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SmarTrip, Smart Man

Just got back from Metro's formal unveiling of the new SmarTrip express lanes at the Anacostia Station. Metro has installed at five stations now. The others are New Carrollton, Vienna, Bethesda and Pentagon City. Each of those stations has a high volume of SmarTrip users, and those of us who use the electronic fare card tend to get impatient when we're lined up behind people trying to slip the paper fare cards through the slot.

This is one of several instances in which Metro managers are trying to think like customers. They have occurred under the leadership of interim general manager Dan Tangherlini, who is withdrawing today as a candidate for the permanent job because Adrian Fenty has asked him to become D.C. city manager, next year. Given the extreme likelihood that Fenty will win the mayoral race, that was a pretty safe bet by Tangherlini.

The express lane idea and other customer-oriented changes at Metro aren't all about Tangherlini. There are plenty of other managers, train and bus operators and elevator mechanics who are -- and must be -- involved in making a trip on the system a better experience for a million riders a day.

But Tangherlini brought an energy and a style and a tone that made clear to everyone that now was the time to act.

"He is creative. He kept the customer in mind," Metro board Chairman Gladys W. Mack said this morning at Anacostia Station. "He promoted our new attitude at Metro." Mack, a D.C. resident, has mixed feelings about his departure, knowing that Metro's loss is the District's gain. He'll be the same active, engaged manager for the city that he was during too short a time at Metro.

There are already some thoughtful comments from readers posted on the blog item below this one. Please also join me at 1 p.m. today for a Live Online discussion during which we can continue to exchange views on this and other transportation topics. You can submit questions and comments now for the discussion by using this link.

By Robert Thomson  |  October 2, 2006; 10:26 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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