Posts about WMATA
WMATA has expanded its new monthly pass program, SelectPass. Now, you can buy a pass for nine different levels of fares based on your travel patterns. What's right for you? We've created a calculator.
SelectPass gives you a monthly pass for the cost of 18 round trips (36 one-ways) at a price you select. You pick a pass at the level of your regular one-way rush-hour fare; any extra trips of the same or lesser value are free, and more expensive ones just cost the difference between that fare and the single-trip fare.
The cost of the monthly SelectPass, therefore, is 36 times the cost of the fare threshold you choose, ranging from $81 for a $2.25 SelectPass to $212.40 for a $5.90 SelectPass. It's available for every 25¢ increment from $2.25 to $4.00, and also at the maximum fare of $5.90. Is it a good deal for you?
To find out what your savings could be, use the calculator below, which Greater Greater Washington contributor Chris Slatt developed and I adapted and expanded.
We've filled it in with an example representing someone who commutes 20 days a month at rush hour between East Falls Church and Farragut West (40 trips at $3.30 each), and does a round trip in the afternoon between Farragut West and Capitol South once a week (eight trips at $1.75 each). If you don't know how much your trips cost, go to the Metrorail stations page and click on the station where you're starting your trip.
WMATA SelectPass Savings Calculator
In a typical month, how many one-way trips do you take and how much do they cost?
In the graph above, the green bar shows the pass that is the best deal for you. Blue bars show passes that will also save you money, while those with gray bars will not.
How much would you save with a pass?
Reports of Metro track defects sat in a database without action for years. One reason: Poor training.
A Silver Line train derailed last month because rail ties had deteriorated and the tracks had moved apart. Metro track inspectors had noticed years earlier, but it was "misclassified" in WMATA's database and never got fixed. Meanwhile, inspectors weren't checking all the places they were supposed to. One big reason for all these failures: bad training.
As we've found out since the derailment, track inspectors weren't properly inspecting interlockings in the rail system, the spots where trains cross over from one track to another. Just like the main tracks, these are supposed to be inspected twice per week.
However, WMATA's top managers don't believe that was occurring, General Manager/CEO Paul Wiedefeld and Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin explained at a special WMATA Board meeting on Thursday.
These track inspections, along with those automated and performed by the Track Geometry Vehicle, then go into Metro's issue tracking database, MAXIMO.
It would be bad enough if the inspections are potentially missing issues. However, the agency can't even trust the defect reports logged in MAXIMO. In a track integrity report the Federal Transit Administration released two weeks ago, Metro staff say they have only "approximately 75 percent" confidence that the data in MAXIMO is accurate, and thus useful.
To lose track of defects or to not be able to validate data in the system may have contributed to the East Falls Church derailment. The rotten rail tie defect reports were "incorrectly classified" and sat in the system for years without being properly escalated to the more serious priority that they warranted.
Metro has now awarded yet another contract to essentially rebuild its MAXIMO database with new track inspections, re-finding all the track defects that exist so that the agency has a known "good" list of issues in the system. This could be cheaper than trying to weed out the good vs the bad in the existing database.
Training is a big source of problems
Whether train operators are instructed not to set parking brakes overnight or track inspectors don't have the experience to properly identify and log defects, employee knowledge gaps are contributing to Metro's safety problems.
The FTA report said that track walkers go through an 18-week training program before being allowed to inspect the tracks, but that this training is insufficient:
The current training program is based on hiring employees from the street, without prior track knowledge and experience. The training does not provide a formal mentoring program for Track Walkers nor does it provide on-going training, specialized modules or workshops. Recertification and re-qualification appears to be limited to a one hour activity that centers largely on validating an employee's measurement skills. Additionally, there does not appear to be a training or on-going training program for supervisors who oversee the Track Walkers.The agency is bringing in six Federal Railroad Administration-certified track inspectors for a short-term four-month contract to help give the system a fresh look by outsiders. One of Lavin's goals for this group is that they help give on-the-job training to Metro's nearly 60 track inspectors, some of whom have only been with Metro for maybe a year or two.
Not only is classroom training important, but also the practical hands-on side of it: touching the rails, inspecting fasteners and clips, and so on.
