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What Should Metro Do?

At two Metro town hall meetings in the past several weeks, riders asked the transit authority to improve bus and rail service. People want longer and more frequent trains, more reliable buses and more late night service.

Now, Lena Sun reports in today's Post that Metro is considering fare increases and service cutbacks.

If the folks at those meetings who asked for better service get to see the improvements they were hoping for, it's likely to come at the expense of other riders, given the financial picture that Metro is presenting to the public this week. If Metro is worried about its financial picture for next year, it's unlikely to boost a service without imposing a compensating cutback on another.

The first question riders will have is bound to be whether Metro has done enough to control its expenses. The transit authority says it's not making as much money as expected on ridership, which is beginning to flatten out after a long period of growth. But we'll have to see if Metro has done all it can internally to compensate for the slackening revenue.

The fare restructuring proposals under consideration could take a little and give a little. For example, Metro could increase fares at peak periods and cut them somewhat at off-peak times. The transit authority would get more moeny overall, but it also might be able to push some people out of the crowded periods and into the less crowded periods.

Or it might push them back into their cars. This would be the third fare increase in recent years, after a lengthy period when fares held steady. Metro ridership growth may be sluggish, but I haven't detected any slackening in the number of solo drivers on our highways.

What would you like the Metro board to consider as it begins to review the budget proposal for next year? See any creative solutions to the fare increase issue?

Lena says she also would like to hear from riders. She'll be writing a lot more about Metro's proposals this week. You can reach her at sunl@washpost.com. (And in addition to your many comments here on our blog, if you'd like to send thoughts or questions for my newspaper column, you can reach me at drgridlock@washpost.com.)


By Robert Thomson  |  December 11, 2006; 7:50 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Comments

One way to lower expenses is to reduce the amount of energy used. Have you ever been by the Metro office building in downtown DC late at night? Every light in the building is on. Are there people working on every floor after midnight? Also, do we still need the flashing lights to indicate an approaching train? Did we ever need that? While it's a nice effect--imagine how much could be saved by turning those lamps off.

Posted by: Mike | December 11, 2006 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Eliminate the free advertising for non-profit groups and turn that space over to those willing to pay for it. Increase those rates as well, given the exposure to high number of riders, I'm sure advertisers will be willing to absorb the increase (more than riders would be willing to foot a fare increase).

Metro has obviously shown no ability to control its pocketbook in the same way a business must in order to stay afloat, so that doesn't leave much in the way of enhancing their bottom line except to increase fares and/or decrease service.

Posted by: Zizzy | December 11, 2006 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Metro seems surprised that ridership hasn't increased recently. But after the past several years' boosts in ridership, Metro couldn't handle the crowds. The result: crowded trains, frequent breakdowns, broken escalators and elevators, continuing service problems. No surprise that ridership doesn't continue to grow. Raise fares under these circumstances? Expect more ridership drops.

Posted by: Alexandria rider | December 11, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Seriously? Metro really needs to take a serious look at where in the world the money is going. The fares are ALREADY significantly higher than New York, then add on the lack of any sort of monthly pass and fares even HIGHER by comparison! Also, ridership has been at all time highs for the past year... where is all of THAT fare money going? There were also articles about them wanting to try ripping out carpeting and escalators - what's happening with that? No other subway in the country provides so many frivilous amenities. Any escalator less the equivalent of 3 building floors should be GONE - they cost a fortune to maintain, there are elevators for the disabled, NYC and many others get by FINE without them. And they spend WAY too much money cleaning and replacing carpeting... rip it down and hose down the cars at night! Until they get rid of these absurd luxeries, I for one will consider ANY further fare hike to be simply poor management.

Posted by: PJB | December 11, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Outsource the drivers, mechanics and other Metro personnel. Get rid of all the high paid and under worked union members. How much is Metro currently paying station managers to be nasty morons? Come on we cna get the same crappy service for halp the price. And just turn all the escalators into steps. They are always down for repairs anyhow. Dont all any Metro employee to take a car home. And increase DC's and PG's share of Metro expenses.

Posted by: vaherder | December 11, 2006 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Adding to Zizzy's comment, they need to also increase the NUMBER of advertisements. There is PLENTY of potential ad space on the trains and stations that isn't used.

Posted by: Denise A | December 11, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

My guess is ridership is leveling off because of the universal use of smartcards, arguably the worst project in metro's history. The inconvenience of those cards is incredible and metro probably can't recover the expenses of the system.

At any rate, because of poor cost management we'll end up having to pay more on fares. A thorough overview of projects and their related expenses is necessary. Not that it matters to me much because I avoid the metro as much as possible. My experience is that those smartcards deduct money without my even knowing it.

Posted by: Notsosmartcard | December 11, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I agreed with PJB so much, I'm going to post it again. DC Metro should look toward NYC to see what they are doing wrong. Lower fees to increase ridership and take on some advertisements in the cab. Come on!

PJB wrote: "Seriously? Metro really needs to take a serious look at where in the world the money is going. The fares are ALREADY significantly higher than New York, then add on the lack of any sort of monthly pass and fares even HIGHER by comparison! Also, ridership has been at all time highs for the past year... where is all of THAT fare money going? There were also articles about them wanting to try ripping out carpeting and escalators - what's happening with that? No other subway in the country provides so many frivilous amenities. Any escalator less the equivalent of 3 building floors should be GONE - they cost a fortune to maintain, there are elevators for the disabled, NYC and many others get by FINE without them. And they spend WAY too much money cleaning and replacing carpeting... rip it down and hose down the cars at night! Until they get rid of these absurd luxeries, I for one will consider ANY further fare hike to be simply poor management."

Posted by: KP | December 11, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Until the surly bamas get fired, I'm driving in to work.

Posted by: VA herder is right. | December 11, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I've personally never had a problem with the SmartCard, but parking fees still being charged at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning, a little excess especially when picking someone up who you don't want on the road.

The escalators, I will have to say keep them at all stations. I do work all throughout the DC area and have to lug heavy bags and equipment, the escalators make it a lot easier to get them up and down without blocking others or tying up an elevator.

Station managers? What are those? Are those the people who stand inside the gates smoking a cigarette while a tourist is having problems with their fare card at the gate 5 feet away causing a back-up, then blowing the smoke in the tourists face? I'm going to apply to Metro to get one of those jobs.

