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Posted at 11:45 AM ET, 12/16/2010

Dear Metro, I hate that I love you so (#metroloveletter)

By Elizabeth Flock

I didn't know you three months ago when I moved to Washington from Chicago. I knew the El, which runs on time, doesn't do random searches, and would never, ever tell me not to eat my breakfast on the train.

Dupont Circle Metro station (Ann Scott Tyson/The Washington Post)

I have to tell you something, Metro. You're late. All the time. This morning you stood me up when I had a meeting at work to get to. For half an hour I stood on the platform. You kept me hanging when the "Mad Men" finale was starting and my roommate disabled TiVo. I've fallen in your potholes you call construction one too many times. I've broken a sweat on the way to a date when the Woodley Park escalator was broken, again. And that thing you call a SmarTrip card? I'm onto you. I figured out pretty fast that that card charges me just the same.

What about when I want to get home late at night, after getting better acquainted with your city's watering holes, and I need you the most? You're not there at all. You're shut, with cold metal bars blocking your entrance. Should you really expect me to keep coming back?

But that's the problem, Metro. I will come back, because I love you.

Ever since I met you, Metro, I can't get enough. I'm there every morning from Woodley Park to Farragut North, and every night I take you home.

I could get to work another way. Capital Bike Share looks pretty tempting some mornings, with those glistening red bikes all lined up in a pretty row. I could walk, try the bus or drive. I don't. I take you.

Because you're easy. And you're there. Your yawning ceilings make me feel small, but in a good way. Your SmarTrip card makes me feel important. Your scary octopus Metro map has tentacles that go everywhere I want to go. I've read countless Express newspapers while hanging on to the overhead rail for dear life. And it turns out, by forcing me to eat breakfast at home, you make me a better person. These days, my dress stays coffee-free all day.

I hate that I love you, Metro. But I do.

A lot of us do. We're taking you more every day.

This is my love letter to the Metro. What's yours? Tell us why -- despite the delays, the broken escalators, the constant problems -- you still love the Metro. Write it in the comments or send us a tweet using the hashtag #metroloveletter.

By Elizabeth Flock  | December 16, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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I'm from DC but I've been using Metro for the last 9 months on a regular basis. I can't tell you how many times I've encountered broken escalators or trains that weren't working. Yet, the cost of fares steadily increases like it was a postage stamp and there's no increase in the quality of service in return. And I mean really, does it have to cost $4.25 just for my car to sit at the parking lot? It just sits doesn't hurt anybody!

Having patience with Metro is like dealing with a girlfriend that, no matter how much she tries to do the right thing, there's always something that will get on your nerves. It's like being married but you can't stand your wife, and the only reason you're there is because of the children. The problem is that you can't break up with Metro because there's no one else who can do what they do for you in this area. It's almost like a communist society.

Just the other day I had to be off-loaded from a train because of a mechanical function to another train. I was stuck at Federal Center SW with no communication over the loud Metro employee walking through the crowd to say "Don't worry...another train will be coming shortly." It's the little things that count. I don't blame the hard working Metro employees that do care and are dedicated to what they do. It starts with leadership and right now that is in flux.

Metro has a serious image problem. I really think the federal government should take Metro over since a majority of their employees use Metro. That's the only way to save this almost-corrupt institution. Metro is not willing to invest the time nor the dollars to correct their image problem because they know they've got the customer caught in the doors. Instead of asking you how you feel, they just tell you that they're closing and to please stand clear. Ding! Dong!

W. Woolfolk

Posted by: wawoolfolk | December 16, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I love Metro for reminding me how much I would much rather be driving my 1968 Mustang.

I love hating Metro.

I love the fact that no matter what gets reported on how Metro is going to improve things, they continue to get worse. I love how fares keep going up yet the standards of "service" keep reaching new lows. I love how we were promised 8 car trains several years ago yet during the heaviest parts of rush hour we are continuously asked/forced to shove ourselves into cars so overcrowded that the train operators have to threaten us with offloading the train if we can't get out of the way of the doors.

