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Should Metro Riders Have Bill of Rights?

Is this a fair comparison? When Metro riders were commenting in the entry below about the big service disruptions Monday afternoon on the Orange and Blue lines downtown, I was thinking about how JetBlue's management reacted to its storm delays and cancellations.

The airline managers practically eviserated themselves in shame over their failure to provide service to their passengers. You can go to JetBlue's Web site and hear David Neeleman, the CEO, apologize for the poor service and promise that it would never happen again. He announces a specific set of service changes to back up that promise. Posted on the Web site is a passengers' bill of rights explaining what the airline will do for you if it fails to deliver the service a customer paid for.

From time to time, Metro fails to provide the service passengers have paid for, as happened Monday afternoon when a report of smoke in a tunnel shut service during rush hour, when many people were in the stations and on the trains.

All right, there are differences. Some of those air travelers were stuck on planes for nine hours. And there's no price comparison between a couple of bucks for a Metrorail ride and hundreds for a plane ticket. I'm not saying Metro should send trains into a smoking tunnel and I'm not saying JetBlue planes should take off without de-icing.

But what's the real difference between the situations? If you don't like JetBlue's performance, you can fly another airline. Washingtonians can't shop around for another transit system. After a service debacle, JetBlue says, We're going to change our operations in profound ways so you won't abandon us. After stranding passengers in the downtown core and failing to provide adequate information to them, our transit authority says, "Thank you for riding Metro."

You think that's a reasonable statement of the transit rider's lot? And what would be fair to include in a hypothetical bill of rights for transit users?

By Robert Thomson  |  February 28, 2007; 8:42 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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