Unions were a good idea, but they've gotten out-of-hand to the point they're bankrupting our country's transportation system (Delta, USAir, Metro, Ford). There is a reason why foreign-made cars last longer. Watch the movie Gung-Ho with Michael Keaton. I see a lot of similarities with the lazy American worker and shoddy workmanship. My American-made car lasted 98,000, the previous, 76,000. In that same time, a friend had a japanese made car that's gone 300,000 since 1995.

Anyway, today is "Act Like a Metro Manager day" so I'm doing nothing and expecting a pay raise.

Posted by: Metro Money | December 11, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

If Metro want an example of how to run a successful transport service I suggest they look at the one run by Vienna, Austria. This is a multi-mode transport service for the people, which works. Advertising revenue earns millions of Euros. Just think what would happen to Metro's finances if all those ghastly, empty spaces on the walls of Metro's stations were used for placing well-designed advertisements, both static and electronic. Metro's management are clearly at fault at not implementing such a revenue-earning scheme.

Posted by: Walter Coleshill | December 11, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I am quite dependent on early-morning weekend Metro to get to church on Sunday morning and to get out of town for hikes on Saturday. When I get the train between 7 and 8 am on the weekend, it looks like the ridership is about the same as any other non-rush hour time. I would be willing to pay a fare increase, if necessary, or see more of our tax money go to Metro.

Posted by: Brookland Rider | December 11, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The main difference between DC's Metro system and transit systems of other major cities is that IT DOES NOT HAVE A DEDICATED SOURCE OF FUNDING FROM THE GOVT. None of the previous posters seem to realize this. Transit systems are not for-profit businesses. They are often supplemented every year through dedicated funding from the state or local governments in the area that they serve. Some use portions of cigarette taxes to fund the transit system. Some just make sure that they have the money in the budget to give to the transit systems. In DC it seems none of the local governments are willing to step up to the plate enough because they all want to hand off the financial responsibility to their neighbors. DC, MD, VA and the federal government (where half of the employees are Metro riders) need to support the Metro system. Otherwise we will all kill ourselves crawling through beltway traffic every day.

Posted by: HELLO govt | December 11, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm really surprised by others comments. I think the Smartcards are great - the Post article also that they save metro a lot of money. I think cutting down amenities will just push more people away from metro, ditto with reducing service (keep replacing the old smelly carpet, please!). I think it's a much better bet to try to increase ridership and keep people out of their cars.

I do think it's a big problem that metro doesn't provide a monthly pass with fare discounts. I also think the fares for riding in from far-out suburbs is ridiculously high (I recognize this even though I live in DC and pay the cheapest fare). No wonder so many people drive in. I think the best way to increase ridership would be to give discounts for riding in offpeak times and figure out ways to get more people out of their cars and into metro. It shouldn't cost more to ride metro each month than it does to park in a garage downtown.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Metro managers are apparently looking at 5% pay increase as well. But I'm left scratching my head because normally the rest of us need to show improved performance or at the very least compentence to get raises. Not so with the dysfunctional WMATA. Not to mention, if there's going to be such a crunch for Metro, maybe someone can explain the pay package for the new Manager... I can maybe understand the CEO like salary, but what the heck is $60,000 living allowance or whatever it is they are calling it? And why don't I get one?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the constant delays, track work, escalater closures (See West Falls Church) and repairs, ect have something to do with ridership leveling off. I know the Orange Line is packed during peak hours and more often than not it's packed when I leave DC on the occasional 8pm nights. Maybe pay raises and the "research" funding they've been spending for the extension to Dulles has something to do with it. I know the Toll Road increased fares to help pay for the extension which has yet to be even decided.

Posted by: Sterling Park | December 11, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I thought Metro is now getting the dedicated funding from Maryland and Virginia they were seeking for years, and that they are soliciting more advertisiing in trains and stations. Shouldn't these money sources be enough to counter the need for another fare increase?

Posted by: Dan | December 11, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

5% raise. Would be nice but if they need to find money, it is a place to start looking.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

As a DC Metro station manager, I can tell you my job is hard. You riders think that we do nothin and sit there and watch televisions and talk on the phone. While we get to do that it is not all we do. We do alot of things to help you. The other day I helpedd a handicap person in the gate. YOu don't do it, so I have to, and I should get paid!!

Posted by: anto | December 11, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I'm reminded of an old joke.

Three men are the co-owners of a somewhat dilapidated old movie theatre. Attendance has been declining and revenue is dropping, and they're discussing how they can improve the business.

The first owner says, "Let's increase the ticket price by 25¢ and cover the seats in velour so they'll be more comfortable."

The second one says, "No, let's raise the price 50¢ and cover the seats in leather."

The third owner looks at them, shakes his head, and says, "How about if we DROP the price by $1 and cover the seats with arses?"

Posted by: Rich | December 11, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Metro needs to restructured and look at it's company; as if it was a company. Not many companies are subsidized, and Metro needs to look at itself internal and see what adjustments can be made to cut down on it's employment cost. Other companies do it and now maybe Metro needs to jump into how do we keep employement costs down while retaining good employees.

I ride Metro everyday and their definitely is a lack of customer service skills.

As for Metro itself, someone took the initiative to realize that covering the escalators would keep them working more often. I "thank them". However, use all that space you have to advertise and please above all the older stations needs to be brighten, you feel like you are going into a dungeon, while riding on it. I do ride the "BLUE LINE" and it definitely looks like it since it was the first line to open.

Metro the prices are high enough, Metro vision was supposed to be the "cheapest" way to go; now if you sit down and compare it with driving, who knows which one may be cheapest. Not everybody can afford Metro.

Posted by: Shirley | December 11, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Next month my husband and I are planning to start driving into work together. With the latest fare increase, we can pay less for a monthly parking space in downtown, then we are both commuting back and forth on Metro. I'm a strong supporter or public transportation, but I am sick of seeing my money thrown down the tubes (or tunnels). I'd like to know why escalators are out of service for months at a time, but I rarely see anyone servicing them. I'm sure someone is getting paid for that time, even if they aren't doing anything. More advertisements will help, but better management will go much farther.

Posted by: Sixy | December 11, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

It's counterintuitive to improve Metro's woes by sticking it to the riders who, for whatever reason, commute via public transit, rather than automobile - which is a GOOD thing. Rather than financially punish us who ride Metrorail, why not:

*Dig up more money from all the regional governments that hugely benefit from the second-most heavily used subway system in the country;
*Provide incentives to get people out of their cars and onto metrorail to increase ridership;
*Imrprove customer service and rail car maintenance so people have more confidence in the reliability of the system;
*Dispense with the addiction to systemwide escalators and carpeting in trains - which hurts Metrorail since escalators are perpetually broken and carpets perpetually look like crap;
*Improve the lighting in stations so it's not so grim (thereby making it more appealing to potential riders)

But really the big point is to get money from governments, not riders, who should be rewarded for their use of the system, not punished for it.

