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Metro proposes too low a bar for minimum service levels

A proposal before the WMATA Board tomorrow would define a new, formal standard for the minimum acceptable service level. But it sets the bar far too low: 15 minutes during peak times, and 30 minutes off-peak.


Photo by brownpau on Flickr.

Another proposal would a establish passengers per car loading thresholds of 120 people maximum and 80 people minimum.

Having a standard is a good idea. It formalizes decisions such as where to put the 8-car trains or how to adjust schedules to meet customer demand. Formally defined service criteria also let customers and regional governments know what to expect from Metro. But Metro should never find service this infrequent to be acceptable.

Frequency matters

Customers should expect better than a train every 15 minutes during the peak, and better than 30 minutes during off-peak. One of the most important factors for customers is frequent service. In the words of transportation writer Jarrett Walker, "Frequency is Freedom." Low frequency means people wait longer for trains, wait longer for connections, and have to build in extra time in their schedules if they connect to buses.

This is just a minimum, and it doesn't mean Metro will cut service tomorrow, but Metro should never allow service to get anywhere near this infrequent outside of planned or unplanned track work (and even then, such frequencies are a burden for riders).

The 2012 budget calls for service every 6 minutes for every line during peak periods (and provides even more frequent service in the core where lines double up), and every 12-15 minutes during non-peak periods. This new standard would reduce the amount of service that Metro considers the minimum allowable.

Most troubling is that the presentation says that the Board would delegate authority to the General Manager/CEO to make minor service changes based on the service criteria. That could let the GM/CEO reduce service to this unacceptably low level without asking.

Standards could lead to less off-peak service

This authority also means that there are consistently fewer than 80 passengers per railcar on a route, he could start cutting service. A railcar typically has about 60 seats.

The thresholds for passengers per car also need adjusting. During peak times, customers expect railcars to be crowded, and in any case there often isn't anything Metro can do about crowded trains because there aren't any extra railcars available. But during off-peak times, Metro has options to reduce railcar loading (longer trains, more frequent trains), and Metro is competing against less congested roads and more available parking.

It doesn't make sense to expect customers to pack onto trains that are as crowded during non-peak times. Metro's presentation says that staff is looking into establishing other thresholds for off-peak. The Board should ensure they follow through on this effort.

The presentation also says that Metro will establish data monitoring and reporting procedures. Metro should make a part of this that they report this information to the public. In previous public information requests, I have found that this information is difficult to obtain.

Metro is doing the right thing to set defined criteria for frequency and passenger loading. But the frequency should be much higher than in the proposal. A train should leave from each terminal at least every 6 minutes during peak, and every 15 minutes during off-peak, since this is the budgeted service we have now. Metro should measure passengers per car during all time periods, not just during peak, and should establish a lower threshold loading during off-peak than during peak.

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia. 

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Outrageous. Absolutely outrageous. I hope you and everyone else will come to the Rider's Advisory Council meeting tonight at 6:30 and express extreme disappointment with this decision.

If the headways are going to be that atrocious, then why the hell did I move to DC and think I wouldn't need a car?

by WMATA Rage on Jul 11, 2012 12:10 pm • linkreport

Sounds like NJT headways. Coincidence?

Things like this make me glad I live inside the District and know how to take the bus.

by MLD on Jul 11, 2012 12:12 pm • linkreport

@MLD-Things like this make me glad I'm very close to DC and switched to a bike.

by thump on Jul 11, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

Michael,

The frequency headways proposed are the policy minimums. In the case of peak period service the loading standards (Passengers per Car) drive the frequencies. In English, the demand for service results in loading levels (80 to 120 people per car)that require WMATA to operate on six minute rush hour headways.

The frequency minimums are relatively meaningless in peak periods. They may come into play when WMATA staff begin to look at loading levels for off-peak service in conjunction with off-peak frequency minimums of 30 minutes.

by Steve Strauss on Jul 11, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

The 2012 budget calls for service every 6 minutes for every line during peak periods

Well, RushMinus serviced killed that for the Blue Line.

Remember, there are 12 minute holes in the Blue Line now. Add 3 minutes for random delays, and you've got 15 minutes.

