Here’s the end to our #MetroCarol story, but before we get to that- a snapshot of what happened.
I was delighted to get a Facebook Invite to an interesting event: a flash mob on the DC Metro. Jason McCool, an actor and music professor, and Melanie Spring, founder of web marketing firm Sisarina, wanted to organize a spontaneous outburst of Holiday Carols on the platforms of various Metro Stations on the Red Line.
It was a great idea; a good natured event that would be a lot of fun to watch and would bring a surprise dose of holiday cheer into the city. Plus, I’ve never been involved with a flash mob before. I’m sure it was part of the reason over 100 people RSVP’d for the event.
The FBI has had a string of wins recently nabbing numerous would-be terrorists before they’ve struck. CNN is reporting that they’ve just accused a man arrested on December 7th of “threatening to place pipe bombs along the Metro transportation system in Washington.” The individual, identified as Awais Younis (nee Sundullah Ghilzai) bragged to someone on Facebook how to construct the device and where he could deploy them without being noticed.
The news came out of the ANC 6D meeting last night: “What if we just put the Nationals’ logo on there as part of the name?” To some, this is anathema, and representative of name-creep that has plagued Metro over the last few years, and a station called “Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront/” is just a bridge too far. To others, it’s a sort of visual shorthand, designed to keep the name of the stadium tolerable, while adding useful visual cues.
Lucky for me I didn’t have to go to work today, which would entail riding the Orange Line to Rosslyn.
If I did I’m sure I would of been one of the many angrytweets about this morning’s commute.
If you haven’t heard (of if you haven’t arrived into the office yet), a report of smoke/fire at Metro Center around 8 AM this morning caused delays up and down the line as trains single tracked to get around the mess. The situation at Metro Center has since been resolved but now riders are facing the residual delays, packed cars, and a malfunctioning switch at Foggy Bottom that caused a temporary split on the lines. Luckily the switch malfunction has been cleared as well but I wouldn’t be surprised if commuters are still struggling to get to work as of this posting.
“Pedestrian, bus is turning,” is the new warcry of the average DC Metrobus. Starting this Fall, you might have heard this on a few of Metro’s test buses, but now they’re rolling it out across the city in a pilot program. As soon as the operator of a Metrobus turns the wheel 270°, the bus will announce inside “Caution, look both ways” and the speakers outside will announce, “Pedestrian, bus is turning,” to warn people near the now-turning bus.
Now, I’m not sure why an after the fact warning is necessary, once you’ve turned the wheel of a metrobus 270°, you’re already well into the turning process, but it’ll certainly be a lot more audible than the already loud buses. We’ve got demonstration video after the cut.
TBD this week sent their intrepid community people through a grand tour of the Metro, charting each and every station’s escalator status. All told, Metro is missing about 13% of their total escalator fleet right now due to mechanical failures of one sort or another, which is both more than it should be, but also somehow less than I thought it would be.
In the decade or so that I’ve lived here, this has been Metro’s white whale. They organize high level commissions, or an escalator repair academy, or promise that they’ll get better, and it seems that they never do. It’s rare that I encounter a day where all the escalators along my travels are working. Monday last week, about a third of the escalators I encountered on a red line jaunt (Brookland/CUA – Woodley Park – Farragut North – Gallery Pl. Chinatown), and several made ominous noises that had me wondering if I was about to experience some free-wheeling good times at the bottom of an escalator.
The jurisdictional differences that Metro has built-in to their multi-state structure provide for unique challenges, and the original solution, a board of equal representation, has gotten the transit through lean but easy times. The current situation may call for more leadership than the Metro Board can provide, and may require a CEO-type figure.
The question isn’t whether or not this is a good idea, the question is whether or not the Metro Board would willingly accept that kind of change. So far, all I can think is that it’s unlikely that the jurisdictions would give up their control role in exchange for an advice-and-consent role.
What I would like to see is someone a lot like DC Water’s George Hawkins in charge over at Metro. Someone who is dynamic and engaging, and clearly invested personally in the results. WMATA needs someone who can operate within the existing framework, not someone who gets a title bump and who will be fighting with the board for control.