Posted by: Eric W | December 11, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Metro Money - You have hit upon my pet peeve: You should not be using the escalators when you're lugging heavy bags and equipment. Even the folks that drag their small luggage cause congestion problems for the rest of us that carry our bags on our shoulders/backs.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

HELLO Govt. has it right.

Mass transit always loses money. The more people who ride on it, the less money needed on roads, etc. Government should expect to lose money on the mass transit itself, but gain overall across all transportation expense.

While critics will say this means spreading the cost over all taxpayers instead of just metro riders, currently metro riders are paying taxes to fund new roads, which are not used for their commute!

Posted by: Kevin | December 11, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"I do ride the 'BLUE LINE' and it definitely looks like it since it was the first line to open."

I believe the Red Line opened first, from Rhode Island Avenue to Farragut North (initially skipping Gallery Place due to lawsuits about the elevators not being operative in time).

Either way, I always snigger when people talk about how old Metro is. Compared to what system? New York's, which opened in 1904? Boston's, which opened around 1897? London's, which opened in 1863?

Posted by: Rich | December 11, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

" The main difference between DC's Metro system and transit systems of other major cities is that IT DOES NOT HAVE A DEDICATED SOURCE OF FUNDING FROM THE GOVT. "

Yep. Metro gets a lower share of its operating revenue from taxation than any other similarly-sized transit system anywhere in the world. I think an additional gas tax of 100% (2 to 3 dollars per gallon) should be collected and used to subsidize rail and bus transit. Tanis and buses should be darn near free, say $1 to ride anywhere, for people willing to get out of their cars and use public transit for their commutes.

Posted by: Dan | December 11, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

A fare increase is not a good idea. Metrorail prices are high enough already. Before I moved into DC, I lived out in MD and had to commute to VA. I spent $7.10 per day to take metro to work. That meant that for 20 work days a month I was paying $142. I guess I was lucky that I lived within walking distance and didnt also have to pay to park too. My company gives $100 per month to cover commuting costs, which seems reasonable, but it doesnt cover metrorail costs. Metro needs to develop a monthly pass and work to reduce crowding during the rush hours. There should never be a 5 minute gap in trains during rush hour, but I see that on a regular basis.

Posted by: Adam | December 11, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

You're "baffled" why ridership is down? Metro is a pain almost every time I ride it and you can't even prevent trains from killing your own track workers! You must immediately increase revenue from advertising. Wherever there is empty space, put an ad there! I don't care what it's for. I'd rather be bombarded with ads than continue having reduced, overcrowded, rude, and unsafe service. Start thinking outside of the box before considering a fare hike and service cutbacks. Look at cities like London - there are ads everywhere, up and down the esclators (and stairs) and on the tracks. It makes the stations brighter. I'm sick of staring at dark concrete. Use this revenue to hire better-qualified managers, improve the service, and better train your station employees. Then, if you can show local governements that you are competent, maybe they'll trust you with their money?

Posted by: Red line gal, NW DC | December 11, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm still wondering why there's so much unused advertisement space on Metro trains. I just got back from NYC this weekend and there is such a huge inequity in the amount of advertisement on the trains. The insides of Metro trains look bare in comparison. That has to be an area of potential revenue. Also instead of starting trains an hour later on weekends, why not just spread the early morning schedule out and open fewer stations. Little access is better than no access, right?

Posted by: D from S.E. | December 11, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

A lot of the respondents discuss poor management and inefficient/ineffective use of resources. How about all the people commenting here? Have you all taken leave from your job to read The Post on line and comment to this blog?? Do your bosses know you're using the internet for personal pleasure??? Look in the mirror and tell me who's inefficient and ineffective.....

Posted by: rpcv84 | December 11, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

If you want to increase ridership build more parking at Metro stations and drop the parking fees.

Posted by: Mike | December 11, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of financial mismanagement, has anyone ever been prosecuted for the millions of dollars allegedly pilfered from the garages? If not, why not? This was used as the justification for forcing smart cards on garage users. My theories: 1) Money wasn't stolen, simply moved to another Metro boondoogle account, or 2) garage contractor employees didn't steal the money, Metro employees did.

Posted by: transit user | December 11, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

How about a 1-cent to 3-cent increase in the gas tax for all jurisdictions served by Metro. Then pool that money to fund mass transit and build up "seed money" for further improvements to VRE and MARC (think electrified rail lines toward Fredricksburg, Manassas and Frederick, for starters).

The Davis bill that would have given Metro $1.5 billion in exchange for MD/VA/DC locating a dedicated source of funding is looking more and more like a golden opportunity we missed. (DC put up the dedicated funding source; MD and VA did not.)

Posted by: metrorider | December 11, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

We need better data to provide sensible comments. Metro, in spite of being a publicly funded organization, holds its operating information close to its chest. I think someone should get down to a zero-based budgeting for Metro operations and eliminate the wastage wherever possible and bolster as needed. We do not get a metro co-ordinator at Springfield station bus terminus while there are more than a dozen moving around at Pentagon. Advertising money can go only as far as the ineptitude will allow it to go. The cure lies in hard nosed management.

Posted by: Subrato | December 11, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

What about if they kept the trains running all the time, but charge more for the "really off peak" hours.
I can't tell you how many times I have been out in Dupont Circle among others, and have just barely missed the last train, because it came early. I then have to shell out twenty dollars to ride home in a cab. I would happily pay five dollars, or even ten to be able to ride a metro train home at that time, and it would end up saving me money. I imagine others might feel the same way.
This should work. Especially since it closes at midnight and opens at five o'clock AM weekdays, and three to six on Friday and Saturday, it can't make that much difference for work on the track.

Posted by: Metro User, sometimes | December 11, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

In response to Notsosmartcard comment that smartrip cards are "arguably the worst project in metro's history", I'm not really sure how you can call them an inconvience. Personally, they have made my trip through the gates much faster (in part thanks to the express gates) and transfering from Metro rail to metrobus much easier. I don't have to worry about making sure to grab a transfer with them. I just wish Ride-On and other local transit would hurry up and add them to their buses. Also, I don't have to worry about fishing into my purse for my wallet to be able to pull out the paper ticket.

