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Is the Post too negative on Metro?

Today is the first anniversary of the Metro crash, and the Post comes out negative on the year's safety developments. The headline says efforts have "lost momentum" and the lede says there has been "too little progress."

Photo by clickykbd.

There could certainly have been more progress, and in particular, it would be nice if the NTSB had gotten a report out already. However, there has been measurable progress, like a more effective Tri-State Oversight Committee and a new General Manager. Kytja Weir's article yesterday, by contrast, said that while progress has been slow, "Metro is finally taking steps to become safer."

The bottom line is that there could have been more progress and there could have been less. The Post's coverage, however, seems to follow a pattern of reporting everything bad that happens at Metro and very little else. Meanwhile, if Maryland MTA, PRTC, Ride On, the Circulator, or other transit agencies do something wrong, it doesn't seem to make it into the Post.

There was the June 18th article, "Metro in a rush to put complex fare increases in place," which talked about how much overtime Metro staff were putting in. The Board deserves some criticism for taking until the last possible moment to decide its budget, but this article could also have read, "Metro working heroically to get fare changes done in record time." Is this speed good or bad? Some of both, probably.

I was also disappointed by the articles responding to the recent "Vital Signs" scorecard General Manager Sarles created to track Metro's performance on various metrics. He decided not just to release data to the Board, as is common, but to open up these metrics to the public. That was a nice gesture of honesty with riders.

But how did the press reward this move toward openness? The Post headline was, Metro system performance fell short in April. Meanwhile, Kytja Weir's Examiner lede was a little less hostile: "Metro is falling behind on many of its performance targets but is largely keeping in line with the past."

As Weir wrote, there are definitely some performance areas that aren't meeting targets. Others are. The thing about targets, however, is that a good organization sets targets that are an improvement from current practice. Otherwise, it's just an exercise in self-congratulation. I don't want Metro staff feeling that they should set low targets just so they can avoid headlines that they're not meeting them.

What's important is the trend line. If Metro starts meeting more targets in the future, that's progress. If not, that's a problem. Not meeting some of them now is just a long-needed admission that there's work to be done.

When I asked WMATA staff about releasing NextBus performance targets, I was advised by other staff (who aren't the ones in charge of NextBus) that there might be reluctance because it could lead to negative press stories about how they aren't meeting the targets. I agreed that was a likely outcome, but argued it would get the negative stuff out of the way and clear the path for positive stories if and when they do improve. But I'm not so sure that's what the Post would write.

WMATA has plenty of problems worthy of scrutiny and pressure. However, they're also doing plenty of things just fine. Metrorail and Metrobus get hundreds of thousands of people where they need to go, and most of the time, they get there on time and safely. Often they don't. Sometimes that's Metro's fault, sometimes it's a consequence of underfunding, sometimes it's the local DOT's fault.

This persistent negativity risks keeping Metro staff shell-shocked and unwilling to talk about what they do. It also leads people to advocate destructive policies just to "shake things up." Yesterday, Unsuck DC Metro endorsed the Virginia effort to make some locally-appointed Board members state-appointed instead, primarily because Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton was able to articulate his own frustrations with the system.

That's terrific. However, I have spoken to most of the current Virginia Board members and they can articulate problems too. They are trying to fix what they can. Even Jim Graham, who gets somewhat-deserved scorn for not riding Metro much, also does indeed know what's wrong with the system.

Unsuck writes, "We are certain that it would be impossible to make the Metro Board any worse than it is." I am certain that's false. The Board could be better. It could be worse. Some members could be a lot better. Some could be worse. The Virginia members who would get kicked off to make room for Bob McDonnell's appointee are generally among the members that could be much, much worse.

It's easy to think of things in black and white. Metro sucks. Blow it up. Replace it with a regional transportation authority. (Isn't that what it is?) Fire everyone. That might feel good but isn't realistic. We need to figure out what's actually wrong and then try to fix those things without screwing up the things that aren't broken. The Virginia Board members aren't the broken part.

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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Metro has no credibility.

It's as plain and simple as that.

by Fritz on Jun 22, 2010 2:17 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know if Metro is still manually driving all of their trains? The headways seem to have gotten back to the nice 2 minute mark during rush hour, and I thought they could only do that with automatic train control.

by Andrew on Jun 22, 2010 2:23 pm • linkreport

Yes. All trains are still operating in manual mode 100% of the time. The headway of trains under manual is not the issue, throughput is.

So if you're downtown, bunching could mean that trains are as close as 90 seconds apart. But the overall runtime across the line as a whole is longer, which means fewer trains can be put into service.