After reviewing the East Falls Church incident, Metro's staff came to the conclusion that "standards are appropriate, [but we] must focus on front line training and enforcing compliance to standards." One of the ways to start rectifying this? Have track walkers work with the experienced inspectors to pick up their habits and learn how to do the job better.
In addition, WMATA commissioned a peer review. from the the American Public Transportation Association. Based on its conclusions, a group from the University of Tennessee will be heading to Metro for two weeks in September. Metro's track inspectors will use these two weeks for additional track inspection training to help fill in knowledge gaps.
Even train operators need more training, according to reports including a recent one from the FTA. Operators aren't familiar enough with where the signals are on the tracks, the proper maintenance and troubleshooting of their trains (especially the newer 7000-series ones), and standard operating procedures of how to store trains in rail yards.
While some issues around both track inspections and train operations are a part of the culture deficiencies that Metro managers are trying to fix, others boil down to simply training employees so they can do their jobs successfully and safely. This is just one of the steps needed to boost morale and rebuild employees' confidence so they can make Metro's rail system once again safe and reliable.
On Tuesday, we featured the ninetieth challenge to see how well you knew the Metro system. Here are the answers. How'd you do?
This week, we got 27 guesses. Nine of you got all five. Great work, Peter K, J-Train-21, Stephen C, Solomon, AlexC, JamesDCane, dpod, Travis Maiers, and We Will Crush Peter K!
Image 1: L'Enfant Plaza
The first image features a Metro pylon directing passengers to the western entrance to L'Enfant Plaza. This entrance is inside the L'Enfant Plaza shopping concourse, and isn't the easiest to find from the street. This pylon bridges the gap between the traditional M-capped pylon on D Street and the mall entrance.
The main clues for this image are the brutalist buildings in the backgound. They're very iconic and should have been easiily recognizable as parts of the L'Enfant Plaza complex. 20 got it right.
Image 2: Grosvenor
The second image shows the pedestrian bridge over Tuckerman Lane connecting Grosvenor station to the Strathmore Arts Center. The curve of this bridge was a clue, since few pedestrian bridges in the system are curved. The two obvious choices are New Carrollton and Grosvenor, which have bridges like this.
However, the bridge at New Carrollton has a sharper curve. The colored lights here are also very distinctive, but if you haven't used the bridge at night, that might not have been helpful. 11 figured it out nonetheless.
Image 3: Braddock Road
The third image shows some new-ish signage at Braddock Road. We discussed these new platform decals in a post several months ago. This is the only station in the system with these markings.
Additional clues include the Alexandria Peak roof style (only King Street has the same canopy) and a blue marker on the train's destination sign. 14 figured it out.
Image 4: Deanwood
This picture shows the north end of the platform at Deanwood. The surroundings here should help you eliminate all the other possibilities. The catenary masts in the background mean this must be one of the Orange Line stations on the eastern end of the line. But the lack of wires eliminates Landover and New Carrollton.
The island platform eliminates Cheverly. The houses mean that this can't be Minnesota Avenue, since DC 295 is just west of the station. That leaves Deanwood. 21 worked out the logic correctly.
Image 5: Naylor Road
The final image shows a view from the platform at Naylor Road. The perspective here means this is an elevated station. The buildings in the distance, Lynhill Condominiums, were another clue.
Aerial images might have helped you narrow this down, by locating the bus loop and park-and-ride. 18 came to the correct conclusion.
Great work, everyone. Thanks for playing!
We're taking a break until the end of September. So take some time to study up and we'll see you on September 27 with week 91.
Cross-overs. Guarded 8s. Gauge rods. It's hard for most Metro riders to follow all the talk about track inspection practices, the blistering number of Federal Transit Administration recommendations, and regular single-tracking over one problem or another.
While Metro has many problems with its track inspections, the real problem is deeper. Metro lacks a culture of not just safety, but of getting jobs done properly. The organization hides information from one level to another instead of working together to root out and fix problems.
Frederick Kunkle effectively summarizes the problems with Metro's organizational culture through one recent employment action.