Yeay world class metro!

by Jasper on Jul 11, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

@Steve: If these are meaningless, why is WMATA going to the trouble of codifying them?

It sounds like what you're saying is that WMATA is writing something down that they are then going to ignore. Why bother?

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2012 12:29 pm • linkreport

@Steve Strauss:

They may come into play when WMATA staff begin to look at loading levels for off-peak service in conjunction with off-peak frequency minimums of 30 minutes.

And why should we consider off-peak trains every 30 minutes to be reasonable?

by Gray on Jul 11, 2012 12:34 pm • linkreport

I think jasper is correct. They couldn't make the bar higher because of the Blue line situation. They did not want to have NO minimum service on this criterion, esp given that the systems they are benchmarking against have minimums.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 11, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

To me this sounds like WMATA is laying the groundwork to provide even less frequent service, and then defend themselves by saying they are meeting some "standard" of service.

I am a big supporter of public transit, but this continued bullsh!t coming out of WMATA is making even me reconsider my commuting options. CaBi cannot arrive in Silver Spring soon enough.

by silver springer on Jul 11, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

@steve: If you're saying that WMATA operates a demand-based headway during peak periods, and a policy headway during off-peak, why not say that.

RAIL FREQUENCY

PEAK (weekdays opening until 9:30am, 3:00pm until 6:30pm)

WMATA will operate trains at least every xx minutes in order to ensure that the peak railcar does not exceed 120 passengers, nor drop below 80 passengers.

OFF-PEAK

WMATA will operate trains at least this frequently:

Weekdays

Mid-day every 12 minutes
Evening (until 10pm) every 12 minutes
Night (10pm until close) every 15 minutes

Saturdays

Day (opening until 10pm) every 12 minutes
Night (10pm until close) every 15 minutes

Sundays every 15 minutes.

WMATA will recommend whether frequency improvements are required when the railcar loading during off-peak exceeds 80 passengers per railcar consistently.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2012 12:38 pm • linkreport

The previous comment should be interpreted as what WMATA could recommend instead of "15 Minutes during peak, 30 minutes during off-peak".

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2012 12:40 pm • linkreport

So, where would the money go?

Let's say they cut service, presumably to save money. Unless they hand some of their subsidy back to the governments or reduce fares for passengers, where would the saved money go? And, would wherever those savings go necessarily be a worse place to spend money than on where the savings came from?

I would think the greater concern would be that WMATA spend as much as possible of their funding on service operations and maintenance and as little as possible on overhead and pension increases. Why not provide WMATA the greatest flexibility on how they spend their O&M money, rather than micromanaging, and focus our governance efforts on the big picture -- making sure money isn't getting squandered on unnecessary overhead/pension expenses and that maintenance funding isn't getting shortchanged (because that is robbing tomorrow to pay for today).

That said, I can't imagine any scenario in which it would makes sense for WMATA to cut service to those terrible minimum standards, so maybe WMATA doesn't need that flexibility.

by Falls Church on Jul 11, 2012 12:40 pm • linkreport

or maybe they want everyone to complain that the bar is too low, and they can then explain that with four lines coming through two river crossings, it cannot be higher. If you want higher standards you need to prioritize a new crossing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 11, 2012 12:40 pm • linkreport

"That said, I can't imagine any scenario in which it would makes sense for WMATA to cut service to those terrible minimum standards, so maybe WMATA doesn't need that flexibility."

blue line, now.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 11, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

BTW: The 12 minute holes propagate throughout the system. I recently had to wait 13 minutes in Crystal City for a train to Franconia-Springfield. And then three trains to F-S came in within minutes. Yeay metro!

Also, I've complained that metro can't get its act together on the PIDS at F-S indicating what train is on the platform. Their answer:

As for the PIDS not giving accurate information, Franconia-Springfield is an end station. Our PIDS do not populate accurate information at end stations regarding trains arriving, departing, etc. This is because the relays in the wayside are not reading properly. It is not a software problem. The information does not feed properly with trains already on the platform.

