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Metro Promises Better Communication

Metro's bus bridges don't work during rush hours. As Orange Line riders know only too well, when rail service is disrupted during prime time, the band of buses brought in to bridge the gap can't do the job. Unless you've got hours of time and thrive on chaos, you may want to consider alternatives.

Transit authority leaders laid out a customer communications plan today that includes being realistic about such things. If Metro responds to a service disruption by creating a bus link between the stations involved, riders will be told that it may make them a couple of hours late and they should consider alternatives, such as another bus, a taxi or a walk.

This Communications Initiative has been in the works for many months, but transit authority staff made it public today because the plan is so unfortunately timely.

Orange Line riders have been hammered by delays during the past week and they, at least, have been prompt and clear in their communications. They want it to stop.

The communications plan has many excellent features but, of course, the execution will be critical. Much depends on a few Metro managers making many decisions in just a few minutes when a service disruption is first reported to them. When power lines fall across tracks or a train comes off the rails during rush hour, it takes no more than six minutes to pile up thousands of riders behind the problem.

Metro board members joined managers today in noting that emergency communications with passengers must be improved not only on the trains and platforms directly involved in incidents but also up the lines. People who have just entered the rail system or who are about to enter it must get timely and accurate information about what's going on and what happens next.

That's the central theme. Here are a few specifics out of a very lengthy plan:
-- Upgrade the public address system in 38 underground stations.
-- Improve the timeliness and accuracy of Metro's e-mail alerts and Web site notifications. (So instead of saying simply that there's a disruption and a bus bridge has been requested, let customers know that if they wait for those buses, they may be three or four hours late getting home.)
-- Give station managers the equipment to make announcements from anywhere in the station while also staying in touch with the operations control center.
-- Improve the training of station managers and get them some more help in emergencies.
-- Put new emergency maps in all the stations by July 1. These maps will be real plain: "You Are Here." This is the walking distance to the next station or stations. This is the bus service available at this station, and here's where the stops are.
-- Put up emergency signs at the station entrances, so riders will know what's ahead before they go through the fare gates. ("Major Delay On Metro!")
-- Provide clear direction for riders and bus drivers about those free shuttle buses, as well as getting real about how long the trip will take if you use them.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 12, 2008; 1:33 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Next: Analyzing Metro's Performance


It always looks great on paper...

Posted by: Metro Man | June 12, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

July 1?

What year?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

How about keeping their website up 24/7, instead of it being down for hours after the derailment?

July 1 2012? 2013?

Posted by: Metro Incompetence | June 12, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

use consistent terminology - bus bridge? shuttle busses?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 13, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

"Metro Promises Better Communication"
Boy, writing that headline just never gets old, does it? Right up there with "Nationals Lose as Bats Fall Silent" and "Redskins Overpay for Free Agent."

Posted by: Josey23 | June 13, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

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