Manual mode mainly affects train speeds and acceleration. The distance between trains is the same (because the ATP system operates the same regardless of ATO or Manual operation). The time between trains, therefore, is a function of how fast trains travel and their acceleration (are they catching up, staying even or falling behind the train ahead?)

by Matt Johnson on Jun 22, 2010 2:27 pm • linkreport

I remember hearing about the accident, and somewhere, in the first day, thinking, hmm, I wonder if the signaling system is bad. Then I though, wow, wouldn't it be amazing if all those strange stops and starts we've been dealing with for years have nothing to do with "track maintenance" or "car in the station" but that the signaling system was broke. Then I thought to myself, no, noway a major public entity could get away with that....

by charlie on Jun 22, 2010 2:31 pm • linkreport

Well what's broken?

A. A poor design. 1. A dual track system that creates delays for minor breakdowns, sick passengers, etc. and 2. The only connection points are in the core, when a hub connecting the spokes is so obviously needed. The Purple Line is a band aid that will not address this problem.

B. Finances. Spin off the paratransit service into it's own agencies and let the individual jurisdiction fund them at a loss.

C. Management. 1. Three jurisdictions (more if you count the various counties) can't manage a single system. 2. The Board isn't accountable to the riding public directly.

D. Labor. Jacke Jeter is a huge problem. Reinstating "Let's Punch McGruff" is only the most glaring recent example.

E. Safety.

F. Congress. Federal workers are a heavy portion of the daily commuters, yet outside of the subsidy the federal government provides it's employees, the federal government has only recently begun to pull it's financial weight on it's subway.

G. System Age. It was poorly designed from the start. It's antique now. We need an upgrade. President Obama should be pushing investment in mass transit as part of the economic recovery, stimulus and jobs plan.

And these are just off the top of my head. Let's not even talk about rider safety, policing and lack of enforcement, and a general incivility that has been growing over the past year among the riders themselves (I've had three people cause problems with boarding the train because the refused to move from the door for crowds at rush hour).

by Redline SOS on Jun 22, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

Metro not revealing information because they're afraid of public reaction is a bit childish. In my mind, it's like a student not turning in a test for fear of the grade. Going off that analogy, Metro might get a "D" for its performance but it's better than having nothing at all. A lack of information does not decrease levels of criticism, it just fuels speculation and animosity towards an agency that's already seen as overly secretive.

by Adam Lewis on Jun 22, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

It pains me to see a blog I read so regularly and respect so much engage in blog on blog drama.

by Gerald G on Jun 22, 2010 2:37 pm • linkreport

Let me clarify one thing:
When I said the distance between trains was the same, I meant that the minimum distance between trains was the same. They can only get so close to each other.

So, let's say we have a line with trains running on average 5 minutes apart. That's the headway, 5 minutes. But if one train has a problem at Station A, and gets held there for 20 minutes (door problem, perhaps?), the next 4 trains all end up spaced behind it about 1000 feet apart.

Once the first train gets moving, the next train signs would show the next arrivals at 1 min, 1 min, 2 min or so. Those trains could operate and keep roughly the same spacing for the rest of their trip because of the block length.

But under normal operations, trains start off as they're scheduled. If it takes Train 1 a little extra time to depart the terminal under manual control, it means Train 2 gets started a little later, and Train 3 even later. So headways might be slightly reduced on the line as a whole, but due to the bunching that occurs downtown, headways appear to be shorter than the average.

But over the distance of the line, each train falls further behind schedule (but generally they would keep the same distance apart) because of slower speeds. Longer run times mean fewer trains are available to be dispatched.

So that means that there are fewer trains operating, but the observed headways at any given point can still be the same or lesser than they were under automatic operation.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 22, 2010 2:39 pm • linkreport

Having seen how the rest of Virginia deals with non-Metro transportation issues in Northern Virginia, I have no doubt that Governor McDonnell's proposal could indeed make things much, much worse for the system. That Unsuck DC Metro can't even acknowledge this possibility speaks poorly for "their" credibility.

by Nate on Jun 22, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

Still on manual.

Metro seems to have fallen into that moral outcast category that includes smokers, trailer park residents, and illegal immigrants, groups about which it's possible to say just about anything without reflection or consequence. In each case, some widely agreed-on moral failing ends up justifying just about any prejudiced, clucking remark anyone, including prominently journalists, chooses to make.

I'm curious about what people believe the moral failing is that justifies the venomous attitude? Is it race-related? Labor-related? Some other association or characteristic?

