Sad news to start out the week: Friday night around 10:45, David Haywood Williams was riding his bike along Southern Avenue SE when he was struck by two separate cars and killed. The driver of the first car stopped, but the driver of the second car sped off when paramedics arrived at the scene. Police are still searching for the driver of the second car, a dark blue compact Toyota or Nissan.
Last night’s blogger roundtable with interim WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles was instructive for where the organization’s focus is right now: it’s all about “back to basics” for the interim GM, who is intent upon shoring up his priorities of Safety, Reliability and Fiscal Stability. The system has, in his view, suffered massively in the last few years, and as long as it took to get there, it will take that long to get it back. That starts, according to Sarles, with a return to the basics.
Let’s be careful out there, folks. Safety is a shared responsibility. I have seen blatantly stupid behavior out there. If you are driving, slow down and accept that traveling will take a little longer for a while. If you are walking, be smart. Walk against traffic, on the sidewalk if you can, and single file. If you are biking, simply try your darndest to follow traffic rules. Those cars you are used to barely not hitting you are going to have a harder time braking in the slush and snow, so don’t bike like a d-bag.
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.
The Washington Post wrote Sunday about the Obama administration’s intent to push Congress to implement a large change in how subway safety is regulated and enforced across the country by DOT. Currently, the feds really have no power to set regulations what so ever on subway systems due to a 1965 law passed by Congress that was intended to prevent the government from inhibiting transit growth. Subway safety is typically overseen by a state level agency or, in Metro’s case, an independent Tri-State committee (which the Post notes has exactly zero employees). DOT doesn’t even have the power to make Metro comply with NTSB recommendations today.
It comes as no surprise that this move was triggered by the awful Metro crash in June and the many, many safety incidents that have plagued Metro this year. Our subway system is the second largest in the country, but it is definitely the one that has the most direct effect on Capitol Hill – it moves the majority of Hill staffers to and from work everyday.
Forbes Magazine whipped up another of their handy-dandy lists based on useful metropolitan statistics and has put DC in the very center of the 40 largest metros for safety. It’s based on the FBI Crime statistics for violent crime, workplace safety, traffic death rates, and natural disaster risk.
We’re pretty low for workplace fatalities, given to the high office population, (this is, assuming, you don’t work at the Washington Post, that is…) and our traffic fatalities put us a bit higher up the chain that probably we deserve, but that’s where we are. But, at least we’re safer than my home metro of Sacramento, and of Philadelphia, or even Columbus, Ohio!
They don’t offer any tips for keeping your stuff safe, so let me drop some knowledge on you here: there is no consumer protection gadget out there that will protect your computer/DVD/tv/whatever safe against a close lightning strike. So-called “surge protectors” are typically one-use components (an MOV, to be precise) that may marginally protect against dirty power – but probably not. Lightning travels through the air so I assure you: it will have no problem jumping a nanometer distance or even across a power switch on a strip if the strike was close enough.
For 100% protection in an ugly storm, unplug.
[edit: accidentally left in ‘kill’ from a previous edit – Pepco claims approximately 60 fatalities out of those 400 who are struck]
Metro has released a new video for riders, providing instructions for riding Metro the same way a flight attendant provides airplane safety instructions. In the same part creepy/part really entertaining/part informative mix of Metro’s othervideos, this one includes a computer-generated flight attendant and four Metro passengers. My favorite part is when the three remaining passengers (one gets kicked off the train for bad behavior) react to a mechanical door issue by shaking their fists and flailing their arms about. Seems pretty realistic, considering some of the reactions from my fellow Metro commuters. Enjoy!
Snow. It turns us into adventurers. Some of us bundle up to walk the chill, white, stormy landscape like Arctic explorers, braving wind and cold for photos or milk and bread.
And others among us get adventure by roaring out of parking spaces and skidding over slush so that our big black Nissan Pathfinder SUVs end up jumping service road traffic islands in Foggy Bottom, skidding further to straddle the traffic islands like a large, obnoxious, diagonal monorail, before finally triumphing over traffic regulations and common sense.
Snow. It also turns some of us into bemused spectators.