A rider's 'vital signs' report?
Post reporter Ann Scott Tyson notes in her Wednesday story on frustration over Metro escalators that: The performance of Metro escalators has continued to fall, according to a Metro "vital signs" report issued this month. Escalator availability dropped to 89.6 percent, compared with the Metro goal of 93 percent. Let's look at the report, and what it says about Metro riders' experience.
Interim General Manager Richard Sarles created the monthly performance scorecards to increase Metro's transparency and accountability. This is certainly a step in the right direction toward two goals we all applaud. And Sarles, knowing he had a limited time to accomplish anything before Metro names a permanent general manager, did a good thing by establishing the report. But it's worth noting the report's limitations as a measure of the riders' daily experience.
What's in reports
They show you what Metro management views as top priorities and allow the riders to track changes in performance on those priorities from month to month. See the scorecard summary. Here are some highlights from the report presented at the Metro board's July 8 meeting:
Metrorail. From April to May, Metrorail's average on-time performance improved to 91 percent. The target is 95 percent. Metrorail defines "on time" during rush hour as a station arrival within two minutes of the scheduled headway between trains.
A Metro chart shows that on-time performance for the individual lines tends to be pretty similar. On time performance on the Blue Line tends to run slightly lower than the other lines, and that was true in May. On-time performance on the Red Line was way off last summer, but was matching that of the other lines by October, according to the Metro stats.
Metrobus. Three out of four Metrobuses were on schedule in May. Metro's target is to have eight of 10 buses on schedule. Metrobus defines "on schedule" as anything from two minutes early to seven minutes late. On-time performance is trending about as it was last year.
Escalators/elevators. Escalator and elevator availability declined slightly in May. In one of the scoreboard's more complex calculations, Metro says that an average of 527 out of 588 escalators were in operation systemwide in May, compared to an average of 528 units available in April.
Metro describes this summer as a time of transition as it makes changes in how it does maintenance. As of July 1, Metro has taken over maintenance of all escalators and elevators, and has taken these further steps: This month, rapid response teams will begin to focus on repairs to escalators and elevators that have special reliability problems and are heavily used. Five maintenance employees who recently received certification as master technicians will focus on inspections to identify maintenance issues that could lead to breakdowns. Metro will use an audit program to review the quality of maintenance work and to require employee retraining when needed.
Limits of overview
From a rider's point of view, there's the obvious problem with the transit authority defining what it wants to report on and then judging itself on those criteria. But there are other issues. These broad measures can capture only so much about the daily experience. Plus, we've moved on since May. One of the biggest complaints coming to us from riders is about the heat on some rail cars in June and July.
Also, the scorecard doesn't have a way of measuring the impact of persistent problems, such as the months-long experience riders have had with the two out of service escalators between the platform and the mezzanine at Bethesda. And they won't reflect the intensity of a bad experience such as Monday's debacle at Dupont Circle. Nor can the scorecard track how many problems one rider might experience in a single day.
How would you develop a scorecard based on rider impact? What measures would you use and how would you rate Metro's performance on those measures as of this summer?
[User photos: The D.C. Metro system has been plagued with broken escalators, overcrowded trains and faulty equipment. Send us photos of your Metro experience.]
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