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An Indictment of Public Transportation

After last Thursday's Metro board meeting, the one at which the directors began to consider cutting service to balance the next transit budget, several board members shared their early morning experience in riding the system.

Chris Zimmerman of Arlington said he had used a Route 16 bus for part of his trip to Metro's downtown Washington headquarters. The route is among many that the transit authority staff suggested the board consider for cutbacks.

Catherine Hudgins of Fairfax County told us her arrival at the board meeting had been delayed because she, along with thousands of others, had been stuck on the Orange Line because of a work train derailment. Staff had suggested a money-saving plan to widen the gap between trains, a move that would certainly lead to more crowding.

Some other board members feel their time is too precious to share it with Metro riders. When you're in a hurry and you need to get someplace, transit isn't really convenient, they say.

As reporter Lena H. Sun showed in Sunday's Post (Metro Use a Rarity for Half of Board), the board members are leading by example. Their example is telling us that we need not be riveted by Metro's budget crisis. If transit service is cut back, so what? We can always drive, just like the Metro board members.

What do you think? Got a good reason not to follow their example?

[We could talk about that today at 1 p.m. Join me for our biweekly online discussion about all our local traffic and transit issues. Use this link if you'd like to submit a question or comment in advance.]

By Robert Thomson  |  February 23, 2009; 8:41 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , transit  
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I was saddened, but not too surprised by the content in Lena Sun's article. In a perfect world, the board would be in touch with basic issues concerning the daily realities of everyday riders. That doesn't mean that they should have to use Metro everyday, for every trip.

However, there's obviously a disconnect present which muddles the decision making process. Those with influence over the WMATA system are making decisions for those most affected but have little to no frame of reference for what types of changes are actually needed. That's not good. And that makes me less confident that I'm getting the maximum for from my investments in Metro; both in taxes and fare costs.

Posted by: xrvax | February 23, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

An article in the San Jose paper last week covered this very topic. They were pleasantly surprised to learn that most Bay Area transportation officials do ride transit. See and

Posted by: pxl4 | February 23, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

We're having the same debate here in New York City, where our MTA Board definitely has a "transit is for little people" attitude. But they'll happily take taxpayer-paid EZ-Passes for their chauffeur-driven private vehicles whilst they contemplate service cuts and extended maintenance schedules.

Posted by: northgs | February 23, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

It's so funny to hear the car people brag about the effectiveness of driving over public transit. I guess if people enjoy being soft, pudgy and physically weak then they can be proud about driving. Or how about being angry all the time like most car drivers are? How many of them are on blood pressure medication because of their daily, constant repressed rage caused by driving? Another fun thing about driving is raising fat children who ride around in cars all the time. I'm sure none of you have noticed all the obese little kids riding around now. I would say running around but that doesn't happen anymore. Let's see, 25% of our kids are obese now, 30 years ago 2% were obese. Whatever could it be? We won't mention the lust for real estate, no matter where it is located, and the excessive driving that entails. Afterall, we all know that getting a tax break on a home way far away from everything is much more important than the physical health of our children or ourselves. We must give in to the corporate blather that owning a distant home is always the wise choice...even if it causes me to be 100 pounds overweight because I must drive for every transaction from major to minor in a 2 ton vehicle that protects me from strangers (according to the unceasing auto ads on tv). Imagine how sane it looks from outer space to watch each individual moving two tons everywhere they go. Pick up a shirt: move two tons to the store then move two tons back home. Nothing odd about that, right?

Posted by: deejoshy | February 24, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

It is all about time. I live half a block from an ART stop that gets me to a Metro stop in 10-15 minutes. I did use transit for several years when my work location was very near a Metro stop in DC. However, it is not a good trade-off at locations that are driveable in 20 minutes even when parking is not free. In simple terms, it takes 50 minutes to get to many locations using transit to which I can drive in 20 minutes. Why give up an hour a day and play sardine when time is so precious?

Posted by: Arlington4 | February 24, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

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