I pointed out that in the old days, PID information was not really relevant for end stations since all trains were going the same way anyway. However, now, there are four end stations that have trains departing to different ends, so they better get on fixing it.

by Jasper on Jul 11, 2012 12:43 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerinthecity: The way the threshold is drafted, where they count trains leaving terminals, takes care of the rush plus situation. After all, the criteria doesn't say or care what color the trains are, just that it's a train going into revenue service.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2012 12:44 pm • linkreport

"Trains on all lines will be scheduled to depart
from terminal stations"

I read that as trains on a given line (IE color). The mention of leaving terminal stations is to not hold them accountable for delays and bunching that happens down the line. I could be wrong of course.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 11, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

Michael, on off-peak I think the 80 riders per car standards is fare. Here's why. Take the Red line where peak loading is typically between Dupont Circle and Union Station. Sure people may have to stand on that stretch but they generally get a seat on the rest of the line. The same can be said for most Metro lines. Sure during off peak periods, some people will have to stand on the most congested portion of the line but for the most part people get seats.

My greater concern is the transition between peak and off peak or what is called the "shoulder" where Metro often goes from 6 minute headways to 12 minute headways or vice versa with littler or no transition when in reality ridership actually ramps up or down over time and often the last trains before the ramp up to peak headways o the first train after the ramp down to off peak headways are too crowded.

by ArlingtonRider on Jul 11, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport

Can someone give me an indication what 80 and 120 people in a car means?

How many seats are there?
What is the count at full, crush and sardine level?

by Jasper on Jul 11, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

The Metro cars have different seating arrangements. 1000 series seat 82 people, 6000 series seat 64, all the rest seat 68.

So 80 people is just a few people standing, 120 is pretty crowded. Crush capacity is around 160 I believe.

This is also an average per train, so while your car may have more people the front cars always have less and the back cars on 8-car trains as well. If there are several minutes to the next train I always go to the front of the platform.

by MLD on Jul 11, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

Can someone give me an indication what 80 and 120 people in a car means?

From what I just read...somewhere, most cars have around 60 seats. So 80 people is a decent scattering of standing passengers throughout the car, whereas 120 gets pretty crowded (not the least of which is the stupid goddamn transverse seating which has needed to go for a while).

But also, here's an idea: why bother with the minimums? Like, oh, no! An empty train!? Whatever will everyone think?

No one will mind. Because they were able to catch a train in a reasonable amount of time. And thus more people will be willing to use the system, rather than contemplating car purchases which they absolutely can't afford but towards which Metro is driving them (no pun intended).

by WMATA Rage on Jul 11, 2012 1:19 pm • linkreport

Now that Metro considers the late night hours to be "peak," does this mean that they will be running a train every 15 minutes rather than every 45 minutes it seems? Yah, I know, you're probably shaking your head saying not a chance.

Only Metro could jack rates up and then produce reducing service. Unless this is a Metro foil to say ahhh, gosh, guys, we can't afford it unless we do it this way so you'll have to pony up again.

by T1 on Jul 11, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

It appears the "maximum capacity" of Metro's cars is 175. So 120 is crowded, but you'd likely be able to breathe. Actually, probably less crowded than many "peak-of-the-peak" trains are today. But 80 is more people than you probably think. Off-peak, even when there are seats available, if passengers wouldn't be sitting alone, they sometimes opt to stand. So 80 would most likely look like many seats with 2, some seats with 1, and a healthy handful of standees. On my commutes home, we dip below this level about half the time at Union Station. And I swear on all that is holy if they get the bright idea to put a second "short turn" at the Brentwood Yard (so NYA would be the last stop for those trains) and cut service beyond that I will personally find Sarles and...be very, very mean. Because the other half of the time, I have to shove people to get out.

by Ms. D on Jul 11, 2012 1:46 pm • linkreport

@ WMATA Rage/Ms.D:It appears the "maximum capacity" of Metro's cars is 175.