I'm sure Metro critics will identify cultural characteristics like smugness, indifference, sense of entitlement, laziness, etc. that contrast with other desirable, normative characteristics like thrift, hard-work, virtue, honesty, customer focus, etc., but these negative personality attributes often attach to other kinds of cultural memes, if I'm using the word "meme" accurately.

by jnb on Jun 22, 2010 2:43 pm • linkreport

"It's harder to figure out what's actually wrong and then try to fix those things without screwing up the things that aren't broken. The Virginia Board members aren't the broken part."

Thank you for using the very same argument I was making for keeping Jason Campbell. New Virginia Board seats = Donovon McNabb = won't change a thing.

There. Problem solved.

by horseydeucey on Jun 22, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

It's pretty rich that this blog is criticizing The Post for being too negative, considering this blog once demonized grief-stricken funeral-goers for temporarily blocking a bike lane and spends most of its time complaining about what's wrong with this city.

by anon on Jun 22, 2010 3:03 pm • linkreport

Unsuck's indiscriminate finger pointing is irresponsible, and isn't helping. Of course the WMATA Board can be worse than it is. Taking someone like Zimmerman off the Board would make it worse.

It's unfortunate, because there's obviously a strong niche for a site like that and Unsuck could be using it to advocate for real, meaningful improvements. Instead, he mostly just thoughtlessly attacks the most convenient target. First the scapegoat was Catoe, now it's "the Board", as if the Board operated as a single entity with a single set of opinions.

Nothing would please me more than for Unsuck to take a more responsible and mature role in the community discussion about this, but considering how many people read that site and how influential it can be, until he does I think we are right to call him out for making things worse rather than better.

by BeyondDC on Jun 22, 2010 3:12 pm • linkreport

@ Redline SOS


by C. R. on Jun 22, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport

Unsuck's indiscriminate finger pointing is irresponsible, and isn't helping.


by MPC on Jun 22, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

in a word: YES. and the blogs are even more relentless. everyone take a minute and think where the region would be without this iconic transit system, despite its pitfalls

by JessMan on Jun 22, 2010 3:22 pm • linkreport

Seriously, why would it be bad to criticize Metro? It's not like it has feelings or anything.

Why is Metro immune from being 'overly' criticized?

by MPC on Jun 22, 2010 3:27 pm • linkreport

Got it. Have they ever been on manual for this long before? It seems a little excessive, since at this point the track circuits, not the central control, seem to be the problem, and Metro has been dealing with those.

by Andrew on Jun 22, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport


I know you're joking, but for the record: I'm not suggesting we should leave Metro alone. Responsible parties and bona fide problems should be attacked, viciously. But it is simply not true that everything and everyone associated with the organization is broken, and failing to differentiate between parts of the problem and parts of the solution doesn't help anybody.

by BeyondDC on Jun 22, 2010 3:43 pm • linkreport

The Post came out negative because day after day, Metro gives them no reason to be positive.

by Rebecca on Jun 22, 2010 3:46 pm • linkreport

I think the little tag above this article should not be "transit" but "press". You are talking about the press.

On the whole though, I think it's useless for a serious medium to be debating the opinions of another more obsolete medium. This is not the HuffPo which opines on the opinions of others. Opining on other people's opinions is a rather fruitless effort. It is where the No-Fact Spin Zone comes from.

by Jasper on Jun 22, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

Sarte thought that the crimes of Stalin should be covered up because, as despicable as they were, he didn't want the masses to nonetheless be turned off from Communism.

Despite the screw-ups of Metro, Alpert et. al. don't want the masses to be turned off from their fragile 'urbanism' experiment.

by MPC on Jun 22, 2010 3:54 pm • linkreport

BeyondDC: but that would be boring! Clearly the crowding on the Orange and Red lines and the subsequent higher number of accidents and inconveniences like offloads are proof of Metro's horrific brokenness caused by those damn 6-figure earning bus drivers and ev0l station managers who punch McGruff. Also proof that everyone is fleeing Metro. Atop that, Metro totally should have foreseen the recession (you know, just like Lehman Brothers) and hence the challenges to its fiscal stability and the tax base of its riders. Tsk tsk, Metro.