Your comment that "smartcards deduct money without my even knowing it" confuses me as well and sounds a lot like big brother sensationalism to me. If you look at the screen on the gate when you enter, the balance on your card is displayed. Look again when you leave, and the cost of your trip and the balance are displayed. No sneaky business here. Perhaps since you use metro so infrequently that you forget just how much was left on your smartcard since the last time it was used?

Personally, I think there should be a discount for those who take metrobus and then transfer to metro rail (currently, there is only a discount for transfer from metrorail to metrobus). I think this would encourage more people to get out of their cars and use just public transit. I know this isn't possible for everyone. And I know it would be trickier programming for the fare total, but with the use of smartcards it should be easy to implement some sort of discount, such as $1 off if you took the bus to the metro.

Posted by: Laura | December 11, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I commute to NW from Calvert County daily. If I ride the Metro, it adds an additional 30-40 minutes (one way) as opposed to driving. I already drive 30 minutes just to get to Suitland on the Green Line. Why not just continue on?

The overall Metro experience is unpleasant-people discuss their opinions on politics, issues and even race openly without regard for the passenger next to them. If Metro were giving fare cards away for free, I would still prefer my car and parking fees.

The problem with the Metro fare increases is that parking facilities opportunistically raise their fees in response.

Unless there's a cataclysmic event and the Metro ridership wake up one day and decide to be polite, I'll continue adding to the mass of cars on the highway.

Posted by: Calvert Car Commuter | December 11, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

In response to those who have commented that the fares are now boardering on being more expensive than driving downtown and parking in a garage, I completely agree with you. However, don't forget to take into account the cost of gas and the cost of maintenance of wear and tear on your car. For those who live in convienent enough locations who could maybe do without having a car at all, or only having one car in your houshold, you also have to consider the cost of car insurance and car payments. All really adds up if you think about it.

Another not so quantitative cost is the added cost of the stress of your commute. I personally hate the DC traffic and would much prefer to ride a metro train and read a paper or do a crossword then be stuck in stop and go traffic with my anger level rising. Personally, I'll pay a lot for my sanity.

Posted by: Laura | December 11, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The discussion today said Metro managers should prepare a budget with "95% of what they got this year." If they're consistently getting greater than 95% of this year's opex, then I think we've found the root of our problem.

Why not stoke the managers a bit and make them start with 50% and start justifying from there?

Posted by: Arrrlington | December 11, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The entire WMATA board should be replaced. They are supposed to provide oversight of how our money is spent, but they are blind to the value of a dollar. The parking lot theft fiasco was never satisfactorily
resolved, and then the board gave Mr White a golden parachute worth millions for his retirement - including payments to his wife. And just recently they decided to shell out $300,000/year for the new manager - outrageous! Metro will continue to have financial problems until the people in charge stop treating money like it grows on trees.

Posted by: Michael | December 11, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

1. Change the cars to accomodate more standing passengers. same cars more people later service.

2. Create weekly passes for around $25. This is a good price point, because it is affordable enough for lots of people to buy, even people who aren't likely to use $25 worth of service. And companies won't blink at giving employees passes. Make day passes $10 and single rides $4. Most people will look at a single ride and realize it makes sense to buy the day pass. Look at the day pass and realize it makes sense to buy the weekly pass. Metro's idea of pricing people out of rushhour is very government, and doesn't make a ton of sense. They, should try and get as many users through as possble, create a service that is indespensable... which they haven't.

3. Increase advertising in the stations, and put video advert screens in the cars. News / adverts. Like you see in some elevators now. Tunnel ads as well.

4. Launch an ad campaign around the new weekly farecards / quality of service to increase ridership, and put pressure on the regional governments to increase funding for expansion that could make metro more ubiquitous. Brand metro as smart, youthful, easy, environmental... things it has a hard time conveying.

Posted by: greg | December 11, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"As a DC Metro station manager, I can tell you my job is hard. You riders think that we do nothin and sit there and watch televisions and talk on the phone. While we get to do that it is not all we do. We do alot of things to help you. The other day I helpedd a handicap person in the gate. YOu don't do it, so I have to, and I should get paid!!"

I was going to chime in and say that we should be paying metro employees more, in order to attract better candidates for the job. However, if the above submission is an example of the pool we're working with, I think 5% will be totally insufficient! This person cites helping a handicapped person "the other day" as a reason he deserves to be paid??

Ok, friend, what have you done for me today? Have you gone down to the platform to monitor eating/drinking/spitting rule compliance? Have you tidied up around the transfer machine and trashcans? Have you checked the state of the restrooms? Have you made sure the elevator is operating within norms? Have you, for heaven's sake, smiled, or said good morning to a SINGLE passenger?

Belive me, you'll have a lot more support on a wage increase if you turn off the TV, get out of the glass booth, and let it be known that you take pride in your station. Get to know your riders. Smiling is FREE, you know. Why in god's name can't we convince these people that a little courtesy and efficiency would be in their OWN BEST INTEREST???

Posted by: WDC | December 11, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Cut costs a little. Raise fares a little. Simple.

It is still cheaper than driving when ALL the costs associated with a car are considered.

Also the "goveys" are being paid (subsidized) by Uncle Sammy to get out of their cars and ride the metro to work. Therefore, they can pay a little more to ride. Now lets hear them whine about this suggestion! You know they will!

Posted by: Chuck | December 11, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

"As a DC Metro station manager, I can tell you my job is hard. You riders think that we do nothin and sit there and watch televisions and talk on the phone. While we get to do that it is not all we do. We do alot of things to help you. The other day I helpedd a handicap person in the gate. YOu don't do it, so I have to, and I should get paid!!" - Anto

Please, please, PLEASE tell me this is a joke!!!

Posted by: Metro Rider | December 11, 2006 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Privatize it

Posted by: Easy | December 11, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Metro Rider:

I think this guy (Anto) realy is one of those unionized "bubmble heads". Do you believe this guy?

Hey Anto. What type of work do you think you wpould be doing if Metro was not there to send you a check every week? I'm thnking some kind of trash removal career.