This weekend’s station closures on the Orange Line and split of the Blue Line in Maryland may have been a major inconvenience for riders, but it allowed Metro to replace just under a mile of track, over 2000 rail ties, two track switches at Cheverly and repaired significant decay at the Minnesota Avenue station.
It’s nice to see Metro taking some steps to make major repairs, even if they’re a little inconvenient on the weekends. Did you ride the shuttles this weekend? How did they do?
Metro closed three stations over Columbus Day weekend, five stations over Labor Day weekend, and this weekend, five stations on the Orange line are closed and the Blue line is split into two pieces between Stadium/Armory and Benning Road. Greater Greater has a good map for the weekend’s disruptions.
This weekend’s work is “state of good repair” work, which means largely deep infrastructure pieces are being attended to, including the stabilization of some elevated structures, and the replacement of track switches, rail ties, and some platform repairs at Minnesota Avenue. Trains return to normal on Monday, if the work is completed on time.
If you thought yesterday was a zoo on Metro, you were right. Metro has announced preliminary ridership numbers for yesterday’s rally insanity, and they were through the roof. 825,437 Metrorail trips were taken yesterday by first count, eclipsing the record from the 1991 Desert Storm rally, which drew 786,358 trips. The stories from Metro yesterday were of a system well past its breaking point, with long lines to enter the stations, and longer lines still to use the farecard machines.
I suspect that Metro could’ve raked it in if they’d decided to charge peak fares yesterday, or to charge for parking at their facilities, which would have helped a system facing serious deficits in their budget. I would’ve also bet money that Metro could’ve sold boxes and boxes and boxes of $15 SmarTrip cards for $20 apiece if they’d thought about offering them in exchange for exact change at the various stations. Sadly, Metro did neither, and missed out on a real opportunity to reap benefits in the crunch.
According to WTOP via Slate, this week’s foiled terrorist plot (though how much of a plot is some video and a diagram you could get from any metro station?) may have Metro Police starting random bag searches of riders on the system. I’m not sure how random searches are going to do anything but scare people and/or piss them off, but since Metro has been ignoring general safety for some time, I guess they’re planning to scare people into not using the system another way?
Use your head, WMATA, don’t do this. This is just a joke posing as security.
Ladies, ladies, ladies. I realize we have a lot of necessary things we need to take with us to work. Makeup, laptops, mobile devices, gym clothes, chapstick, tampons, pens, epically large wallets filled with receipts and old college IDs…but just because society has leadened us with this burden, doesn’t mean our ridiculously large handbags are entitled to their very own seat on the bus or metro.
We (or rather you) may have paid Balenciaga or Hermes $3,000+ for your non-water proof, leather handbag, but WMATA didn’t get a dime for that, so either put it on your lap or suck it up and put it on the floor.
Navy Yard and Waterfront/SEU are the latest stations about to go through the giant renaming dance. According to JDLand, they may well become much longer. Aaron Morrissey, intrepid editor of DCist, has an editorial in the Post today, crafted from his DCist post on the issue that raises a fine issue concerning the station names. The point is also one that Matt Johnson of Greater Greater Washington tackled this May.
It’s concerning to see station names balloon in length, and making Navy Yard into Capitol Riverfront/Nationals Park/Navy Yard seems to me to be an egregious case. Worse, the renaming of Waterfront/SEU to Waterfront/SEU/Arena Stage when SEU is no longer offering classes seems to me to be a peculiar turn of phrase.
I’m just wondering how long it is before we rename Metro Center to Metro Center/No really, stop pushing/OMG WTF BBQ. At this point, the Vegas line for that change is 5 years. I’d take the under.
The renaming of stations is certainly a fine thing in the case of the creation of something new, but perhaps we should work on some sort of parsimonious compromise wherein station names can’t exceed four words. I’m all for Johnson’s map of shorter station names, and think it may well simplify a lot of issues.
The Washington Examiner is reporting that Carol Dillon Kissal, Metro’s deputy general manager, told the Metro Riders’ Advisory Council that the previously approved SmarTrip card price drop from $5 to $2.50 has presented some “tricky issues,” prompting Kissal and her staff to come up with other options.
