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Metro Communications and More

Metro riders will be interested in today's story by Lena H. Sun and Jonathan Mummolo about the transit authority's plan to provide more information and coordination during service disruptions.

Here's the key paragraph, the statement I think will ring true to many riders:

"The communication problems trace to nearly every aspect of how Metro operates. Some are technical and require more money and new procedures; others could be fixed with little more than handing out dry-erase boards. The most basic could be fixed with dedication to old-fashioned customer service."

On Metro's side: It's a big, complex system and things are bound to go wrong. Because things go right most of the time, hundreds of thousands of people rely on the transit system to get to and from work each day.

On the other hand: When something goes wrong, nobody seems to know anything for at least the first 20 minutes. People arriving at stations have no way of knowing there's a problem on the line. Passengers on the trains and platforms either aren't told anything or get inaccurate or out of date information. Metro employees focus on fixing the problem, but don't tell people why they're being kicked off the trains or what to do next.

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. wants to fix this and has made it a priority. We can only wish him well. But as Metro board member Chris Zimmerman of Arlington pointed out at last week's board meeting, "We've had this same conversation ... quite a few times."

We can talk about this and any other transportation issue that's on your mind during an online discussion today at 1 p.m. In case you'd like to submit a question or comment beforehand, here's a link that allows you to do that.

Some Travel Advisories
Capital Beltway, inner loop: The right lane of the inner loop at Branch Avenue is blocked from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Capital Beltway, outer loop: The left lane from Telegraph Road to Route 1 will be closed for paving between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Rockville Pike: The center lane where the pike crosses over the Beltway's outer loop is closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Friday. (Here's a link that will show you all the scheduled work on the Wilson Bridge project for this week.)

14th Street Bridge: The District is doing overnight work to improve the bridge signs. From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the HOV lanes outbound and the HOV ramp from the HOV to 395 inbound lanes will be closed. That work zone is scheduled to be active through Thursday night.

I-66, Gainesville: The right eastbound lane between mile markers 42 and 44 will be closed from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today through Friday. Westbound, watch for right or left lane closures in the same area today through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. On Route 29 northbound between Route 55 and University Boulevard, the right or left lanes may be closed today through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (You can find out more details abou the widening project by using this link.)

By Robert Thomson  |  October 15, 2007; 7:48 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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Next: Foxhall Closing for Road Work

Comments

Would having less cabs in the DC have any real effect? Might it actually be positive? We already have more per capita than NYC, and they seem to use cabs far more than DC does.

Posted by: Jon Arlington | October 15, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Why are we giving Metro excuses such as this one, "On Metro's side: It's a big, complex system and things are bound to go wrong."

This is an excuse, this is no reason for their lack of customer service. If you allow Metro to slack off and use this excuse, they will and nothing will get done. There are other systems that are bigger and more complex that don't suffer the same problems as Metro.

Things are bound to go wrong any time, any where. But most of the time people are informed. Remember how upset people were over JetBlue's holding of passengers in an airplane on a tarmac for 4 hours. Remember all that uproar? They didn't tell the people anything and they lost a lot of money, but JetBlue has done something about it and fixed the problem.

Metro, on the otherhand, uses the exuse that things are bound to happen, oh well. They don't learn from their mistakes. They make no attempt to rectify their problems and they don't look for ways to prevent these things or have plans in effect when they do.

It's a no brainer to communicate to people, but when you hire people who don't like to communicate, you run into a problem. What exactly does a Metro station manager have in his/her day to get so upset at Metro, he/she has to treat customers that way? Looks pretty cushy to me. I'd love to have that job. Yeah, you're underground, but you're seeing people of all different kinds and all different stories every day.

Stop using excuses and start coming up with solutions or the whole thing will implode.

Posted by: Excuses | October 15, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

That things are bound to happen only makes it more inexcusable that they can't convey information. If they know a train will break down once a day they should be ready to communicate what will happen when it does.

They know where every train is in the system, so it should be obvious what recourse is available when one breaks down.

They have electronic signs--how hard is it to note that a train is delayed and post that--"Red line trains are delayed 15 minutes." Then update it to tell us that things are normal, they're single-tracking, or they're using buses.

Posted by: ah | October 15, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

If anyone here uses Rock Creek Parkway and didn't have the "pleasure" of experiencing it Monday night.....stay away....far away! The Park Service has royally screwed up *BOTH* directions of the parkway with the latest closure....the left lane in both directions between Virginia Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. At least before you only had to sit in traffic in one direction..now you get to sit in both directions. And this means only 2 of 4 lanes will be open during rush hour, and you get screwed going to both I-66/Virginia Avenue and Independence Avenue. Thank you, Park Service...

Any chance, Dr. G, that you could get us some info on how long this phase is going to last?

I have to say though, I am quite amused that it took 5 months to re-deck the southbound right lane of the little bridge over Rock Creek, but it only took about 4 weeks to re-deck the northbound right lane. What gives? What was the NPS doing during those first 5 months?

Posted by: Woodley Park | October 16, 2007 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Why bother to even have station managers if they aren't aware of anything going on in the system until after the passengers are?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Dr. G, Could you please look into the NPS construction debacle on the Rock Creek Parkway? I know the NPS is not an agency built around road construction but they HAVE GOT TO do a better job with this project around Virginia Avenue and I-66. (This latest snafu makes the American Legion Bridge project over the summer look paltry in comparison.) All of the West End from GW to Georgetown was gridlocked last night including the secondary streets AND Rock Creek Parkway (and its feeder roads) AND the Key Bridge and roads surrounding the Key. The road capacity in the West End is already inadequate, and its only getting much much worse. Rock Creek Parkway construction is partially the culprit but I have NO IDEA why the Key Bridge, Canal Rd and M Street have become the nightmare that they are every afternoon since Labor Day. Congestion and gridlock was not even close to this level during the spring.

Posted by: Rock Creek Pkwy commuter | October 16, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I use the SE/SW freeway each day, and it really seems to be flowing better than it did last year. Does anyone else think so, or am I crazy?

Posted by: mikecaphill | October 17, 2007 5:16 AM | Report abuse

"I use the SE/SW freeway each day, and it really seems to be flowing better than it did last year. Does anyone else think so, or am I crazy?"

No, you're not crazy. All those cars from the SE/SW freeway just moved over to the Key Bridge/Canal Road. :-)

Posted by: Woodley Park | October 17, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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