Seyoum Haile, a senior mechanic, had falsified preventive maintenance inspection reports on [a] fan, court documents say. When confronted with discrepancies in those inspection reports during the post-accident investigation, Haile also lied, Metro's management says. ...The ROCC hung up? Are you kidding me? And Perry handed out pre-signed reports and never checked them? Come on.
[But] Haile, who had been employed with the agency for 13 years, had only been following routine procedure in a workplace where management fostered incompetence and allowed people to make stuff up as they went along. ... Haile's supervisor, Nicholas Perry, acknowledged in arbitration testimony that he gave out pre-signed inspection reports to his crew. The forms said "reviewed by a supervisor," even if that were not the case, a practice Perry testified that he has since discontinued. ...
When mechanics wanted to run a test remotely, they had to contact Metro's Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC). The ROCC staff sometimes put the mechanics on hold, failed to call back, or had trouble locating the correct switch for the fans in question. On one of the last inspections Haile and a co-worker conducted on the fan before the fatal Yellow Line incident, he was heard in the background on an audio recording respectfully trying to help the ROCC official locate the right switch. But the ROCC operator couldn't find it and hung up. He and his coworker went to work on another fan but did not return to the original one.
I worked at an organization (Google) known for its culture, around innovation, around encouraging engineers to pursue crazy ideas with 20% of their time, around launching products in "beta" (at least at that time) to see what happens. Culture didn't come automatically to it or any other Silicon Valley company. They worked hard to communicate and reinforce themes and consider it strongly in hiring.
Metro's culture, clearly, is lacking. Many employees, whether front-line or managers, don't take responsibilities seriously. If employees falsify reports, and their managers encourage them to, and other departments hang up on them without solving a problem, something is very wrong not just with a few people or a department, but a culture.
Paul Wiedefeld is trying to change this
Thursday, the WMATA Board grilled agency managers on this. David Strickland, one of the new federal board members and a former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said, "There has to be a crosscurrent of responsibility among every employee at WMATA, and quite frankly, it's not there. It's not just individual accountability and punishing wrongdoing. We need to have a self-policing culture."
WMATA General Manager/CEO Paul Wiedefeld agreed. He said, "We have years of disconnect between management and employees. I want to reinforce we're all together in this. We respect each other; we're not going to have retaliation." (Many front-line employees have said they didn't speak up for fear of retaliation from their immediate supervisors, just one of many culture problems that have come to light.)
"I think it's a major reset of how we approach our employees, to hold everyone accountable," Wiedefeld went on. "The thousands of employees I've talked to, they want that, they want to get there."
We need Metro to succeed
It's very hard to turn around large organizational culture. It's possible, and people have done it, but companies in this situation are more apt to decline and go out of business than turn around.
That's not an option for Metro. It isn't something we can abandon (earlier, silly Kunkle columns notwithstanding). With all its problems, it's still the nation's second-best subway system.
It's made the Washington region appealing to the many people who want to live in walkable areas with transit to jobs. It's fed residential and job growth in central DC and many mini-downtowns in Maryland and Virginia. And it's made it possible for downtown DC to thrive without needing to cover all of this land in five-story parking garages:
For those of us who think Metro is one of the best things ever to come to this region, it's heartbreaking to see these problems run so deep. They have to get fixed. They just have to. And all of us need to do whatever we can to help that happen.
There may not be much we can do. The board has hired someone, Paul Wiedefeld, to turn around the organization's culture. So far, people in the know believe he can. It's a tough job.
It will be harder if Metro also has no money
One thing we can do is ensure Metro isn't under-resourced. The more time Wiedefeld is spending out convincing local, state, and federal officials to give him the funds he needs to actually make repairs, the less time he can be fixing the management structure.
It's hard to argue that Metro needs money when so many people seem to be drawing salaries and not doing a good job, but an organization that's spending all its effort cutting expenses to the bone isn't an organization that can devote real management attention to reform. It's not a purely zero-sum game and he can and should do both, but some things really require the top manager, and there are only so many hours in a day.
Until they can, Metro is going to keep having layers upon layers of problems, just waiting to pop to the surface when the right conditions arise. Only a culture of working together to fix problems, not cover them up, will get Metro back to the pride of the region. "Culture changes can be generational, and we don't really have generational time to see that our culture changes," said Arlington's Christian Dorsey at the meeting.