Posted by: Chuck | December 11, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Laura (and anyone), you should really get and read Adam McGavock's draft "final" report on Smartrip Regional Rollout which is in the NVTC November meeting document package - findable beginning at page 172 of this document: http://www.thinkoutsidethecar.org/pdfs/KIT/11.2.06/NVTC%20Nov%202006%20COMPLETE.pdf
You would probably be about the second person to read it who wasn't being paid to read it. And that by itself goes some way to explaining why things are as they are.
I think Smartrip is a good thing overall, but has a bunch of problems on the front end. If they all get ironed out in the Nextfare4 software, then a bunch of this clever fare stuff that people want to have should actually be feasible, finally, like bus-to-rail transfer discounts, for example.
I was really kinda hoping that the Post would do research like this for me, but they didn't, so I was left with the brute force method to find out what's up.
And to return to the general question - eliminating inefficiency and management errors is always good to do but I don't think it's enough to make the system self-financing on its current principles. I could support a fare increase of up to 12% or so, as well as subsidies financed by any of several tax methods. I'm also willing to pay more taxes for more roads too.

Posted by: WW | December 11, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Having seen them in action, I know that Station Manglers (sp? I think not!) are not the "best and brightest," but I guess I was hoping that they aren't really that bad (both at their jobs, and at speaking English.) The assumption was that a rider had decided to make, as a joke, an extreme example of what one of them might say in defense of their "jobs."
If it's the real thing, and I'd like to hear from "Anto" about that, then I begin to understand a few of the problems about Metro.
By the way #1: Since when does a metro station manager have time to go online?

By the way #2: How bad are those recorded messages on the train? I find especially amusing the one that tells people to get out of the doorways and move to the "center of the car." The center of the car IS a doorway you dingbats! Do you perhaps mean the middle thirds of the car?

Posted by: Metro Rider | December 11, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Current job listings for entry-level positions on WMATA:

$69,180 annual, Escalator Technician, high school and 2 years of experience.

$45,728 annual, "Equipment Operator D," high school equivalency and 1 year of experience.

$46,643, Body Shop Mechanic, high school and some undefined experience.

Plus, all of these jobs give benefits at a rate that is *double* that of D.C. Government. (see NARPAC's analysis of the 2004 budget at www.narpac.org/metrobud.html).

You can compare these salaries with other local transportation and governmental bodies.

Keeping in mind that about 70% of Metro's expenses is employement costs, this is where Metro should concentrate it's cost-cutting focus. These salaries are grossly large - especially for non- or semi-skilled entry-level workers with little prior experience.

Posted by: Gabron | December 11, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

The metro workers who repair the elevators and escalators at Tenleytown drive BMWs and Lincoln town cars. For a task that never sees any progress or accomplishment, they sure are being paid well.

As to riders, I frequently see people sneak in without paying. First all regular riders should have to transition to a smarttrip card, then if you do not correctly swipe in and out the maximum fare would automatically be deducted from your card. This system is in use in London. And metro has cameras all over the place - why not fine those who litter, vandalize, stand in doors and cause trains to break down?

Posted by: robin | December 11, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I once asked Dan Tagherlini in a Metro chat why the temperature in stations needs to be 70 when we're all wearing winter coats. I suggested that Metro would save lots of money by turning the winter heat in the stations and in the Metro cars down, because we're all wearing coats. He chuckeled back that you can never please everyone with a temperature setting -- some like it hot, some like it cold. True. However, in WINTER, we're all wearing our winter coats. If the temp in stations and trains is 70, it's a HUGE waste of money. It could easily be 55. And Metro personnel could wear coats too. Big money to be saved!

Posted by: Sharon | December 11, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Sharon: Good Point. It should be noted that heat rises, and Metro does not have doors on any of its stations. All of that heat goes directly outside, aided of course by the huge rush of air anytime a train comes into the station.

In addition, the temperature underground tends to stay constant, even in winter, and all that body heat should help to keep the temp up.

Posted by: Metro Rider | December 11, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

"How bad are those recorded messages on the train?"

Maybe the person who recorded them learned to speak from the same person who taught the train operators who say "Brad-DOCK Road" (stress on "dock"), "LaFont Plaza," and "Joodisherary Square."

Posted by: Rich | December 11, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that many of the issues people bring up when it comes to WMATA can be boiled down to accountability and poor management. I think that along with any fare increase or reduction in service, WMATA should start publishing data to back up their claims.

For example, the new 6000-series cars were put into service on the Green Line. While I don't regularly ride the line, I ride the Orange and constantly see news items about how the Orange line is at capacity. WMATA claims that the trains were needed on the Green Line, but I'm not so sure. If WMATA wants to improve their reputation as a well-run organization, they should start by providing more information on how their system is run. Another example would be to have a searchable database for capital projects, similar to Arlington County's CAPTRACK system.

Posted by: Michael | December 11, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

To Greg: It isn't well advertised, but Metro does offer weekly passes--a $32.50 'fast pass' card for unlimited travel and a $22 'short trip' card for trips that cost $2.20 or under. They're a decent break for those who have to pay maximum fare. I used to commute to work from Shady Grove to downtown DC for three years, and it was cheaper for me to get the 7-day pass for 5 days of travel than it was to pay the full fare ($32.50 versus $39 on a typical week).

The downside is that they're for consecutive days of travel, so if you miss a few days before the expiration, you're out some money. Also, they're not tied to the SmarTrip card (which I can't stand, as mine always seem to demagnetize), so you have the 'inconvenience' of having to wait an extra second or two for the gates to process a paper pass.

Posted by: Former Red Liner | December 11, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Rich: Don't forget about Grove-snore

Posted by: Metro Rider | December 11, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

"How bad are those recorded messages on the train?"

Maybe the person who recorded them learned to speak from the same person who taught the train operators who say "Brad-DOCK Road" (stress on "dock"), "LaFont Plaza," and "Joodisherary Square."

Or the one train operator who refers to our fine city as "the district of COLUMBUS"

Posted by: say what? | December 11, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

"$32.50 'fast pass' card for unlimited travel and a $22 'short trip' card for trips that cost $2.20 or under"

When I was commuting from College Park to Rockville I used to use the 'fast pass' as well. I also take metro pretty frequently, so I was already saving around $5 dollars a week from my daily commute, so anything extra was icing on the cake. The consecutive day thing can be a hassle but since they don't start counting the days until the first day you use the ticket, you can always forgo using it if it's a short week or you have a day off.

Posted by: Laura | December 11, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Concerning the fact that weekly passes are not available on Smartrip, I have been told by WMATA that this feature should be available by 2008, including the ability to "subscribe" to a pass type. Please call in to WMATA (or send them an email) and lend your support so that this effort does not get dropped.