Of course it's not proof that there was a general lack of foresight in foreseeing the popularity of TOD and the continued population growth of the DC metro region, especially along the I-66 corridor, the long-time challenge of a transit agency without a dedicated funding source like all those other agencies we supposedly envy, and also trying to handle a heavy rail system that is half-commuter rail and half-in city subway and like most half-measures, not really satisfying either constituency perfectly? If it was, then unsucking things is HARD and you can't just blame one person and again, that's BORING. ;)

by Jen on Jun 22, 2010 3:57 pm • linkreport

Metro simply cannot buy positive PR. They got pounded for "not inviting the families" of the crash victims to the memorial service because the PRESS got wind of the service while planning was still underway, and asked the families about it, who of course had not been notified yet (as I said, planning was stil IP). So "Metro didn't invite families to the service." Really? Is that responsible journalism? Don't get me started on Unsuck - a platform for the disaffected and snarky. Hey, everyone has to have a role.

It is fashionable to throw manure at everything Metro does and says. The authority faces a lot of challenges - including an entitled, recalcitrant union situation and chronic capital underfunding. Many of these challenges do not submit themselves to easy, quick solutions - they require months or years of planning, and usually enormous gobs of money. This is a huge system - 86 stations and over 100 miles of track, across 3 jurisdictions, with over 10K employees. It's almost a miracle the damned thing works at all! But work, it does. It ain't pretty, it ain't always on time, but most of the time, it works pretty darned well.

Much like political life in DC these days, it seems impossible to have a real conversation about Metro's problems. It's easy to be critical - it is far more difficult to have a constructive discussion. Don't like Metro? How would YOU fix it? That's the kind of discussion that needs to happen, not the spewing of vitriol.

Kudos to GGW for recognizing that Metro, far from perfect, sometimes gets a raw deal in the press. Kudos also for covering Metro extensively and for rebutting the nonsense posted in Comments by the "nattering nabobs of negativity."

by Glenn on Jun 22, 2010 4:04 pm • linkreport

I agree that Metro gives me no reason to be positive about them, day in and day out. I live in the city for a short commute, but that commute has nearly doubled over the last few years. The trip planner tells me it should take >15 minutes for me to get to my work stop every day, yet, over and over and over again, I get on trains at 8:45-8:50 AM, and arrive at my destination between 9:10-9:20. Metro has not ONCE in the last year accomplished getting me to work in the amount of time it indicates on their schedule.

Add to that that I have been verbally berated by employees for pointing out a problem, harassed by con artists and criminals with police nowhere to be found (even though I requested police assistance both from a station manager and over the phone, and, yes, this has happened more than once), and hear repeatedly about accidents and incidents of serious concern (passenger-vehicle drivers and pedestrians being killed by bus drivers, co-workers and contractors being killed by train drivers and maintenance staff, fires, major mechanical malfunctions, etc.).

Yeah, we all just need to *think positive.* Metro's so awesome, if you just believe it (then you can do it?). Many of these comments are the same old strawman..."well, if it's so bad, then you can just get by without it now, huh?" NO! AND THAT'S WHY METRO NEEDS TO STOP SUCKING!!! I can't get by in the city without it (or at least strongly don't want to), and many others would be much worse off. But *something* is NOT always better than NOTHING. I don't like Vince Gray, but to crib his line, we can do better!

by Ms. D on Jun 22, 2010 4:13 pm • linkreport

and to get my symbols straight <15 minute commute. Pacman eats the bigger number.

by Ms. D on Jun 22, 2010 4:15 pm • linkreport

@Red Line SOS: Good points though I'd like to refute one and add to another.

If Metro is "poorly designed" and "an antique", I'd love to see what you'd think of every system outside of New York and the Broad Street Line in Philly. Is BART the same for being a similar vintage and having only 2 tracks? Same question with Montreal's Metro or PATCO, both of which have rolling stock that's over 30 years old. Are the post-Metro systems (MARTA, Miami, Baltimore) the same? How about light rail systems, I don't think any have more than 2 tracks.

Are the heritage systems with only two tracks (Boston, Market-Frankford in Philly, PATH) also "poorly designed" when they were assembled in an area when multiple tracks could've been made for cheaply? Extensive multi-track systems are the exception, not the rule.

On the other hand, to add onto one other thing.

D. Labor. Jacke Jeter is a huge problem. Reinstating "Let's Punch McGruff" is only the most glaring recent example.

Yesterday evening, I sat behind a fired Metrobus driver on a bus in Silver Spring who is having a hard time making ends meet. Fired for a relatively minor accident, he is disgusted that ATU 689 let "Punch McGruff" and the guy who sideswiped that taxi and killed 2 back on the job when ATU 689 did nothing for him for something less severe. Granted that he might have been a new hire and unions are NOTORIOUS for long probationary periods with little mercy.