Ok. 60 seats per car, and 175 max. That means:

40 people: Everybody sits
60 people: First few keep standing
80 people: People standing all through the train
120 people: - Full - You can't freely move to the exit anymore; personal bubble still more or less intact
140 people: - Crush - Personal bubble gone; you are most likely touching one person involuntarily
180 people: - Sardine - Personal bubble smaller than you; squished between at least three others; closing doors takes multiple attempts due to last clown squeezing in
200 people: - Pressure cooker - Train gets taken out of service due to doors not closing.

by Jasper on Jul 11, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

Metro is pure embarrassment, particularly on the weekends. Fares are confusing, service is unreliable and as an organization, it is a disaster. As a Hill resident, I find it pointless to take metro on the weekends to get around. We would all be better off to suffer through long closures of entire lines rather than try to navigate the constant track work, shuttle buses, etc. As bad as it is now, I pity the people who will be relying on this system in 15 or 20 years.

by MJ on Jul 11, 2012 2:40 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church: I think the likely scenario is this.

Start of budget season, WMATA estimates a budget "shortfall" of about $100M, as usual. This is pretty normal considering the vast majority of WMATA costs are based on contractual agreements with labor, and those have built-in annual adjustments.

The GM/CEO proposes "minor service adjustments" and provides the information that says that line XX is not crowded at this time, and line YY is not crowded at this time, therefore the frequency can be reduced "a little bit". This allows Metro's budget to be brought more in balance without having to hold hearings for Major Service Cuts, fare increases, or having to beg the jurisdictions for additional funding. This makes everyone on the board *happy*.

So it's not like the money Metro saves is going anywhere else in Metro, it's just going into not having to ask the jurisdictions to provide more funding, the riders to pay higher fares, or putting pressure on employees to not have raises.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2012 3:49 pm • linkreport

And the fact that the minor service cuts would be part of a board-approved policy that lets the GM/CEO do this would make it very hard to fight.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

As in, when the GM/CEO proposes the coming year's budget that includes "service adjustments" to make the budget balance, the board member that says "Hey, I think it's a crap deal to cut the service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes" is going to be asked to identify what other service cut, subsidy increase or fare increase they would like to propose in order to get the $5 million that the "service adjustment" provides. And the board member probably isn't going to have the expertise or staff support needed to come up with and properly analyze alternate proposals.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

I wonder if these reduced standards are due to the coming train crunch. The 7000 cars may not be available for the Silver Line's opening, and it may be a year or more until there are enough cars to run the Silver Line and enough 7000s to replace the 1000s.

I was wondering how that would work.

by OctaviusIII on Jul 11, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

It is sad to see Michael Perkins as cynical about WMATA as the rest of us....

by charlie on Jul 11, 2012 4:03 pm • linkreport

@charlie: I've seen it happen as a pattern over the past decade or so. Rail has been left alone mostly because it's hard to cut without everyone screaming about it. I see this new minimum policy as something that may be used to justify cuts and deflect the screaming.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Michael. I understand your concerns but what is the alternative to cutting service at some point. WMATA with the fare increase that took effect on July 1, is near what it can charge during the off peak without approaching diminishing returns. The increase before the last one from two years ago took peak fares to a very high level and the last fare increase kept up with inflation. The local jurisdicitons are tapped out and the bus system has taken its share of hits. Why should the rail system be immune to cuts. Look at the NTD data on the cost of operation of Metrorail it is very high compared to peer systems. My preference would be attack the cost structure of Metrorail before cutting service but I don't think it is prudent to take Metro service cuts off the table. Playing devils advocate, remember the he GM already has the flexibility to modify bus service without Board approval so why not the same for raiL?

by ArlingtonTraveler on Jul 11, 2012 4:26 pm • linkreport

80 people: People standing all through the train

On a 6000-series train (fewest seats), that's 5-6 people next to each door. Hardly "throughout the train."

Now that Metro considers the late night hours to be "peak"

This is nothing new. They've done this for a while. It's a dirty trick, the level of service provided sucks, and I don't like it....but they've been doing it for a while.

But also, here's an idea: why bother with the minimums? Like, oh, no! An empty train!? Whatever will everyone think?

$$$$. It's not cheap to run a train. Especially when nobody's on it.

My greater concern is the transition between peak and off peak or what is called the "shoulder" where Metro often goes from 6 minute headways to 12 minute headways or vice versa with littler or no transition

+1. A few months ago, Metro had the bright idea to do maintenance on the Red Line, and cut headways to 30 minutes at around 7:15PM on a weekday. That's completely and totally unacceptable.

