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 Twitter stream 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.
I found it odd the number of people who didn’t seem to pay any attention to this board. Sure, it isn’t always accurate, but most of the time it is very close. Generally, if it says there is another train after this one, and that train is arriving in three minutes, you could count on that. But people ignore that information and always try to cram onto the first available train. Human nature, maybe?
The other thing you can count on is the board telling you how many cars make up a train. Most trains are six cars, and they stop at the front of the platform. I consistently stand toward the front and get on one of the first two cars. They are almost always less crowded than the rear of the train.
When the sign says an eight-car train is coming (sometimes it lists them as two-car trains, but that seems to be a bug), I go to the rear of the platform. The last car in an eight-car train is … deserted. It is rare that I don’t get a seat.
And this brings me back to the situation a few paragraphs up. On Saturday, this happened to me. The empty train went past, and as I stood there at the front of the platform, I noticed the next Orange line train was to be an eight-car train, and it was 15 minutes out. I walked to the other side of the platform, and when the train rumbled in, the front six cars were packed like sardines. There were a dozen people in the last car, where I snagged a seat for my ride home.
I recommend, if you have internet service in the Metro, that you bookmark your most frequently used stations so you don’t have to strain to read the status board.
Do you have any tips for making the hellish Metro ride a little smoother? Drop them in the comments, please!