On the ATU 689 tangent, letting Jackie Jeter hijack operations (the Metrobus slowdown last Fall, the threatened 40mph protest speed limit on Metrorail) is another shortcoming of Metro.

by Jason on Jun 22, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

I think GGW readers are strong supporters of regional solutions and have many ideas on how Metro should be governed, so I wanted to let you know that the WMATA Governance Task Force is holding an open meeting and forum on July 1, 2010 at 9am at COG. This group wants your input on how Metro is governed. If you can't make it, you can also submit a comment to the Task Force in advance of the meeting.

by Dave Robertson on Jun 22, 2010 4:29 pm • linkreport

@ Jason - Good points. Don't forget Boston or Chicago/CTA either. The point is valid and the fact that National has a third track is proof that they thought about the issue at some point but lacked the funding to build it properly in the first place.

Third and even fourth tracks, like in NY, would alleviate many of our everyday frustrations with sick passengers and stalled trains. It would however do nothing about the incessant door problems.

That said, I moved to the DC region from Detroit because of the Hill, but having a transit system was a big draw as well. We could have nothing.

That being said, I will likely move from Silver Spring into DC because of Metro's unreliability...if I can afford to.

by Redline SOS on Jun 22, 2010 4:39 pm • linkreport

Had the Post urged John Catoe's resignation when he showed over and over that he had failed to change Metro's culture of ineptitude and indifference, that would have been overly negative.

Had the Post urged the resignation of Jim Graham as an ineffective WMATA Board chairperson, that could have been negative.

Had the Post urged a federal takeover of the system due to the squabbles and safety debacles, that could have been negative.

Of course, had the Post done all these negative things, Metro would probably be better off for it, as would its customers.

Metro doesn't need any more apologists carrying its water. It needs a firm ass-kicking and it needs to fire a whole lot of top managers, middle managers, and front-lines employees until the culture changes.

by Fritz on Jun 22, 2010 5:20 pm • linkreport

Redline: National has a 3rd track not for the reason you think, but because from 1977 through 1991, it was the terminus point for the Blue line.

by Froggie on Jun 22, 2010 6:09 pm • linkreport

WMATA has problems no one can say that they do not. The main problem is them planing things and communication. It seems like there corporate motto is "We just don't give a f**k"

Nothing they have ever done has been on time from building lines to fixing an elevator, escalator or even updating there website in a timely fashion.

WMATA didnt have enough money for a third track but that does not mean they could not leave 20 feet inbetween each track when the trains run in the middle or build all stations similar to National Airport. They could have also planned extra space at rail yards, bus depots, stations so that if there was ever a need to expand anything that would already have the land.

Lack of communication one part of the association doesnt know what the other is doing and WMATA makes no attempt to fix it.

by kk on Jun 22, 2010 7:23 pm • linkreport

No, I don't think the Post is too negative on Metro, but I do think Unsuck doesn't understand how utterly disconnected McDo and the Richmond administration currently is from northern Virginia's actual transportation needs, to say nothing of those in the greater Washington area. If someone wants better management at WMATA, the Drakeover won't do that.

by J.D. Hammond on Jun 22, 2010 7:55 pm • linkreport

Kick 'em when they're up. Kick 'em when they're down.
- Don Henley, "Dirty Laundry"

Much of what has been dumped on Metro, they richly deserve. In fact, it took the Post and other local media too long to figure out just how lacking Metro was in safety matters. So they've been playing catch-up, and have been piling on. The "relatives not invited to crash memorial" was wretched excess by the media.

It's a poorly run, poorly motivated operation that has become a media whipping boy.

by Mike on Jun 22, 2010 9:09 pm • linkreport

"Things Go Right" is not a news story. "Things Go Wrong" is. It's not just the Metro/WMATA.

by Miriam on Jun 22, 2010 9:35 pm • linkreport

If the Post would hammer all the underfunding jurisdictions as much as they would metro, perhaps metro would suck less.

by Jasper on Jun 22, 2010 10:34 pm • linkreport

BeyondDC says: "I know you're joking, but for the record: I'm not suggesting we should leave Metro alone. Responsible parties and bona fide problems should be attacked, viciously."

Who should this be done by, pray tell? Certainly there is nary a peep of criticism of WMATA on the BeyondDC blog or this one. If one were to go solely by these two sources, every single Metro problem could be laid at the feet of insufficient funding. The only suggestions for improvement have been minor and ultimately irrelevant things like how best to run shuttle buses during the three orange line disruption weekends or how to shorten station names.

Yes, by all means, let's hear ideas for how to improve Metro. But have we seen any of those here, beyond "more money plz"?