I love how Metro continues to thank us for our patience as we sit for 30 minutes outside in the middle of August as another broken train is offloaded and moved while we bask in another one of their stationary saunas.

I love how Metro train operators can't be bothered to provide riders with an update as to why we've been sitting at the platform for the past 10 minutes.

I love playing "escalator roulette" every day, trying to figure out what escalator is not only running, but which direction it is running in.

I love reading on the exit booths at the parking lots how if we have issues with the Smartrip or Credit Card machines we should contact the booth attendant - except there aren't any booth attendants.

I love how Metro keeps playing with rider's lives by disregarding anything remotely approaching the concepts of "safety" and "maintenance" by leaving tiles on the outdoor platforms loose and missing; preferring to simply mark the hazardous spots with orange traffic 'safety' cones.

I love how Metro reminds me just how much I love my wife and my home every night that I manage to make it from one end of the orange line to the other without losing some significant piece of my body or my life unlike those unfortunate souls on the Red line a year ago - all because Metro chooses to ignore a simple concept like "safety".

I love how Metro prefers to devote police resources to preventing people from eating and/or drinking on their trains instead of to keeping passengers safe in/around/on their stations or trains.

I love how Metro promoted selling advertising on the outsides of the cars as a means for generating revenue, and preventing massive fare increases, and seeing how few cars actually have any advertising on them.

I love how Metro manages to be so bad, its service so poor, that it makes the incompetence I experience everyday at work with our IT contractors pale in comparison.

Thank you Metro, for making me appreciate the simpler things in life; because compared to you, nothing else can possibly suck any worse.

Posted by: mika_england | December 16, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

What I love the most is the (thump) shoulder massage I get every (thump) morning with our Orange Line driver who (thump) enjoys stopping the car (thump) seven times before (thump) he actually (thump) stops. There are usually about (thump) seven mini-whip-lashes at every (thump) station before that big, welcoming major (THUMP) that says, finally, we are (thump) here! Do the drivers actually work the (thump) brake or does the (thump) computer? Either way, both could use a little reprogramming on how to, just maybe, sliiiddeee the car to an easy stop instead of pumping (thump) the brakes like I use to do on my 1962 Chevy (thump)truck. Excuse me, mam, (thump), you dropped your umbrella on that last (thump) thump.

Posted by: CapnPequod | December 16, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I love hearing "delays due to [pick your reason], which situation has been resolved and all trains are moving" for 15 minutes while my train continues to sit in the station. Makes me laugh every time!

Posted by: mike7186 | December 16, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Metro I love you Monday through Friday, but I hate you on the weekends.

Metro on a Saturday night is the worse as you can wait for up to 30 minutes for a train, which I did a few Saturday’s back (single tracking). When the train arrived at Farragut North 30 minutes later, it was jammed packed (standing room only). The man standing next to me farted all the way from Farragut North to Brookland. The family across from me had a crying baby who’s diaper was full of poop and needed changing, but they didn’t change it, so between the farting man and the baby…well you can imagine what the train smelled like. Then there was the young man on the other side of the train doors, he had his drum sticks and played the drums on his bicycle frame, rat-ta-tat-tat all the way to Brookland. What a night, I kept thinking “this is like one of those post-war (WW2) movies that depicted eastern European train travel in this way…all that missing are goats and chickens.”

But I can't blame Metro for the farting man, the pooping baby or little drummer boy, none of that was Metro's fault (but if it had been running 7 minutes apart maybe these folks would have been spread out over several trains)

Overall, I love Metro

Posted by: museum3 | December 16, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Cute article; however, the author only travels from Woodley Park to Farragut North every day. No biggie. Try Cleveland Park to Silver Spring every day! As far as my love for Metro is concerned...if I could afford a car, I would not ride Metro...EVER! I spend 10 hours a week jammed into crowded Metro cars, surrounded by rude, selfish, and - more often than not - smelly people. Whether the train is going to be on time is a daily guessing game. Let's also not forget about those so-called "students" who terrorize commuters at Metro stations like Tenleytown and Gallery Place. The list of negative things could go on and on and on. No, I do not love Metro. As soon as I buy that car, it'll be Hasta la Vista, Metro!

