Snow covers trains at Metro's Brentwood Yard (courtesy of WMATA)
Snow. You remember it, surely? Anywhere between two and four feet over the last week. It crippled our roads and sidewalks, and it’s left several small mountains in most of our neighborhoods. I’m sure you aren’t surprised that it also crippled Metro.
The bus system has to rely on local municipalities to clear snow from the roads. Many snow emergency routes were cleared fairly quickly, but the conditions on secondary streets varied wildly, leaving many buses running on altered routes, even today.
The subway system was also hard hit. Above ground service had to be shut down, and only fully came back online on Friday afternoon. By that point, the Federal government had reopened to one of the worst commutes (by car or by rail) that I’ve seen in 22 years here. So what happened and why, and what should Metro be doing differently in a storm? Continue reading →
So, I’m at work. I decided to skip the trains and made it in with little hassle via Metrobus. But, now I’m starting to worry about the commute home. Granted, it’s still five hours off, but thinking about the mess that the Metro has been this morning makes me wonder if I should even bother trying to get out of the city. I might just hunker down with a beer somewhere and wait this whole situation out. Things should be resolved by 8ish, right?
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?
Local news stations are reporting that a communication cable which dropped from the ceiling wrapped around a train’s wheels. WTOP reports that train behind the stopped one is being used to evacuate the people on the stuck train.
Good has an incredibly sexy graphic comparing WMATA to other large transit systems including CTA, BART, MBTA and MTA, including length of commute averages and other sweet statistics. This is nothing short of sweet, sweet infoporn. How does Metro compare? Right in the middle of the big five transit systems for average commute length, percent active vehicles, ridership and speed.
Like porn, though, I’m not sure if the graphic is representative of reality: how are there really 1M riders on Metrorail + Metrobus on an average day, when an average day has 1.2M trips (not riders) between the two systems and likely a total passenger total of much less than half that number. But hey, we’re probably still ahead of Boston and SF. That counts for something, right?
Some of you might know me from my photo posts here, and I hope you’ll humor me as I branch out to talk about a subject I love. Or, well, more accurately, a subject I love to hate. As anyone who follows my Twitterstream can attest, I’m not exactly happy with the state of Metro Rail at the moment. But I thought I’d start my new contribution to Talkin’ Transit on a more positive note.
Many times, you’re on the platform waiting for a train and it breaks down. You’re headed home, tired, impatient. The big board was saying ten minutes until your train; now it says “No Passengers,” instead. The announcer makes some vague pronouncement of a problem that is now cleared, “and all trains are moving normally.” When the next train arrives, though, you see it is jam packed — a Caps or Nationals game was just wrapping up, or worse, it’s still rush hour.
A few years ago, Metro installed big expensive signs in every station. They were there to tell you a few bits of information: which elevators were out, when the next train was coming, and so on. On the screen that displays the trains, it also told you what color line the train was servicing and how many cars made up that train. Continue reading →
Hey DC, want another excuse to take your pants off? Did the No Pants Party on the Metro leave you wanting more? Your prayers have been answered in form of a pantless run around the Capitol scheduled for Feb. 13.
Registration for Cupid’s Undie Run (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like) is now open and costs $30 to enter. The registration fee includes a commemorative event t-shirt, all day drink specials, post-race food, and the chance to run around DC in nothing but your skivvies.
The party starts at noon at Pourhouse (located at 319 Pennsylvania Ave, SE) and ends with a 1.75 mile jog around the Capitol. Who knows — you just might meet your future ball ‘n chain. It’d sure as hell make a good story for the grandkids!
There is no official course of action at the moment, but in the mean time, refunds for those experiencing long wait times on Metrorail and Metrobus can browse the other options available on the Metro website.
For those of you trying to get anywhere between White Flint and Medical Center, guess what — you can’t get there via rail. But there will be a shuttle service running. You can check out times for that on WMATA’s website here.
What’s Metro up to with the red line? They’ll be splitting the line into two parts. Grosvenor-Strathmore station closes at 10 p.m. tonight and will reopen until Tuesday at 5 a.m.
For more information regarding the closures, visit WMATA’s release about the changes here.
Thanks to the generosity of John B, the author of the Find a Metro DC [iTunes], we’ve got five application codes to give away for his iPhone app. I’ve decided to do it in three parts. The first contest will start right now and run 24 hours. At the end of it we’ll give away one code. Then we’ll do another one for another 24 hours and another code. Friday we’ll give away three more codes – one more random selection as well as the two winning story entries.
