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Riders pack efficient hearing to push for Option 4

Over 170 riders gave their opinions of the WMATA FY2010 budget at last night's hearing. Almost all argued against service cuts, and among those who picked one of the four options, they overwhelmingly recommended Option 4, the 10¢ 4-month fare hike.

Image by iMetro.

Many noted the difficult choice Metro faces; both the Examiner and WAMU quoted Rodney Green, who analogized the situation to a hero in an action movie where the villain makes him chose between cutting off an arm or putting out an eye. (WAMU also quoted me on the dangers of the "death spiral.")

A number loudly called for the resignation of Metro's management and/or Board, often to applause from the audience. But for every rider voicing their understandable frustration with exhortations that would be counterproductive, another gave considered and constructive input.

The large number of riders was no surprise, but more unexpected was Metro's efficient handling of the huge crowds packing WMATA HQ, which no room large enough for all the people, and the speedy conduct of the hearing.

The line outside. Photo by iMetro.
When I arrived, a few minutes late, there was a long line out the door to get through security. Metro staff were telling us the Board room was full, and they weren't sure whether everyone would get into the building. But a few minutes later, they said an overflow room was set up with a live video feed of the main Board room hearing.

Metro split up the speakers into two rooms, with about half the Board members in each, and quickly moved through the speakers limiting everyone to two minutes. As the main rooms cleared, they invited people waiting in the overflow rooms to move. Metro staff were everywhere with large, prominent name tags, directing traffic.

They took speakers in the order they checked in, rather than the order they signed up. While I'd signed up early and was about #15 on the list, I got speaking number 50 out of about 70 speakers signed up in advance. Everyone who didn't sign up got to go after the registered speakers. I assumed that, with 49 people scheduled before me, I'd be waiting until about 10:30 for the hearing which began a bit after 5:30, but to my surprise, I spoke at 7:15. By 7:30 the other of the two rooms, which was moving even faster, had completely finished their speaker list.

The Board will debate the budget at their meeting today. It starts at 11, but with the budget late on the agenda, it might be well into the afternoon before we know more.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Thanks for the report, David.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2010 10:19 am • linkreport

Thanks for this report.

Yesterday, Michael pointed me/us in a general direction of where to look for live tweets, and I went there, but they didn't seem very "live" to me. And they didn't seem to be David's. Maybe for the future, GGW could just say follow our tweets here and post a link. This would be helpful for those who don't tweet.

by Jazzy on Jan 28, 2010 10:25 am • linkreport

They were David's but he didn't do much live tweeting. The person I saw the most tweets from during the meeting was "Metro Man" at

by Michael Perkins on Jan 28, 2010 10:40 am • linkreport

I also was impressed with the systematic efficiency with which Metro conducted the meeting, and with the helpfulness of the staff around the building. Can we please transfer that customer service and efficiency to the actual transit system?

by Matthias on Jan 28, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

I wasn't planning to tweet, and so I didn't want to post a link and promise. I tweeted some, but then got busy talking to people that were there, and then had to speak myself, etc. It takes some amount of time to tweet consistently. I wish I could provide constant Twitter coverage, but it's another layer of work on top of doing the blog, and not always realistic.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

@Matthias: Many of the staff I saw around the building were Metro's senior management. They're the folks that many people want to see fired or have their pay cut.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 28, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

Many also called for none of the above. We deserve better options.

by Redline SOS on Jan 28, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

@Redline SOS

If only you were Metro GM, you could enlighten us on this secret plan you have to fix all of WMATA's problems.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2010 12:53 pm • linkreport


Can't; that plan is proprietary. :)

by Bossi on Jan 28, 2010 5:06 pm • linkreport

The longsuffering Mr Catoe's staff stabbed him again at the hearing. First they could not make his presentation appear, and then, after something went up, he croaked in despair that it was not the right thing.

by Turnip on Jan 28, 2010 6:13 pm • linkreport

They're only human, I've done the same thing.

by Bossi on Jan 29, 2010 9:26 am • linkreport

The Washington Metro system is a prime example of the failure of our socialized transit model, and why transit systems should be privatized.

Why are local Governments paying John Catoe $300,000+ a year plus a $60K yearly housing allowance? That is an outrage. Metro has been overpaying the unions as well as executives for years.

And local Governments continue to subsidize it.

Transit subsidies are vastly out of proportion to other modes of transportation and have made transit the most expensive way to travel. In subsidies, it costs about $.15 per passenger mile when you fly, $.24 per passenger mile to drive and on average $.80 per passenger mile to take rail transit. Using that figure, my commute each way between Alexandria and D.C. by rail costs Metro $7.20 for a $2.65 fare. See the problem?

Governments, which are not good at running businesses, have thrown enough of our taxpayer dollars down the Metro well. Privatizing will allow transit companies to compete to provide innovative transit options that we ALL can enjoy. We riders will get better service, and our communities will benefit as well.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 3:39 pm • linkreport

Privatizing will allow transit companies to compete to provide innovative transit options.

Compete against whom?

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 29, 2010 3:55 pm • linkreport

Privatizing will allow transit companies to compete to provide innovative transit options.
Compete against whom?

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 29, 2010 3:55 pm

Against each other to provide competition for consumers/riders to provide better service and lower cost.

by LeeHinAlexandria on Jan 29, 2010 4:00 pm • linkreport

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