Captcha: leaders cheaply

by Dizzy on Jun 22, 2010 10:38 pm • linkreport


Thanks for the response. Let's see:

1. Complaint about Metro's using euphemisms when proposing to pare down a couple of low-ridership bus routes. Pretty thin gruel, little to do with the overall operation of the system.

2. Not criticism, but rather suggestions for how Metro can extract more money from riders through (sensible, certainly) passes. Has nothing to do with overall operation of the system.

3. Not criticism, but rather suggestions for how Metro can extract more money from park'n'riders through (sensible, certainly) parking fees. The point of the post is how to coerce people into using all the available parking facilities. Has scant little to do with how Metro currently operates/overall operation of the system.

4. An series of heavily couched and caveated evaluations of proposed MetroAccess changes, followed by a "question to the Board," which is really a complaint about the fact of MetroAccess service reductions being on the table. A criticism, I suppose, though of a system used by an extremely small percentage of Metro users. Only because it takes up a chunk of the overall budget does this have anything to do with how Metrorail and Metrobus, the primary services, currently operate.

5. A criticism of a boneheaded Jackie Jeter suggestion. Has nothing to do with how Metro currently operates.

6. The "how to make station names shorter" post that I previously mentioned. This one is the very definition of transit navel-gazing. Has no bearing on current Metro operations.

7. Criticism of a Kawasaki-designed railcar that doesn't exist yet. Nothing to do with current Metro operations.

8. Not criticism, but rather suggestions for how Metro can extract more money from riders through fair hikes. Has nothing to do with current Metro operations.

9. Mostly a criticism of MWAA and Maryland; the only admonition to WMATA is to "smooth feathers" with MWAA, which is a substitute for suggesting anything tangible.

10. This is a criticism of "the region" and the danger of backing away from Metro Matters. There is no criticism of WMATA.

Based on reading all 10 of these posts, I would come away thinking that WMATA is a superbly run agency with just a handful of missed opportunities or potential missed opportunities standing between it and transit perfection. The contrast between this rosy picture and the reality for those of us who use the system daily is glaring to say the least.

I will also add that the statement "Meanwhile, if Maryland MTA, PRTC, Ride On, the Circulator, or other transit agencies do something wrong, it doesn't seem to make it into the Post" is pretty ironic, coming on the same day as the following articles and posts, all about the same incident:


Another topical captcha: misfires forum

by Dizzy on Jun 22, 2010 11:56 pm • linkreport

+1 for Dizzy.

Less Metro apologia; more Metro ass-kicking.

Then we can talk about funding increases.

by Fritz on Jun 23, 2010 6:43 am • linkreport

I agree with the Post- there has been too little progress on safety issues. That said, several things need to be noted. One is, the Post has cut back so much of it’s reporting and become such a “bare bones” product, such that, “…if Maryland MTA, PRTC, Ride On, the Circulator, or other transit agencies do something wrong” it might not be reported to the level that Metro problems are.

Secondly, with WMATA officials such as Peter Benjamin being quoted as dismissing safety issues all together due to cost concerns, how can anyone suggest that adequate progress on safety has been made?

by KevinM on Jun 23, 2010 8:10 am • linkreport

Dizzy, I criticize Metro when it's appropriate, and I comment on changes that seem to make sense. Unlike some parties out there, my opinion about Metro's actions isn't predetermined by an infantile sense that if it's connected to WMATA it must automatically be wrong.

by BeyondDC on Jun 23, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

I've never seen/heard of this blog until Unsuck linked it. Then I read your article. What a load of trash.
Too hard on Metro?
Do you ride it regularly?
Do you actually live in DC?
Is your head firmly and securely attached to your shoulders? Are your five senses in working order?
I have to say that I'm somewhat sickly amused, but mostly just incredulous that there actually are Metro apologists out there. Get a clue, jackass. Metro sucks and deserves the pitiful reputation it has earned for itself in the minds of rational people by consistently failing to deliver quality service (or, in many cases, any service at all). Oh, not to mention those pesky deadly accidents that occurred as a result ofÂ… you guessed it! Poor technical oversight by MetroÂ’s talented workers!

I'll be sure to remember your whimsical little missive about poor ol'Metro the next time I'm stuck underground for 20 minutes on a Blue Line train waiting for a broken down train in front of us to move, only to then discover that our own train has also broken down while waiting for the other to move.