I agree with Michael Perkins' recommendations for the minimum levels of service that WMATA needs to provide. 12-15 minutes should be the absolute longest headway on any schedule (per station, possibly with minor exceptions made for the single-line end stations). Let's not make the late-night Red Line meltdown permanent.

by andrew on Jul 11, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

@ andrew:80 people: People standing all through the train

On a 6000-series train (fewest seats), that's 5-6 people next to each door. Hardly "throughout the train."

That's assuming all seats will fill before people will stand. An incorrect assumption. If there are sixty seats, and eighty people, you can bet there will be about 25-35 people standing. About 10 per door (couple).

by Jasper on Jul 11, 2012 4:54 pm • linkreport

20 minute headways in the evening is abominable. Trains should run at least every 15 minutes in the offpeak and they should run ON SCHEDULE so that passengers can plan connections and bus trips.

And why can't WMATA have a few minute hold in offpeak for connections at the large central stations downtown? Is it that hard to hold for two minutes at MC, GP, L'enfant for people to change trains?

by Redline SOS on Jul 11, 2012 5:03 pm • linkreport

This is why I gave up metro 3 years ago and drive everywhere I go.

DC...where you go to pay premium first world prices for a 3rd world mass transit rail system.

Seriously, the Disney monorail is more useful as a mass transit system than dc rail is.

by metro on Jul 11, 2012 5:32 pm • linkreport

All new employees in a 401k. Health care benefits need to be cut and pension colas must be lowered. Yearly raises must also be looked at. We just cant afford to have 60% of our yearly shortfall be pension and healthcare related.

by h street landlord on Jul 11, 2012 5:54 pm • linkreport

The 7000 cars may not be available for the Silver Line's opening

Unless the Silver Line itself is extremely delayed, or testing/commissioning takes exceptionally long, the 7000 series will not be available for the Silver Line's opening.

by andrew on Jul 11, 2012 5:57 pm • linkreport

M Perkins,

In my experience, government officials don't give up budget easily. Budget is power and most in the govt don't like giving up power (who does?). Also, any proposal to reduce service levels has been met with very strong protests in the past. Riders have consistently said they prefer fare increases to service cuts and I think the Board gets that.

Overall, metro's biggest problem is rising benefit costs of its unions. The local government have ponied up their share each and every year (albeit only after throwing tantrums). Riders have withstood fare increases each year. The folks who haven't sacrificied are the unions and that's where we need to exert governance pressure. I think making a big deal out of these min service standards is more distracting then focusing on the big issues.

Without additional pressure, the path of least resistance is to simply continue charge riders higher fares because as much as we like to complain aboit metro, it provides a value in significant excess of the fares to most people. So, people will continue to absorb fare increases to subsidize increasing union benefit costs unless greater scrutiny is brought to that issue.

by Falls Church on Jul 11, 2012 6:56 pm • linkreport

So it's not like the money Metro saves is going anywhere else in Metro, it's just going into not having to ask the jurisdictions to provide more funding, the riders to pay higher fares, or putting pressure on employees to not have raises.

Well, are they expecting the jurisdictions to provide more money, the riders to pay higher fares, or the employees (unions) to agree to wage freezes? The money has to come from somewhere. If they can't get enough money to maintain the current level of service, then service has to be cut.

by Bertie on Jul 11, 2012 7:01 pm • linkreport

@Jasper, the 1000 series cars with the single sideways seats near the ends of the cars and double sideways seats at all doors can actually seat 82. Almost all other cars seat 68, the newest 6000 series cars seat 64. So it's more like:
40 people, everyone sits, all or most one to a seat;
60 people you're likely to end up with 10 or 15 standees as people don't want to sit with a stranger;
80 people most people will sit, as there seems to be kind of a law that if MOST people would have to share a seat for almost everyone to sit, more people sit, leaving anywhere from no to less than 15 standees (as mentioned, 5 people or fewer around each door, not crowded at all);
120 people, depending on the model, anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 standing, personal bubble small but you can still read your phone/paper without poking anyone in the back if you keep your elbows close;
140 people, put the phone away, you're not going to be able to read it without jabbing someone in the back, but you can probably avoid contact if you're creative;
180 people, involuntary touching;
200 people, multiple attempts at closing the door, if some idiot with a large suitcase tries to squeeze in you're getting offloaded, make friends with your fellow Washingtonians!
201 people, offload guaranteed.