Posted by: Michael | December 11, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

"Don't forget about Grove-snore"

I haven't gone beyond Dupont Circle on the Red Line in years (I live in Virginia), so I'll take your word for it.

I took the Red Line over to Farragut North at lunchtime today to go to Brooks Brothers and it made me think of various times I've gone to board trains at Metro Center and both of the escalators from the faregates to the platforms were turned off. You can guess what happens when a train comes--everyone on the train floods up both escalators, leaving no way for anyone to go down to the trains short of using one's elbows.

Posted by: Rich | December 11, 2006 3:24 PM | Report abuse

If Metro can't make ends meet with fares and parking as high as they are plus subsidies, I don't have any confidence it can manage costs after a fare hike. That's such a tempting solution, but flawed. Remove raising fares as an option and force a reassessment of operations.

All Metro officials and elected officials in the DC area should be required to travel using nothing but public transportation for at least a week. Let's see how they like it!

Finally, I can't help it, I hate SmartCards. How many other people have gotten stuck in the Metro parking lots because that darn card is being flakey? And the parking lot attendent, who can't take any money and serves no purpose, is being paid to do nothing?

Posted by: Jenny | December 11, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

to former red line user

I'm glad to hear that they have something like what i was mentioning. Personally I don't mind that the cards expire, I think Metro needs to make money and expiration is a fair trade-off. I'm curious though, the cards probably limit the distance you can travel?

I guess my point is Metro, needs to have one or the other. I prefer my smarttrip card over nothing, but if they can get rid of them, offer an alternative, make more money and create a better product then they should. And they should have student pricing too... things to get new users.

I feel like Metro suffers from the same problems a lot of large beurocracies do... like of imagination, and lack of business aptitude.

Turning off the lights is a small drop in the bucket, and I'm all in favor of paying the employees better if that's what it takes to transform the service.

Posted by: greg | December 11, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Something I thought of regarding SmarTrip: One of the proposals people frequently make for Metrorail is a pedestrian tunnel connecting Farragut North and Farragut West. I don't understand why WMATA can't program the SmarTrip cards to allow an out-of-system "SmarTrip transfer," where you exit Farragut West, walk across the square, and re-enter the system at Farragut North; if you do this within a specific amount of time, you aren't charged extra fare for leaving and re-entering (that is, your fare is based on the normal fare for riding from your original stop to your destination, and you're not charged to ride from your origin to Farragut West and then again from Farragut North to your destination).

New York has something like this using the MetroCard (you can walk from the F to the Lexington Avenue line, or from the G to the 7, by exiting the system and re-entering for no additional charge), and I think most people would recognize that the MetroCard is far less sophisticated than the SmarTrip card.

Posted by: Rich | December 11, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Chuck, you're in the ballpark, and what about the 1,000+ Hill staffers who get parking despite there being Union Station and Cap South within walking distance AND Smartrip/Metrochek provided them by you & me? Wouldn't the District love the revenue from meters on the Senate side if those all-reserved curbside spaces were freed up, and wouldn't tourists/shoppers/diners love having them? But noooooooo
How much was spent translating station announcements into $panish? In a system where most signage is pictograms?
Gabron- kudos for finding the salary info; and the benefits must also be astronomical.

Posted by: Thomas | December 11, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey anto!! You get a gold star. You helped a disabled person at the fare gate. You should tell your co-workers what you did and encourage them to do the same.

I'm disabled myself, and every single time I've had to approach a station manager to ask for assistance with why I was forced off my train and why everyone was leaving the station and WHERE I should be going to catch a shuttle or whatever, I've gotten your opposite: a manager who stands around chatting it up with another metro worker while I stand two feet away, making feeble attempts to get his attention (always a him), and with paper and pen and QUESTION in hand. (FYI: Random station closures or sevice disruption announcements are made by VOICE and totally inaccessible to us deaf passengers!!) When/if he finally looks at me and reads the question, he answers with his voice. I indicate I'm deaf, please use pen and paper, and he gives me the pen and paper back and gestures while blah blah blahing away. After a third time asking him to use the paper to communicate, some do it, but most just turn away to help the next customer!

Another funny thing: While you indeed should get to be paid, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a manager WORKING and ASSISTING CUSTOMERS when I pass by the booth, and I was a regular daily rider for four years up until recently when I got a reprieve with a job that is a 15 minute local drive. So do tell me exactly what it is you do on a daily basis that earns you the right to be complete jerks when your boss isn't looking??

(Flames dying down now...only Metro can inspire such anger in me.)

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | December 11, 2006 4:05 PM | Report abuse

To: Robin; Re: your story of people not paying.

Recently at Hungington Station I was a reqular bus rider from the station to my home. For weeks an "ebonics speaking" young man with a very bad attitude would get on the bus and sit down without paying. Each day the driver would ask him to pay. And each day he would tell the driver that they had already discussed the matter and the "ebonica" said he was not paying.

Recently, the young non-paying rider got on the bus and the same routine happened again. This time there were three guys dressed in uniform (DoD, young and tough) riding the bus. They were regular riders also. The young "ebonica" and bus driver had the same discussion about payment.

This time the driver got a bit more aggressinve about the payment owed him. When the young "ebonica" asked the bus driver "who was going to make him pay", the three young military men, said in unision, "we will".

The young "ebonica" then paid the bus fare and gave the driver a dirty look. All of us on the bus smiled and chuckled.

Since that time the young "ebonica" is no longer one of our fellow passengers. I assume he gets an earlier or later bus since our DoD friends ride with us every night.

Posted by: Chuck | December 11, 2006 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Yes Anto, good job! Will you share your paycheck with me? A few weeks ago I helped a blind woman at White Flint Metro. There was work going on and the barricades were so confusing that I had trouble getting around them. Your station manager colleague was no where around with this woman arrived, so I helped her get to the train.

Wear and tear on my car still costs less than this Metro mess...

Posted by: sixy | December 11, 2006 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Rick and "say what?" hit my pet peeve on the head!! The problem, and I'm not being racist here, is that by-and-large African Americans cannot speak good English. Period. Overall, the Metro is a system largely run by African Americans, and, as a result, we get what we deserve.

Posted by: rpcv84 | December 11, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

rpcv84 - I think you mean "don't speak english well."

Posted by: English? | December 11, 2006 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Re; English? "cannot speak good (i.e., the King's) English" is perfectly acceptable....

