committee. But if they were hedging at all, OPM should have realized they couldn’t open.