I hope the union and management can truly work together to solve this. It's clear that some front-line employees should be fired, but also clear that many middle managers need to be. This won't get fixed by scapegoating anyone or union busting, but it also requires a shared commitment to change the culture, including removing the most toxic members.
Metro's still got a tough path ahead. Let's all root for it to succeed.
The votes are rolling in! So far more than 1,200 people have cast their votes and rated the ten MetroGreater finalists. Voting closes at 11:59 pm on Friday, August 26th. We'll announce the winner next week.
Now, the public will choose the winning idea by voting at MetroGreater.org. WMATA has committed to implement the winning idea over the next six months.
Here are the 10 MetroGreater finalists
Click on each idea below to see the original MetroGreater submission and what commenters think about this idea.
Want to know more about these ideas before you vote? Check out this series of posts, which delve a little deeper into each finalist idea.
WAMU gets in on the MetroGreater action
Back in July, Martin DiCaro of WAMU invited David Alpert to talk about the MetroGreater contest on the seventh episode of the podcast Metropocalypse. Martin had David back on the most recent episode of Metropocalypse to comment on Metro's recent challenges and to give an update on the 10 MetroGreater finalist ideas.
Inspired by the "Kojo on Metro" finalist idea, Martin asked his colleagues to lend their voices to a faux Metro announcement. Diane Rehm may not have actually cast her MetroGreater vote, but she did lend her voice. Listen to Diane Rehm and Korva Coleman offer some cheeky advice to Metrorail riders.
The Diane Rehm Show (@drshow) August 22, 2016
Make sure your voice is heard. Vote today!
If you haven't already voted, go to MetroGreater.org to rank the finalists today! Voting closes at 11:59pm on Friday, August 26th.
Then, stay tuned! We'll announce the winning idea next week on Greater Greater Washington and MetroGreater.org.
System maps on the ceilings of cars? Color blind-friendly dots on sign posts? These are the last 2 MetroGreater finalists!
You have a few more days to vote for your favorite MetroGreater finalists before voting closes at midnight on Friday, August 26th! We've told you about eight of the ten finalists over the last few weeks. Here are the last two: System map decals for ceilings of cars and color-blind friendly dots on sign posts.
System map decals for ceilings of cars
Many people who submitted ideas for small, quick fixes to make riding Metro better wanted to see improvements to signage. This finalist idea proposes to add more system maps to rail cars by putting them on the ceiling. Although Metro has made ceiling space available for advertising on some cars, they could make room for some maps.
Place decals of Metro system Maps on ceilings of the cars, preferably in between doors. This will encourage tourists to move to middle of car, away from doors, if they are able to see a system map that is not near a door.A few commenters think this is a great idea. Daniele notes that because she is 5'3", "it can be EXTREMELY difficult to see the Metro map! By putting it on the ceiling, I would no longer have issues seeing the map!" Rick agrees that this is a good idea, but thinks that adhesive system maps might make for tempting souvenirs. He recommends that WMATA "make sure that they can't be peeled off" too easily by people wanting to take them home!
Ceiling system maps will also be helpful to regular riders who are having to make detours during Safe Track surges.
What do you think? Should system map decals for the ceilings of rail cars be the winning idea? Vote at MetroGreater.org and share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Make the dots on sign posts more color-blind friendly
Many people with color blindness experience unique challenges when trying to navigate Metrorail. Difficulty or the inability to distinguish between colors means that system wayfinding tools based solely on color are confusing for some people with colorblindness. This MetroGreater finalist idea seeks to assist people with colorblindness by adding text to the rail line dots on sign posts in Metro stations.
Diana B.'s original submission explains:
On all sign posts, print the word color (ex. Blue on blue dot) so color-blind people can tell what line it is.Commenters agree with Diana. As someone who seems to have color blindness herself, Lori "support[s] this 100%." She shares that if she didn't already know where she was going, she would have a hard time navigating based on colors alone.
People who are color-blind have trouble determining which line is which, because they can't tell the color of the circles. My son-in-law has to ask people which line is which and sometimes gets no help because people just tell him to look at the posts.