Posted by: rpcv84 | December 11, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Chuck your comment is offensive. Anybody can be a hoodlum but it takes a real idiot to call someone an "ebonica".

Posted by: John | December 12, 2006 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I was one of the people who "auditioned" to be the new voice of Metro and can tell you that with my 15 years of experience in announcing, that I know I speak better English than 95% of Metro personnel.

The number of times I've ridden the trains to not understand the person speaking either in the stations or on the trains has gotten me to sit behind the driver and make comments such as "Slow down your speech, and people will be able to understand you" or "What was that?". I've gotten a couple of responses but until we get people on the trains and in the station that like what they are doing and not taking the money for no work, then we're going to have Metro.

And great that one station manager covered the assistance quota for the whole line already, it's what December and someone was finally assisted? I've been at Springfield on a Saturday afternoon waiting for a friend and helped exactly 22 people with their fare cards and where they want to go. How much do I get for that? A fare increase!

Posted by: Speak Clearly | December 12, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"I'm curious though, the cards probably limit the distance you can travel?"

The weekly short-trip card does appear to have limits in terms of times of day and distance traveled. However, the fast-pass card is for unlimited rides anywhere by train. There are also weekly bus passes listed on the fares section of Metro's website, but I have never had need to use them myself, so can't vouch for whether or not they're worth it.

Information found here: www.wmata.com/riding/passes.cfm

Posted by: Former Red Liner | December 12, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Ebonica. I like that. Not offensive, but fully describes a certain attitude.

Posted by: Jason | December 12, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

To rpcv64:

You say" The problem, and I'm not being racist here, is that by-and-large African Americans cannot speak good English. Period."

Neither can you.

FYI, your use of the phrase "Good English" is indicative of an uneducated person. The correct term is "Correct English" or "Propoer English".

BTW, you're getting this bit of elementary education from an African-American whose mother was an English teacher.

As for your not being racist, your comment is the most racist and idiotic garbage I've seen on this blog.

Then again, racists ARE indeed stupid. That's what makes them racists.

Posted by: CEEAF | December 13, 2006 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Chuck.

I read your story and you know what sticks out? The fact that you witnessed that "ebonica" incident several times and sat on your butt and did nothing. You didn't even call the cops.

Really courageous, pal. You got some set tacked on you.

If I was that much of a wimp, I would have kept that story to myself.

Posted by: CEEAF | December 13, 2006 12:14 AM | Report abuse

CEEAF, I've wondered this for quite some time, but what is the PC term now for people of your race? EVERY time I've said what I thought was the PC term over the last 5 years, I get called a racist. So why not pick one, let the rest of us know and we'll go on from there. Ebonica really isn't that bad and describes a certain portion of the community, narrows the stereotype down to a much smaller group. Like Redneck, describes some and you know what the person is talking about.

Posted by: What to Say? | December 13, 2006 8:29 AM | Report abuse

(1) Many Metro announcements appear to be scripted. I wouldn' blame the announcers for all of the problems. Of course, there is a technical angle to this as well -- the PA system is awful in many stations. There also are mistakes in what employees are told to say. Consider the oft-heard but grammatically incorrect announcement that "the delay is caused due to . . . " Obviously that should be "the delay is due to" OR "the delay is caused by." Yet we hear the grammatically incorrect version, time and again, as if there is no discretion to vary the wording. Clearly someone above the pay grade of the announcers decided on standard wording which they have been instructed to use. There's no way to tell how the announcers would speak if they could deviate from the script given them by their bosses.

(2) If you don't like the attitudes of some Metro employees (and I for one would not paint them with a broad brush any more than I would any other organization's employees), offer some solutions. Look at the issues as if you were a manager who is charged with coaching employees or assessing training requirements. What would you do? Also, if you were a hardworking Metro employee (yes, I don't doubt there are some such people), what would be your "takeway" from reading the comments on this blog?

(3) Issues relating to language can be complex. Consider these passages from a recent story in the New York Times (Sunday supplement magazine). This is a long extract from the article, "What It Takes to Make a Student," but provides more insight into some of these issues than the comments previously posted here about language, the importance of the early childhood environment, and a child's prospects for success in school and eventually in the workplace. The article left me feeling grateful that I was lucky enough to be born into a middle class family to parents who were professionals who loved to read. They passed that on to me. It made my career path much easier than it is for many people less lucky than I:

"Researchers began peering deep into American homes, studying up close the interactions between parents and children. The first scholars to emerge with a specific culprit in hand were Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, child psychologists at the University of Kansas, who in 1995 published the results of an intensive research project on language acquisition. Ten years earlier, they recruited 42 families with newborn children in Kansas City, and for the following three years they visited each family once a month, recording absolutely everything that occurred between the child and the parent or parents. The researchers then transcribed each encounter and analyzed each child's language development and each parent's communication style. They found, first, that vocabulary growth differed sharply by class and that the gap between the classes opened early. By age 3, children whose parents were professionals had vocabularies of about 1,100 words, and children whose parents were on welfare had vocabularies of about 525 words. The children's I.Q.'s correlated closely to their vocabularies. The average I.Q. among the professional children was 117, and the welfare children had an average I.Q. of 79.

When Hart and Risley then addressed the question of just what caused those variations, the answer they arrived at was startling. By comparing the vocabulary scores with their observations of each child's home life, they were able to conclude that the size of each child's vocabulary correlated most closely to one simple factor: the number of words the parents spoke to the child. That varied greatly across the homes they visited, and again, it varied by class. In the professional homes, parents directed an average of 487 ''utterances'' -- anything from a one-word command to a full soliloquy -- to their children each hour. In welfare homes, the children heard 178 utterances per hour.

What's more, the kinds of words and statements that children heard varied by class. The most basic difference was in the number of ''discouragements'' a child heard -- prohibitions and words of disapproval -- compared with the number of encouragements, or words of praise and approval. By age 3, the average child of a professional heard about 500,000 encouragements and 80,000 discouragements. For the welfare children, the situation was reversed: they heard, on average, about 75,000 encouragements and 200,000 discouragements. Hart and Risley found that as the number of words a child heard increased, the complexity of that language increased as well. As conversation moved beyond simple instructions, it blossomed into discussions of the past and future, of feelings, of abstractions, of the way one thing causes another -- all of which stimulated intellectual development.

Hart and Risley showed that language exposure in early childhood correlated strongly with I.Q. and academic success later on in a child's life. Hearing fewer words, and a lot of prohibitions and discouragements, had a negative effect on I.Q.; hearing lots of words, and more affirmations and complex sentences, had a positive effect on I.Q. The professional parents were giving their children an advantage with every word they spoke, and the advantage just kept building up."