Posted by: Maximus15 | December 16, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I now live on the Eastern Shore, so I don't keep up any more with Metro developments. Why did they change the chime? I loved that minor third that was played before the doors closed. I do nto like the new chime one bit.

Posted by: bucinka8 | December 16, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I love mass transit - but the Washington Metro is NOT mass transit. Go to Germany and Japan - those are REAL commuter trains. I lived in Japan for a year and only once was the train more than 30 seconds late (it was 2 minutes late and they apologized like 5 times). Additionally, I could go anywhere in Japan on those trains and it was significantly cheaper than owning a car (even compared to American standards). After visiting Germany and living in Japan, it's so hard to accept that the Metro is the best the capital of the freeworld has to offer for public transportation.

Metro, I use you - but I certainly don't love you. I'm just waiting for the DC area to join the 21st century and design / build something better.

Posted by: SaltaholicWM1 | December 16, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Try being almost 2 hours late on your second day at a new job! But I still love it too. It could have been worse. I could have been one of those guys that got killed on the tracks. Maybe its the risk we like?

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | December 16, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I love the fact that I only have a few more years until I retire, move someplace sane (and warm), and never have to take Metro ever again!

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 16, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

For nearly two years, the WP-Farragut was my commute. Now it's WP-Gallery Place. But I don't take it. I've snubbed metro. I walk the three miles (down CT ave and then Mass), or in our recent arctic winter weather, relish in the calm that a *gasp* Circulator bus has to offer. A warm seat from Woodley to McPherson and then a nice walk or transfer from there. And you know what? It's cheaper. And I can read a book. And get to work on time. Just today I saved my boss, for she had a 10am meeting but was stuck somewhere on the red line because cracked rails are normal around these parts. But I arrived well in advance and could greet her 10am guests.

My office mate was not so lucky, also caught on a train. A transplant from out of town, she finally said, after being here for around 6 months, the words that natives and long-time residents utter day in, day out:

Sure, I use you, but I don't let you use me.

Posted by: kddunn1 | December 16, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

HA HA HA - Woodley Park to Farragut North, for three months! Try King Street to Bethesda, for three years! Daily transfers at Gallery Place will take those stars right outta one's eyes, leaving only a black hole for Metro.

Each day I gird my loins for battle with 2-4 of Metro's lines, one of which is Red. (Yellow shares with Blue and Green, so problems almost anywhere in the system will affect my commute. It's sad that I still feel more pity for Orange line riders.) If I could take back all of the hours that Metro has stolen from me, I'd finally have time to write the next Great American Novel.

I recently had some train doors slammed shut on my person (broken speakers = no door chimes). This was followed by the train operator shouting, "You'll get there when you get there!" I'm betting that that was the title of Metro's latest internal memo.

Posted by: vathena | December 16, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Metro, I'm a fan. And now that I'm one of the area's Lemming Commuters, my heart yearns even more for you.

Yes, our local system has its issues, and yes, those issues have only grown more pronounced over the last couple of years or so. Fatal accidents, chronic lateness, and escalators breaking down in the heart of the godforsaken D.C. summer are not exactly gold stars for the transportation system. Fares keep goin' up, but services aren't improving. Etc.

But if you ever want to feel better about D.C.'s lot in life just skip on down the steps of any subway station in NYC. Now, I've actually had arguments with people who consider themselves to be very NYC-savvy and who are inexplicably loyal to their subway. They feel the punctuality and broad reach of NYC's subway system more than make up for what it lacks in aethestics. Well, friends, I beg to differ.