You make me laugh.

by Beyond Means "Not From" DC, Apparently on Jun 23, 2010 10:29 am • linkreport

If metro would start making transparent strides towards improvement for the safety of the customer, they would be able to start digging themselves out of the hole they crawled into when they realized they had to be accountable for their actions (or in most cases, lack of action).

i think if we lighten up on criticism on metro, they will think they're doing a good job. clearly they need a lot of work. well written dc metro blogs like UnSuck are a breath of fresh air to the PR-drivel Metro and other like-minded, optimistic writers like to tell us.

by Wade on Jun 23, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

Actually, I live in Ward 2, and since I don't own a car, yes I ride Metro regularly, but thank you "Not From" for your personal attack-laden irrational rant. You've illustrated nicely the difference between those of us interested in finding solutions and those of us who just want to be angry.

by BeyondDC on Jun 23, 2010 11:02 am • linkreport

@ Beyond 11:02

Don't you get it? There IS no solution. WMATA gets what it wants, we get... to pay more. That's all there is to it. That's why Unsuck folk are so angry.

You go ahead and keep suggesting your well-reasoned solutions. Let us know when a single one of your proposals is even taken into consideration by WMATA. Just be ready for the union to call you a racist that believes in slavery if you dare challenge their authority in... well, anything.

I appreciate that you are trying to be constructive, I just have 0 faith you will succeed.

by anon on Jun 23, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

@anon (11:29a):
If there is no solution, then there is no point in taking a positive or negative approach. Personally, I think constructive criticism is more effective than destructive criticism.

Much of what GGW's authors do is bring attention to factors you might not be aware of. We certainly have opinions and proposals for solutions. But we also do research, not just vent.

For example, do you know how a track circuit works? Do you know how Metro compares to the other heavy rail operators in America in terms of speed? Do you know when Operator McMillan would have had to push the emergency brakes in order to stop short of train 214?

It's ridiculous that Metro photoshopped an image of their million-mile Metrobus drivers so that the same people appear twice or three times or four times. So what? Does using photoshopped advertisements make Metro suck?

Maybe it's just an indicator. And maybe people just want to vent. That's fine. UnsuckDCMetro has a broad audience and is very popular.

I appreciate Mr. Unsuck's efforts to improve Metro, even if sometimes I think his complaints are just grouchiness. Unsuck also does good work and good reporting, and holding Metro's feet to the fire is important.

But what's the goal? If the goal is to "unsuck" the Metro, how will we know when that's happened? And what steps are needed to get there?

Anon, if all you want to do is vent, that's fine. But that alone is not going to get this region or its main transit system where it needs to be.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 23, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

This is ridiculous. Metro can't get much better. Other transit systems do the job better without gouging their customers. Here come some fare increases, and why? Because the union keeps rude, obscene and often lazy metro employees well payed. I've been sworn at and ignored by the very people who are supposed to serve me--and get paid far too much to do so. Metro is a mess and it appears they are not doing much to fix it. Safety measures haven't been taken--trains are still operated manually. This leads to slower times. I haven't had one week since I began riding Metro when there wasn't at least a 10 minute delay in my four-day commuting schedule. You can pat them on the back all you want, but it's undeserved and will only reinforce their terrible behavior.

by J on Jun 23, 2010 12:18 pm • linkreport

I think some of you people miss the point of Unsuck. It's a blog. People express opinions on blogs. Is that wrong? no. Is it funny? most of the time, yes.

To answer Matt Johnson above, ("It's ridiculous that Metro photoshopped an image of their million-mile Metrobus drivers so that the same people appear twice or three times or four times. So what? Does using photoshopped advertisements make Metro suck?") No. It doesn't MAKE metro suck. Metro does that well enough on its own. But is it FUNNY that metro had to so obviously photoshop a picture and run it in advertisements to make themselves look safer than they really are? Yes (to me and countless others, anyway).

Look. Metro has problems, a lot of problems. Is the media unnecessarily negative a lot of the time? No, I wouldn't say it isn't deserved. Should they, perhaps, throw Metro a bone every once-in-a-while. Sure, they may as well. But, if any of these blogs or WaPo have to choose between running some congratulatory fluff piece on the Metro or running a piece about something Metro messed up that has actual consequences, I'd rather they report on things that MATTER.

by Chris on Jun 23, 2010 1:25 pm • linkreport

I'm generally sympathetic to Unsuck's outrage, but I seriously have to question this claim that "other transit systems do the job better without gouging their customers". What other transit systems? With what funding sources? Walt Disney World, where the cost of transit is built into a $80 entry fee for every person riding it? Germany, where fares are buffeted by high residential densities, high fuel taxes, and high subsidies at the Federal and State levels? I would certainly not imagine you were talking about any comparable system in the United States; BART, CTA, LACMTA and SEPTic riders would laugh in your face at that.