Full article at
http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=FA0F12F63E5A0C758EDDA80994DE404482
but you probably have to be a Times Select subscriber to read it.

Posted by: Longtime Metro Rider | December 13, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Metro could save money by eliminating its entire advertising budget. It doesn't need advertising because it doesn't need more riders. It already has more riders than it can service. It disgusts me when I hear that more people are encouraged to ride Metro.

Posted by: mart | December 13, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Hey CEEAF:

My job when I get on the bus, is to ride the bus. I do not work for Metro and I could care less if Metro gets ripped off by ebonica's. Regarding my reluctance to intervien. My life nor my familys life was on the line. Therefore I'm non- violent in those cases. However, since I was coming home from work from DC I can not arm myself as I do when I am in VA. As you know the only people in DC that can legally arm themselves are law enforcement officials. However, there are many illegally armed people in DC and they fall into the ebonica class.

Since VA allows me to legally carry a side arm, which I do on occaision. However, if the ebonica threatened me or my family while I was on the bus, and I was legally armed,I would have shot him dead.

Bottom line. If you threaten me or my family with physical violence, I'll kill you. If you try to rob Metro, have at it. It is not worth my time or energy to stop a crime that I am not personally involved in. You must have read too many Superman or Batman comic books when you were a kid to think someone will come to the rescue.


Posted by: Chuck | December 13, 2006 4:37 PM | Report abuse

CEAAF,

I don't always agree with your views and sometimes have offered countering opinions to some of yours, but on this message board, you clearly are one of the most knowledgeable people about transportation and transit related matters. What would you suggest for Metro, given the revenue shortfall, lack of dedicated funding and increasing outlays due to rising repairs costs, aging infrastructure, etc? You're always worth reading, especially when, as you do from time to time, you back up your assertions with historical perspective and validated data. So I'm interested in hearing your views.

Posted by: For CEEAF from Longtime Metro Rider | December 13, 2006 7:56 PM | Report abuse

You know, shouldn't it be "ebonicus" since the original post said it was a young man?

Just trying to defuse the tension a bit. :-)

Posted by: Rich | December 14, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Since when was racism the sine qua non of evils? Maybe it's just me, but I always though aggressive or hurtful or criminal acts were more deplorable than sinister beliefs not acted on and kept to one's self. And when did it become racist to point out that every one of the offenders in your particular limited experience was of a single race? OBVIOUSLY not all fill in the blank are like that -- and BTW, I am black and speak English very well, thank you very much. Point being, the real offender was the youth who refused to pay; the poster's conduct pales next to the youth's contempt for the law, not to mention disrespect for authority. Unsurprising he only responded to a threat of force. Metro employs scores of policement and owns a fleet of squad cars, it seems to me any Metro bus driver should be able to call for and receive police assistance in momemts. I guess they're tied up arresting those dangerous french fry eaters. As for Metro salaries, the fact is that it is expensive to live around here, and the most talented people get paid a LOT more than Metro employees. As sorry as their lot is, they're the best those salaries can attract. I'd wager most of them are bitter they don't/can't earn even more. And the mindset that a job is only about payday, and not work FOR pay, is widespread far beyond Metro (see, e.g., DC Govt.). Much of this nation labors under an entitlement mindset. . .

Posted by: RL | December 14, 2006 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Yes, RL, I don't see anyone here lining up to join the ranks of Metro employees.

As for the youth who refused to pay, according to the poster, this happened on a route in Fairfax. I daresay, given the much studied passive behavior displayed by witnesses in the infamous Kitty Genovese case, many people would react the same as the poster even if a more serious crime than fare beating were involved that did not affect them directly.

Metrobus drivers who drive routes in less safe neighborhoods in the Washington area than Huntington face greater hazards and physical threats, both inside their vehicles and outside. Not a job I would want to do.

The fare evader comes off worst in the story. But notice that the guy who originally posted the story talked about carrying a weapon but left the term "threaten" undefined.

Generally, I don't think it is a good idea for people posting here to give out too many details about where they live, what bus routes or roads they use, where they grew up, what jobs they do, etc. Anything that provides a lot of detail about themselves as identifiable individuals. I know it adds a human element to the postings but there is a potential downside to sharing a lot of information. Young people posting on Myspace are warned about the dangers of cyberspace, also. I remember reading a news story earlier this year about a message board where two guys got into verbal altercations. If I remember the news item correctly, one ended up tracking down the home address of the other based on clues in some messages and showed up at his house and tried to attack him. The victim wasn't injured but the attacker ended up being arrested. You just never know whom you are dealing with on a message board.

Posted by: Metrobus safety | December 15, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse

"I don't always agree with your views and sometimes have offered countering opinions to some of yours, but on this message board, you clearly are one of the most knowledgeable people about transportation and transit related matters. What would you suggest for Metro, given the revenue shortfall, lack of dedicated funding and increasing outlays due to rising repairs costs, aging infrastructure, etc? You're always worth reading, especially when, as you do from time to time, you back up your assertions with historical perspective and validated data. So I'm interested in hearing your views."

I think Metro (in fact, Metro AND roads) should definitely have a dedicated funding source.

I have long suggested a regional transportation authority with broad powers to expedite projects with immunity from the frivolous lawsuits and delaying tactics from the same old handful of self-serving consistent obstructionists. The directors of the authority should also be immune from political pressure from special interest groups. In other words, unelected.

Since I realize the afore-mentioned is a radical idea, I suggest a regional sales tax and a "vice tax" on alcohol and tobacco. Plus a tax on hotel occupancy and car rentals. But road tolls should be spent on ROADS.

There are many who think "tax" is a dirty word - the 2002 NOVA transportation referendum comes to mind - but a tax is certainly fairer than soaking motorists with tolls and fees to be spent only on transit as some have suggested.

We should ALL pay. Soaking motorists for the sole benefit of transit users only builds resentment. Especially when roads aren't getting built, not because of a lack of funds, but because of opposition from transit advocates.

Think about it: those who drive are already sitting in ever-worsening traffic while they hear about yet another new road being delayed or canceled thanks to opposition from transit advocates and see their taxes spent on someone else's train ride. And the trite cliche "think how much worse traffic would be without Metro" is no consolation; it's a slap in the face.

Posted by: CEEAF | December 20, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

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