I can't really comment on the punctuality factor (although I will say that their system maps and schedules are completely mystifying, an observation reinforced by the inability of random NYC subway staff to explain how to get from point A to point B because they couldn't figure it out either). But I CAN speak to the absolute horror of any given station in that city. Dangling wires....intermittent darkness....filth and and broken concrete....dark, ancient cars with unspeakable things on the floors and walls and seats...dank, depressing and miserable.

Nope, give me the good old D.C. Metro any day. At least my soul doesn't recoil in horror when I ride the escalator down into usually cool, well-lit environs, I don't feel like I need an immediate shower after riding it, and I'm not always wondering if some mutant half-decayed zombie is going to lurch out of the tunnel with a rat in its mouth, seeking the blood of innocent tourists.

And if that doesn't make you feel better about our Metro, just try commuting in this area via car for a week or so. I guarantee you will run joyously back to your underground magic carpet ride.

Posted by: bobby4 | December 16, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I gave up on metro. My wife lectures me about taking mass transit and saving the planet.

Bottomline, my job pays for my parking. 15-20 minutes one-way by car(I have a reverse commute.). 45 minutes, when everything goes right one way by metro (walking included).

Cost for metro 5.30 per day, round trip. Cost for driving approx 1.80 per day in gas round trip, plus some amount of wear and tear on my car.

I metro when it's more convenient. I have plans after work or I need to go someplace where there is no parking or whatever. Otherwise, why would I get out of my car?

Metro= more expensive, more time

Posted by: Fisk202 | December 16, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I love the way you lie Metro...Just gonna stand there and watch me burn?

And you lie Metro, boy do you lie. And you use the oldest tactic in the book--trying to make me think I am crazy when I think you are coming and you're not. You're dark, you're moody, and quite frankly you're dangerous, and not in a seductive way either. You tease me, you play with my emotions, then BOOM, you show up at the last possible second with that smarmy look on your face, like hey baby, my bad, am I late? This is the most dysfunctional relationship I have ever had, and that's saying a lot, taking into consideration the Ron years of '92-'00, remember him? I wish you would have run him over...

Anyway, it is time for us to call it quits. Don't call (I can't understand your muffled PA system talk anyway), don't write (your updates are always out of date) and don't even bother telling me about your next fare hike, because you know what, I don't care. And don't try to tempt me after I have had too much to drink at Guapo's, I'm already creating a cab fare fund.

50 Ways to Leave Metro

Hop on the bus, Gus
Don't need to discuss much
Just drop of the (car)key, Lee,
And let yourself Freeeeeeee

Posted by: blackandgreen | December 16, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I just spent a week in the area riding the Metro from Greenbelt to Fort Trotten to Woodley Park. It was a great commute every morning and every evening. That Woodley Park escalator was daunting but working and the ride was fantastic. I am sure all the horror stories here are true, and while I only saved $14 dollars a day in parking, I did not have to endure driving in DC and for that Metro I am thankful.

Posted by: keving45 | December 16, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Three months? Dude, Wait until you've been putting up with the delays, midnight closings, broken elevators, track work on the busiest lines (blue line track work on days when the Redskins pay, for example)for 10 years. There will no more love. Trust me!

Posted by: CAC2 | December 16, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

I love you Metro for the low-pain way you get me to Verizon - rockin the red on the red line!

Posted by: jay4811 | December 16, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

I've been riding Metro since its opening and I gotta say that you've come a long way baby. But one thing hasn't changed since that first ride the disinterested if not down right hostile employees. I've had buses past right by me as I waited at a designated stop, kiosk attendants ignore my pleas for assistance, train operators close the doors only seconds after opening them and that all too rare metro policeman disregard those breaking the law aboard the vehicles. Now you're gonna have these paragons offriendlinesssearch my bags, that just might be the straw that leads me to buy a caar after lo these many years so please have someone in your organization stress to the employees who's paying their salaries ro I could just take my business elsewhere. Just a little constructive critizism. See you at 10 am!

Posted by: JDYoung | December 17, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

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