So given this, with 3-minute headways and an average train length of 6.7 cars per train (every 3rd train 8-car), Metro could *reasonably* (120/car) transport 16,000 people per line per hour through the core, or 480,000 people during rush hours on a weekday (6:30A-9:30A and 4P to 7P). Given that Metro runs around 700K trips per day (or at least they did when they stopped publishing reports), this means they shouldn't increase headways during rush hour. All the capacity they have is used, and even over-used at peak-of-the-peak and when incidents occur. The standard of 80-120 people per car is fine, actually, but I have my doubts about them being able to accurately gauge this and am tempted to assume that they will default to lower service levels if they are permissible.

by Ms. D on Jul 12, 2012 12:39 am • linkreport

Given that I had something to do tonight, and therefore missed evening rush hour and got the pleasant experience of waiting for a train but at least being comfortable in it, I'd love to see Metro spend some of the money they spend on things like the rush-minus campaign and anti-eating/drinking ad campaigns on an ad campaign to encourage tourists to take their trips at less-crowded times. Mornings are generally not terrible, although I have noticed a slight uptick in the number of non-commuters on the trains since the all-day pass dropped the 9:30 AM rule, but evenings are unbearable. Maybe a few ads in the entry tunnels saying, in effect, "hey, Metro is really crowded between 4:30 and 6 PM...why don't you check out one of DC's fantastic restaurants and have a more comfortable trip back to your hotel a little later?" Maybe they could even get specific restaurants or other venues open later (Spy Museum, I'm looking at you) to co-sponsor the campaign so it wouldn't cost them so much? I know I'm more sensitive to the needs of commuters being one, but I always avoid public transit during rush hour when I'm on vacation...it just seems like common courtesy to me. Commuters have places to be, my vacation activities are not generally on a strict schedule. But DC tourists just don't seem to get it, so maybe a little encouragement would help? Bonus, more off-peak ridership and revenue, which supports the bottom line and, if profound enough, could support more frequent off-peak service.

by Ms. D on Jul 12, 2012 12:58 am • linkreport

The purpose of service criteria is to establish objective guidelines for service delivery. Right now WMATA has no Board approved guidelines for how much service to provide.

The process of establishing guidelines will provide a forum for debating/discussing loading levels and train frequencies and will result in service changes, up and down, in response to changes in ridership.

Under WMATA's proposal, the GM would only be allowed to make minor service changes that do not affect the approved amounts of jurisdictional subsidies. In addition, the WMATA Compact requires public hearings for most service changes.

by Steve Strauss on Jul 12, 2012 9:03 am • linkreport

I ride the Metro from Vienna to Silver Spring every weekday. When I started in 2005, my commute was 55min and cost 3.60. Now it's 70-90 min, and costs $5.75. I am watching it fall apart.

I really think this is the general aim: they can't handle the capacity, so they are trying to drive commuters away. This has been their model from the get-go; who charges MORE during peak periods anyway? Keep people off the system. So, with this model, I am sure they think, "Rush hour will be a mess, forcing people to non-rush schedules." Same plan since 1975.

They don't like the public. The public is annoying, whiny, and demands scheduled and reliable service and its so hard! They are running like teenagers trying to get out of chores.

And the employees don't care. I think they have a really shitty union as well, given all the safety and overtime issues we've been hearing lately. I know some of the salaries the train drivers make, and they are not competitive. You can make more as an assistant manager at a Domino's delivery franchise than a driver of a train with thousands of riders. If you fuck up a pizza, eh, customer gets second pizza. You fuck up a train, you could kill a lot of people.

