DC's Metrorail is getting worse and worse...

This appeared on the editorial page in the Monday, 10 June 2013 edition of the Washington Post


Metro continues to aggravate its riders.

Like Charon piloting his lifeless charges across the River Styx in his boat, a darkened Metro train rumbled through the Tenleytown-American University Red Line Station early Tuesday morning, its windows black, its destination unknown. Although it never stopped for the multitude of passengers waiting forlornly on the platform, it did emit an ear splitting horn blast.

We do not know if the horn was meant to scare commuters, greet them, jolt them awake or warn them gratuitously not to try boarding a moving train. To passengers it was just another bewildering, maddening, soul sapping Metro moment, a quotidian annoyance barely worth mentioning.  

Except that it is worth mentioning that Metrorail is a slow rolling embarrassment to this region, whose creeping obsolecence is so pervasive, and so corrosive, that Washingtonians are in increasing numbers abandoning it. Even as ridership climbs on MARC and VRE commuter trains, and holds steady on Metro buses, passengers are deserting the Metrorail system in droves.

Over the nin months ending in March, ridership slumped by almost 5 percent, or about 8000 trips, compared with the same period a year ago. Officially Metro blames the effects of sequestration. But in a region whose population continues to grow, the exasperations of using the Metrorail system are undoubtedly a factor prompting passengers to flee - in some cases to bike shares!

The ceiling that has been crumbling/repaired/crumbled again for years at Farragut North; the comatose escalators, year after year; the funereal lighting in the stations, the frequent signal problems; the routine single tracking that makes week end usage of Metrorail virtually unusable - all of this takes a toll on riders that Metro officials blithely and arrogantly dismiss. 

A case in point: The Washington Examiner recently reported that Metro has failed, badly again, to meet its schedule to repair scores of elevators and escalators. Mismanagement seems to be the major driving factor. No contrition by Metro though: they think it has been a blazing success with barely 75 percent of the units repaired on time and budget. 

Last Monday morning all five Metro lines were beset by mishaps, the second such occurrance in three weeks. The Red Line seized up for half an hour with "steam on the tracks", the Orange Line had signalproblems for nearly as long and the Green Line had track circuit problems for more than ten minutes. A malfunctioning door caused problems for riders on the Blue and Yellow Lines, some of whom were herded off a Huntingdon bound train at Braddock Road.

A Metro spokesman, Dan Stessel, deigned to recognize that the Red and Orange Line problems were "worth noting", but sniffed in an email to the Washington Post that the other snafus were simply "the minor rigmarole of any AM commute."

One supposes that "minor" is in the eye of the beholder. But to commuters who depend on Metrorail it is all becoming a big pain in the neck!


And here is the blog author speaking:

I don't know if I should laugh or cry! Laugh, because this is really not anything new. Metro has been mismanaged for years and Metro trotts out the same tired excuses for it's incompetence again and again and again.

Laugh, because the top metro management gets absolutely obscene amounts of money in salaries without doing it's job.

Laugh, because absolutely nobody is doing anything about this mess. Not the DC government, not the Northern Virginia jurisdictions affected by Metro, nor does Maryland. Most of the useless jurisdictional "oversight" officials have never even been on a Metro train and wouldn't know one if it ran over them.  

Cry, because every time I am on the Singapore Metro system I keep mumbling to myself: why can we not have something like this in DC? 

Cry, because every time I am on the London Underground I keep mumbling to myself: why can we not have something like this in DC?

Wait! I am starting to repeat myself!

A dear friend of mine said it quite succinctly some years back: When the DC Metrorail system was planned, the Metro management sent all their engineers and planners to all the underground/metro systems in the world to study them. They all came back to DC with the worst parts they did see in all those systems and than began implementing them into our subway. 

There you have it. Stay tuned!