These options now include requiring riders to have a minimum value on their SmarTrip card before entering the system, rewarding cardholders with a $2.50 rebate after they have purchased a $5 card and used it for two one-way trips, or forgetting about the $2.50 price drop all together.
“The feedback I’ve received from people when they found out they would no longer be able to go negative [on their SmarTrip cards] was very negative,” Riders’ Advisory Council member Carl Seip told the Examiner.
He wasn’t kidding. Metro riders (and We Love DC authors) have expressed their frustrations regarding the matter and hope WMATA changes their mind before the new positive balance requirement to enter a Metro station takes place.
According to the advisory council’s chairman Francis DeBernardo, Metro has requested the councils feedback about the best way to approach the revised list of options pertaining to the SmarTrip. New options will be discussed on Sept. 16 at a finance committee meeting and later on Sept. 30 during a Metro board meeting.
First they butter you up with the nice news that SmarTrip cards will decrease in price from $5 to $2.50. Great, right? Except that somehow, in the universe Metro operates in, dropping the price of the cards requires them to implement new “technology” that prevents you from exiting the station if doing so would put your SmarTrip balance negative. Which is ridiculous- a significant part of the convenience value of SmarTrip cards is that you don’t have to fuss about your balance while you’re trying to get to work on time. This is particularly key now that we have peak-of-the-peak adding an additional level of complexity to fares.
But NOT TO FEAR, DC, Metro will also be upgrading the Exitfare machines with SmarTrip touch points so you can add additional fare before leaving the station. Except that’s not that helpful AT ALL because the Exitfare machines will remain cash-only.
So let’s review: Metro has recently made it more complicated to keep track of your actual fare at the time you enter the station by adding a peak-of-the-peak surcharge. They then strand SmarTrip users in the station if they happen to miscalculate and forget about that 20 cent charge instead of letting them make it up on their next SmarTrip refill. So not only are they asking SmarTrip users to radically change the habit that is probably what got them to use SmarTrip in the first place, they’re also asking them to make it a point to carry small amounts of cash with them at all times because they still won’t allow credit card SmarTrip refills inside the faregates. And this is supposed to be made aaaaaall better because the SmarTrip card itself, the one you probably already have in your wallet, now costs $2.50 less, which won’t help you at all.
So what can we conclude from this? You should probably just go back to paper farecards. Thanks for nothing, WMATA.
We’ve asked WMATA for comment, and will let you know if they get back to us.
NBC4 reports that the DHS warned WMATA on Sunday of a potential terror threat to the Metro system. According to a DHS memo, an individual obtained a Turkish visa to come to the States and perpetrate a bombing on a Metro station. The memo stated that this information has “low credibility” and that DHS has little information as to the specific date or target for the attack, or if the individual in question is even capable of carrying out a bombing.
Yesterday, for the first time in recent memory, the NTSB took a field trip. Their board joined Metro’s board at the auditorium yesterday for the WMATA board meeting yesterday. During that meeting, Metro made a couple of public statements, one from its interim GM Richard Sarles, and one from Board Chair Peter Benjamin, on the subject of the accident review and the progress that WMATA has made since then. Of course, Metro isn’t just silently accepting the conclusions of the NTSB, and yesterday’s board meeting had at times what appeared to be Sharks vs. Jets moments as WMATA faced off with NTSB over the recommendation. The Post has a good accounting of the meeting, but it doesn’t seem to cover any interaction between NTSB and WMATA.
Somehow, it seems, though, that several of the WMATA Board members hadn’t seen the animation of the accident until yesterday, which is mind-boggling to me. Did they also just get the findings yesterday? I recognize that the WMATA Board is not one with full-time members who only do oversight and nothing else, but it seems to me that they should’ve seen that the day of the hearings, no?
Regardless of acceptance of blame, WMATA’s board needs to show a dedication to safety both for its riders and its staff, that just doesn’t seem to be there right now. While WMATA is taking steps in the right direction, they don’t seem to be organized around the issue. A hotline is a good start. Clearing the wayside is a good start. But bellying the 1000-series cars without doing any kind of testing? That’s just reactionary.