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Metro Has $230 Million Plan For Stimulus Money

The transit authority wants to use the money for short-term projects that include replacing old buses, fixing part of the Red Line and upgrading the fare vending machines to handle more SmarTrip transactions.

Metro won unanimous approval for the spending this afternoon from the region's Transportation Planning Board. The panel's approval will be crucial for all of the transit or road projects that the Washington area's governments submit for federal funding under the stimulus measure signed Tuesday by President Obama.

Among the Metro spending plans described as "shovel ready" by Metro Chief Administrative Officer Emeka Moneme:
-- Replace about 50 of the oldest buses in the Metro fleet.
-- Replace several rail platforms that are in bad shape.
-- Fix the oldest stretch of track in the system, between Rhode Island Avenue and Judiciary Square.
-- Upgrade the system of electronic screens in stations and on platforms that provide information about arriving trains, escalator outages and problems in the system. (This is a system of flat screen TVs known as the Metro Channel.
-- Upgrade the Customer Sales Office at Metro Center.

This was the first of the region's plans for transportation stimulus funds to be presented and win approval from the planning board.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 18, 2009; 1:58 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Metro is a failure, I see no reason why we the tax payer subsidizes the agency. Unless we're riding for free then I would suggest they do a better job of managing their money.

Posted by: askgees | February 18, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

The TPB approved upgrading the electronic sign just recently installed with Flat Sceen TV's?

Why are these people (including Catoe) still employed?

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | February 18, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

It's obvious that askgees has no clue whatsoever as to the Metro Rail System, what it looks like, where it goes and how it saves this region from total and complete traffic gridlock annilation.

Posted by: ArbeeIII | February 18, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I think Metro will ut the monies to good use. We all know they need it! Hopefully it kjeeps some people in the region employed, although it doesn't appear that this will create any local jobs. Unless there's a bus production facitlity I don't know about.

Posted by: xrvax | February 18, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I recently moved from Pittsburgh to Alexandria and used the Metro (bus and rail) to get from Alexandria to Bethesda for 4 consecutive days. I know that makes me a rookie but I have to say that I was impressed with the transportation and found it quite enjoyable. I lived in NY for some time and would compare the Metro's efficiency to that. I have nothing bad to say about it.

Posted by: dadeboe | February 18, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

As a daily ride of the Metro I find their "to do" list outright offensive. Fare vending machines. REALLY??? Call me crazy, but in the 2 times daily for 5 years that I've been riding this system I have witnessed only one thing that really worked well (including people, trains, schedules, machinery and HVAC) and that is the far machines.

Seriously, we have all come to expect a truly deplorable level of service and general experience underground here in DC. I know it's underfunded (maybe fire some of the utterly superfluous positions, i.e. all non-conductor/maintenance staff?) but seriously people. You've beaten us into submission and now that you finally get the handout you've been begging for, you're going to spend it on shiny buses and new ways to force people into buying a SmarTrip?

So you've decided that the best way to fix the Metro is to throw money at a problem that doesn't exist. Great. I love this town.

Here is a suggestion: Use all $230M to build a state of the art HVAC system underground. We can accept that the trains will always be in awful state of disrepair, that sometimes we'll have to deboard without so much as a hint as to WHY THE TRAIN STOPPED WORKING, and that you truly do not care about conditions down there. What I cannot accept is continuing to accept all these things while waiting on a platform that is either 15 degrees or 100 degrees.

Fix a problem that exists.

Oh yeah, and how is this going to "stimulate" the economy? Cantakerous Republicans were right...this is a pork package and nothing more.

How discouraging.

Posted by: nocomment | February 18, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

nocomment wrote,
Oh yeah, and how is this going to "stimulate" the economy?

Let's spell out the most obvious ramifications:
"Replace about 50 of the oldest buses in the Metro fleet." -- stimulus money spent on these buses will go the bus manufacturers. This helps them stay in business and keep employees.

"Replace several rail platforms that are in bad shape." - presto, construction jobs, engineering jobs, etc.

"Fix the oldest stretch of track in the system, between Rhode Island Avenue and Judiciary Square." -- see above.

"Upgrade the system of electronic screens in stations and on platforms" -- see above.

"Upgrade the Customer Sales Office at Metro Center." -- see above.

The stimulus money is mostly indirect benefits. The workers on the projects above get a paycheck and spend it on their own wants/needs. This doesn't solve huge problems, but it's $230 million more, in this case, than was there 2 days ago.

Posted by: USA117 | February 18, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Why do people say that Metro is a failure because they bleed money? Metro is not supposed to generate revenue--it's supposed to get people to work for under $2.00. We, the taxpayers of the region, are supposed to subsidize transit--that's why they call it PUBLIC transportation.