I mean, seriously. Exactly what are you talking about?

by J.D. Hammond on Jun 23, 2010 6:30 pm • linkreport

@J.D. Hammond: To show how "other transit systems do the job better without gouging their customers", some basic fare breakdowns.

WMATA post-fare increases: $62 to ride the system weekly ($47 for Metrorail pass + $15 for Metrobus pass). Cheapest monthly option: $202 ($100 for MARC WAS-NCR ticket + $102 for TLC).

CTA: $23 weekly ($28 if you include Pace buses in the suburbs), $86 monthly including Pace.

SEPTA: $22 weekly, $78 monthly. Add-in commuter rail and it goes up to $22.50 weekly/$84 monthly. SEPTA's most expensive pass including all services at all times comes to $50.50 weekly/$181 monthly.

MBTA: $15 weekly, $59 monthly, $89 including express buses and close-in commuter rail. Up to the 5th commuter rail zone (where the only MBTA service is commuter rail), price is still cheaper than the "cheap" WMATA option.

MTA (New York): $27 weekly, $89 monthly.

MTA (Los Angeles): $17 weekly, $62 monthly.

MTA (Baltimore): $16.50 weekly, $64 monthly, $80 including close-in express routes.

I know a distance-based fare system is different than the others and I know all of the above but Baltimore have stronger commuter rail networks, but who sicks out like an overpriced sore thumb and who's falling apart? Well, minus CTA and their slow zone crisis.

by Jason on Jun 24, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

Metro is a complete disaster. You had to live here for 20 years to see how far it's fallen. No other transit system in the country has 4 outstanding safety investigations, or has ever had that many at the same time. You can't run a system that pays it's workers lavishly and doesn't charge enough to operate and keep up with future maintenance. The union is protecting felons instead of holding itself to a high standard that people can be proud of, then accusing the public of being racist to deflect attention from the fact that their employees aren't even doing the minimum requirements of their jobs like "counting trains" or politely manning the booth. The arbitrator is in the union's pocket so that the union and the wmata board can hide behind the decision to never fire anyone for anything including manslaughter. This only serves to get the DC Council members reelected with union backing. Meanwhile everyone blames metro management. Metro doesn't have any management other than the union and the city council.

I would like to ask Rep. Chaffetz to stop screwing around with medical marijuana and gay rights and step in to break up this alliance.

by Jim Bob on Jun 24, 2010 11:47 am • linkreport

Dr. Gridlock, at least, fawns over Metro. Is GGW any more insightful? I've never see Word One in either place doing anything short of *worshiping* the DumbTrip card program.

WMATA has again cranked up the screws on those people unwilling to surrender to it. Now you get overcharged for the rail portion too. See what happens when you object to Big Brother tracking your movements?

And of course when [not if, when] the card dies, don't bother taking it to a sales office; they'll not refund your money. Throw it away and start over; thank you for playing.

by Paperman on Jun 25, 2010 12:46 am • linkreport

Are you freaking kidding? Are you posting for the union guy?

by varun on Jun 26, 2010 9:31 am • linkreport

Jason, I can guarantee that those transit agencies are subsidized to the hilt and have regular funding mechanisms, unlike WMATA which has to be appropriated funding each individual local government every year.

CTA has the Regional Transportation Authority that levies a sales tax in Chicagoland.

SEPTA gets a pool of money as well.

The MBTA gets 1% from the sales tax in Massachusetts.

The MTA (in its own funding crisis, by the way) is a byzantine mess, but they are funded in part by tolls on NY bridges. There's probably masses of other funding sources they have as well.

I'm not aware of how the others are funded, but Metro has always been the system that has the smallest subsidy of every other system.

by Wes on Jun 26, 2010 9:48 am • linkreport

Metro need to seriously up it's game.

Regarding the Post, it's just doing what every local media outlet does and hammering away at a topic once there's blood in the water. Ever notice how once a certain type of story breaks we get to hear about anything in that vein that might not have been news the week before? Journalists are lazy like the rest of us. In my own neighborhood (Trinidad) the 2008 checkpoints set off a firestorm. Checkpoints were a big and interesting story worth reporting. But suddenly we started seeing all kinds of really inaccurate reporting. Shootings that occurred in other parts of NE DC were identified as being in Trinidad. Even the Ward 5 Councilmember's office did it with a shooting in Stronghold, which is not near Trinidad. Right now Metro's a cheap target. But it isn't exactly helping itself.

by Inked on Jul 1, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

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