To make wayfinding easier for people who are colorblind as well as those who may not read English, Mark suggests making "giant colored dots with white colored text words" in the center in both English and French. Rick, on the other hand thinks less is more and recommends "dots with the single capital letters in them, (B) = Blue, (G) = Green, (R) = Red, etc." to reflect some of the new system maps.
Do you support adding text to the colored dots on sign posts? Should it be the winning MetroGreater idea? Vote and tell us your thoughts at MetroGreater.org.
It's time for the ninetieth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of 5 stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?
We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun.
Please have your answers submitted by noon on Thursday. Good luck!
UPDATE: The answers are here.
Split stanchions in rail cars? A reverse commuter parking pass? Here are two more MetroGreater finalist ideas.
Last week we announced the MetroGreater finalists. Between now and August 26th, when voting closes, we want to tell you more about each finalist idea. Today's featured finalists: Install split stanchions in (some) rail cars and create a reverse commuter parking pass.
Install split stanchions in some rail cars
This finalist idea proposes to increase the amount of surface area on the vertical poles, or "stanchions," in Metrorail cars, allowing more people to hold on to the pole at the same time.
Here's the original submission:
Seen in many new subway train models, these poles are split into multiple handles so that more people can hold onto them at the same time, and also prevents one rude leaning passenger from obstructing the entire pole.Peter D. knew that the MetroGreater contest was looking for "relatively simple ideas that would have a noticeable impact for riders" and thought the idea of switching out some of the vertical handrails fit the bill. Noting that "most older railcars have clusters of three vertical stanchions at the ends, which makes navigating through them a bit tricky and often discourages riders from evenly distributing through the car," Peter thinks replacing a few of these with split stanchions "would free up walking space without losing surface area for riders to hold."
I believe that split stanchions would be a significant benefit for riders, especially in crowded conditions. Most older railcars have clusters of three vertical stanchions at the ends, which makes navigating through them a bit tricky and often discourages riders from evenly distributing through the car. Replacing these with one or two split stanchions would free up walking space without losing surface area for riders to hold.
Split stanchions also solves the issue of one rude rider leaning against a pole, preventing anyone else from holding on.
Volunteer contributor Steven Offutt wrote a post about split stanchions after noticing them in a Barcelona subway car back in 2010. He noted then that "while the top and the bottom of the stanchion are a single pole just like in DC, the center section splits into three, allowing more people to comfortably hold on in the same amount of space. This appears to be a solution that could be retrofit into existing cars by cutting out the center of an existing stanchion and welding on these midsection portions."
When the jury nominated this ideas a finalist, they recognized that to implement this idea in under six months and $100,000, Metro would have to start by doing this as a pilot in a few trains only.
What do you think? Should Metro test these out? Vote at MetroGreater.org or share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Reverse commuter parking pass
Another finalist idea offers a solution to "reverse commuters," people who live in the District, but work in suburban areas of the region. Many of them could use Metrorail to get most of the way to work, but need a car to get from the station to their jobs. A reverse commuter parking pass would allow these folks to leave their cars overnight at a Metro stop near their work during the week and even through the weekend.
The original submission provides an example:
I think there are a number of individuals who would actually use metro to reverse commute but have the issue of "the last mile". If Metro allowed this individuals to purchase a parking pass that would be valid for overnight parking they could then use the Metro rather than driving the entire way.Dennis E. found Metro's guidance on overnight parking confusing for people who may want to use station lots for reverse commuting. So he thought, "why not clear up the issue while creating a marketing-campaign which could promote the idea of reverse commuting and making it work for those individuals who don't work near a Metro Station or bus route?"
For instance, if I lived in DC but worked in Gaithersburg or Germantown, I could take the Metro to the Gaithersburg station pick up my car and then go to work. Because of the time these spaces would still be available for regular commuters. They could use the same permit process."
Dennis acknowledges that some of the other finalist ideas would impact a greater number of people, but he envisions several benefits of a reverse commuter program:
- Raise awareness of reverse commuting using Metro and increase the number of riders who reverse commute by Metro.
- Free up on-street parking spaces in DC and eliminates the headache of trying to find a spot for reverse commuters.
- By parking overnight, reverse commuters reduce traffic congestion and reduce wear and tear on their vehicles.