But the management doesn't care, either. They don't. WMATA doesn't care. Why would they? I doubt most of the committees that make up the Board of Directors wonder why this isn't a profit-making operation? It's a huge sink. I mean, as a public service, it's not supposed to make money, but I think a lot of these people are the kind who went to college and graduated at the bottom of their class and don't see the big picture. And they change staff so frequently, the lack of experience is a huge brain drain. Infighting is common. It's a horrible, depressing, apathetic work environment.

And as for the comments about "Third world train service?" Unfair. The third world RUNS THEIRS BETTER. Go to India, for example. They have the most massive and complex train system in existence, and they are still on time most of the time and they have insurmountable problems far above the cushy world the WMATA works in.

It's not rocket science.

by Grig on Jul 12, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

"And as for the comments about "Third world train service?" Unfair. The third world RUNS THEIRS BETTER. Go to India, for example. They have the most massive and complex train system in existence, and they are still on time most of the time and they have insurmountable problems far above the cushy world the WMATA works in."

Agreed. The metro systems in Delhi, Mexico City, Beijing, and Shanghai are way above WMATA in service quantity and quality. And those are just the ones I have personal experience with.

by Phil on Jul 12, 2012 6:06 pm • linkreport

While Delhi and Mexico city might be good comparisons with WMATA (I have no personal experience with these systems and do not know how old or extensive they are), I would caution against comparing WMATA to Shanghai and Beijing. Yes, their transit services are FAR superior to Metro, but consider the circumstances...labor is cheap and expendable, the government can just spend whatever they feel like spending, and the systems are quite new. There's also some question about just how well-built they are. I'd be interested to see how well they operate in 10-20 years, since, in my experience, China is fantastic at building stuff (I rode the new G-level HSR a few years ago, and boy was that a thing of beauty/efficiency), but terrible at building it right and maintaining it.

A somewhat better comparison, IMO are the transit services offered in Hong Kong. The MTR is only 3 years younger than Metro, and covers more mileage and has more stations. The trains are higher-tech, and the stations are much better-built. To buy a ticket (they also do distance-based pricing), rather than navigate a complicated fare table, you touch your destination station on a touch-screen, and then select a one-way or round-trip ticket. All "paper" farecards are recyclable plastic, cutting the costs of single-use ticket overhead. Moreover, taking a bus or trolley in Hong Kong is a pleasure...service is frequent and timely, coverage is extensive, and the buses are modern, comfortable (okay, if you're tall, maybe not so much, but consider the typical resident/rider), and clean as a whistle. The Star Ferry is also a thing of beauty. In operation forever, it still runs fantastically, frequently, and is so cheap it might as well be free (the buses/trolleys are pretty cheap, too - around $2 to go from Kowloon to the south end of the island - but at approximately $.30, the ferry is a STEAL). Hong Kong's transit puts WMATA to shame, and that really shouldn't be the case.

by Ms. D on Jul 12, 2012 7:04 pm • linkreport

Why is Beijing not a valid comparison? Lines 1 and 2, which are the busiest and most important lines in Beijing's system, are of similar vintage to WMATA and some parts are even older. It's also a national capital of a major country, although its population is much larger than DC's.

HK on the other hand has a higher per-capita GDP than the US, it does not count as a "third-world country."

by Phil on Jul 12, 2012 10:22 pm • linkreport

Comparing WMATA to the Hong Kong metro is not very meaningful. Hong Kong has 7 million people packed into a small area of habitable land. This makes car travel very difficult. They simply don't have much room for roads and parking. So there's a huge captive market for mass transit. It's hardly surprising, then, that they can afford a much nicer metro system than WMATA.

by Bertie on Jul 12, 2012 10:49 pm • linkreport

Would rearranging the lines help any bit in solving over crowding in some portions of the system.

Say for example if WMATA were to switch the terminals of the Blue/Yellow and the Orange/Blue would this relieve any crowding on the system. In the case of the Red Line why not send some trains to Greenbelt like was done in the past with the Green line commuter shortcut ?

From all the rail systems I have been on DC's is near the bottom of the list by far in terms of service; it may look nicer than some but the service is piss poor compared to them. The best would have to be those of Asia, Northern Europe, Oceania followed by Southern Europe, Mexico City, Santiago, Cairo,

by kk on Jul 14, 2012 5:20 pm • linkreport

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