So that’s the contest? The bare minimum you have to do is post a comment here – you can just say “gimmie” if you want, just make sure you enter a valid email address for us to contact you if you win. That puts your name in the hat for the day’s random drawing as well as Friday’s random pick.
If you want a shot at the “bonus round” then just tell us your best mass transit story. You can do one in each theme.
Today’s theme is funny. What’s the most amusing thing that you’ve seen on the Metro or a bus? Circulator and Fairfax buses are fair game too.
UPDATE And we have a winner! Random.org, given a choice between 1 and 32, spat up the number 16. Congratulations Cia, I’ll be emailing you the code shortly. The additional random pick and story pick will happen Friday and be announced in their own post.
Was anyone else at the Chinatown Metro station yesterday evening at around 6:15? I was, and I was pressed into the mass of humanity unsuccessfully attempting to move around the station. It all started because a red line train, which I was on, had to offload at Judiciary Square, thereby causing a delay that resulted in platforms down the line filling up. I got to Chinatown, got off the train and proceeded to work my way through a human traffic jam for 20 minutes. New trains would come in, but the platform was so crowded that passengers could barely get off and the doors would close before anyone waiting could board. This exacerbated the crowding problem and the platform just got more and more full. I’m pretty sure that no one died or anything, but I was witness to a few fights. The best part: this was just a Monday evening. Nothing special was happening. I really do love mass transit.
WMATA is hosting a live chat with John Catoe this Friday from noon-1pm. This chat will be in the wake of the Thursday board meeting, during which general cuts to service are expected to be announced. Metro is dealing with a $40 Million deficit, which the blame largely on decreased ridership due to the economic downturn, and in the wake to the train crash in June of last year. Expect questions on how individual routes, particularly bus routes, will be effected by service downgrade. You can join the chat here.
Not Full strength, mind you, as Metro Access is closed today except for medical trips for dialysis, etc, but buses and trains are all running today, to all stations. They dug out 106 miles of track below the 8″ mark to let trains pass safely, and thanks to the works of the DDOT Plows, the bus routes are clear enough for passage. Be safe out there.
WMATA has announced they will not restart bus service or above-ground rail first thing in the morning, and will likely not resume service right away. There are a lot of factors at play here, including temperature and speed of plowing, but if I were a betting man, I’d say Bus service back on track by noon, and rail by 3pm. But, that’s entirely up to the good folks at Metro, so watch for more updates as they happen.
In addition: Metrobus and Metro Access will stop running at 1:30pm.
The reason for the closures at 8″ of snow is that if the third-rail is covered, it can no longer transmit the necessary running power for the trains, meaning you could get stranded by the snow. Once they’ve cleared up the snow, they’ll return to normal service, but I’d expect that to be tomorrow at the very earliest. You can read more about Metro’s snow policies on their site.
Steven Taubenkibel of Metro has just said that road conditions are far too treacherous to continue service. For the remainder of the day, they’ll run empty deicer trains on the above-ground tracks, so you may still see trains on the tracks, but there will be no service there. They are emphasizing safety, asking people to stay off the roads so they can be cleared for service.
This should shock precisely no one, but WMATA is expressing some concern that riders are actually using their farecards until they’re empty. WMATA was hoping to use the $11M in unused fare-dollars for other budgetary purposes next year, but the rise in SmarTrip card usage (upwards of 70% on rail and 60% bus, now!), and the recession that has people keeping their farecards and reloading them, even when they have less than a fare on them. Metro had been tapping up to 5% of fares as a slush fund of sorts useful for paying small deficits, but with fewer farecards in use, their accountants are recommending only 3% of fares be used in that manner.
There are internal proposals at Metro to raise fares up to 15% to cover the budget gap.
$175 million. That is the current projected budget gap for Metro for the fiscal year. That is a gap some $30m larger than what was predicted just three months ago and you may be paying the difference. WaPo wrote today that Metro’s managers recommended this morning that up to $92 million of that gap be made up through fare hikes. That would require a full 25 cent increase on each fare, bus and rail, to cover 50% of the total shortfall. But why is Metro even worse off than expected?
Well revenues are down, of course. Way down. But why?
Officials said the main reason for the growing gap is the bad economy, which has meant fewer riders and less revenue.
Friends, you and I and everyone in between know that the economy, however recessed it might be, is NOT the reason Metro’s revenues are falling like crazy. Job loss is not why ridership is far below estimates. Does anyone even remotely believe this? Of course the economy has hurt every business, and Metro has to be run like a business (sort of). But COME ON WMATA. Walk up to a mirror and the answer to your falling revenue will look you right straight in the face.