The Olympics may be in full swing in Rio de Janeiro, but we've got our own nail-biting competition going on here in the Washington region. Here are the 10 finalists for the MetroGreater contest, to devise quick ways Metro can improve the rider experience. Which are your favorites?
People submitted over 1,300 ideas to improve the rider experience on Metrorail, Metrobus, or MetroAccess. Eligible ideas are ones that Metro could implement in six months or less and for no more than $100,000.
The MetroGreater jury met last week and selected an exciting slate of ten finalist ideas. From bus to rail, art to parking, we think you'll find at least one idea you think should be the MetroGreater winner.
Starting next week, we'll feature finalist ideas in Greater Greater Washington posts to tell you a bit more about each. In the meantime, take a look at the finalist ideas below, then cast your vote!
Congrats to our finalist submitters: Mathew F. of Washington, DC; Hester G. of Cheverly, MD; Peter D. of Arlington, VA; Ryan W. of Washington, DC; Janet S. of Alexandria, VA; Jennifer S. of Chevy Chase, MD; Robert B. of Falls Church, VA; Diana B. of Dunkirk, MD; Alex L. of Washington, DC; and Dennis E. of Bethesda, MD!
Cast your vote by Friday, August 26
Voting is open and you can cast your vote starting today at MetroGreater.org! Anyone can vote, but only once, between now and 11:59 pm next Friday, August 26th.
To vote, you'll rank the finalist ideas. You can rank all 10, or just your top choice. Votes will be tallied using the instant-runoff voting system. That means we will eliminate entries that get the fewest votes and apply those votes to the next-highest one that's still in the running. Instant runoff voting is used to elect legislators and presidents in Australia, India, and Ireland.
The jury also identified 12 honorable mentions. These are ideas which the jury really liked, but for one reason or another could not be implemented safely, successfully, in six months or less, and for no more than $100,000.
Some are ideas which Metro staff really liked and could work on in the future with the luxury of more time and/or money, and we hope they will. Others are actually being done already.
We will be following up with more detailed information on the reasons each of these could not be finalists in posts on Greater Greater Washington after the voting ends.
- Run escalators with rationale, Larry M. of Washington, DC
- Paint "LN CAR DEST MIN" above the PIDs, Scott K. of Alexandria, VA
- Reflective striping for stairs, Melanie R. of Arlington, VA
- Overlay nearby bus routes on station neighborhood maps, Judy L. of Bethesda, MD
- Last car overhead signs, Steven H. of Arlington, VA
- Branded SmarTrip cards, Robert H. of Washington, DC
- Fix the fare charts, Noah V. of Washington, DC
- Expand multiday parking, Chuck C. of Alexandria, VA
- More green line trains during baseball season, Rose W. of Owings, MD
- Station sponsorships, John S. of Kensington, MD
- 15-minute transit network map in every station, Dan M. of Washington, DC
- Oriented floor neighborhood maps, Dave R. of Corvallis, OR
As we've kept you updated on the MetroGreater contest process, several commenters have requested that we share more than just the 10 finalist ideas. In addition to the honorable mentions above, you can now see the semifinalists here, and can see all of the submitted ideas here.
Thanks to Metro and its business partners, the grand prize winner, the remaining 9 finalists, and the people who submitted "honorable mention" ideas will receive a prize!
The grand prize winner will receive a paperweight made from a piece of historic Metro rail removed during SafeTrack as well as a personalized $100 SmarTrip card. Additionally, he or she will get to choose two packages of experiences donated by the Reston Association, Extraordinary Alexandria, Pike & Rose, Spy Museum, National Building Museum, Washington Capitals, Arlington, Big Bus Tours, Washington Wizards, the Washington NFL team, and Downtown DC.
Finalists will each get to choose one of the remaining packages and will also each receive a $25 SmarTrip card.
People who submitted one of the honorable mention ideas will each get a token of appreciation from WUSA9, Metro, Rockville Town Square, Main Street Takoma, or the Smithsonian Zoo.
You make Metro greater
Thank you to everyone who submitted an idea! Whether your idea made it through to the final stages or not, your participation demonstrates riders' commitment to making Metro greater.
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