Also, having been a regular commuter in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Paris I would say that Metro does an admirable job and charges lower fares than each of those other cities.

Posted by: dcDan1 | February 18, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

re: "Alexandria to Bethesda" via metro is hell!

They somehow schedule the trains so that you always miss the red->yellow connection or yellow->red connection.

The metro would take an hour (approx), however, driving takes 30 minutes. Which would you pick?

Posted by: blafhhhh | February 18, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: The upgrading of the fare vending machines is something I urged Metro to do in a recent column. (That's not why they're doing it.) Since Metro ended the use of paper transfers on Jan. 4, there have been very long lines at the vending machines that can handle SmarTrip card transactions. People know that to get the discount on transfers now, they must use SmarTrip cards.

But at many stations, only a couple of the machines are capable of handling SmarTrip transactions. That's ridiculous. The upgrading promised today will be most welcome.

Please also keep in mind in analyzing the list that Metro and every other transit agency must select projects that are ready to go and just need the money to proceed. The projects are supposed to create jobs now, not in the next decade.

The transportation agencies have billions of dollars worth of projects on their to-do lists. The stimulus funding will skim the surface. Most of what you'll see nationwide under the stimulus will be ready-to-go maintenance projects, rather than big new stuff.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | February 18, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

What ever happened to the proposed Purple Line???

This stimulus is laughable-making technilogical and cosmetic upgrades that will have no long term effect on our economy...

Posted by: jababiya | February 18, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

From killing innocent pedestrians with their buses, to stealing fare money, to giving riders tuberculosis, I've never seen anything like the array of incompetence demonstrated by Metro. Here is my assumption as to their budget for $230 million in stimulus loot:

$40 million -- Cowcatchers on Metro buses to minimize pedestrians killed on a daily basis.

$90 million -- Internal audit and investigation into suspicious fact that no employee working on the Green Line has turned over any fare money in the last 7 years.

$99.99 million -- Capital improvement program to replace all "temporary" jacks holding up Metro stations with solid gold temporary jacks.

$1000 -- Figure out if there's any way to run more than 2 orange line trains an hour.

Posted by: zippyspeed | February 18, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

dcDan wrote:
"...New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Paris I would say that Metro does an admirable job and charges lower fares than each of those other cities."

Can't speak for Paris, not having been there in years, but DC's Metro is the MOST expensive light rail/subway system in the Americas, let alone this country.
One may travel over 60 miles on Chicago's EL for $1.50.
On Metro, it's $4.50 to go 15 miles from Vienna to Union Station.

Posted by: Rational4vr | February 18, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Paris at Christmas was easier than Metro at rush hour.

Having spent time recently in Denver, Boston and NY...all are run better than WMATA (even with Boston undergoing major repairs)...

Again, the electronic signage was just installed over the last seven years. Replacing with flat screen TV's, which will end up being damaged by teenagers (BTW WMATA - DO NOT BUY PANASONIC FLAT SCREENS - mine just broke, again)...why?! What's wrong with the LED"s for ten more years so we actually get our money's worth out of them?

How about extending Metro to Gaithersburg and Germantown? How about upgrading the power capability to handle more eight car trains? How about a third track and fourth track?

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | February 18, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

If you have issues with the Metro then get a car.

The trains get you from A to B, and if you build in the occasional delay you actually get there with less stress than driving around here. It's obvious that the system was never intended to haul as many people as it does so there are bound to be problems. But seriously, would you rather sit behind the wheel in beltway traffic caused by some moron who was texting and driving, or sit in a delayed train with a newspaper or book? Either way you're hitting delays. Might as well be productive at the same time.

For those looking for quality care and service with a smile, you've set your bar too high for public transport. I'm not looking for somebody to shine my shoes while I wait.

By the way, the Smart trip cards are the best thing Metro has ever done. Finally the days of 24-cents left on my metro card are over. Smart Trip saves time and money by not having to print out 3 billion paper cards each year. What they need to do is figure out how to just link the card to a credit card so you never have to recharge it (or do they have that already?)

But seriously, folks. Take this money and buy 4,000 "Stand Right, Walk Left" signs. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: Rainier1 | February 18, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

How about telling the public if the covered canopies are having a positive impact on escalator performance.

If so, consider putting others under cover... and a big one for the Dupont Circle Q Street exit... one of the world's longest sets escalators, and it seems to be non-functional most of the time. (And if all these escalator mechanics can't fix these things... hmm, maybe get some better escalator mechanics?

And why on earth weren't some of the busiest stations outfitted with additional Smarttrip sensors BEFORE switching over to Smarttrip? It's crazy how they don't seem to plan.

P.S. Gallery Place graphic signs are a model for how the rest of the system should be signed... very clear, very user-friendly. Was this a pilot program?


Posted by: rpike | February 18, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

occasional delays would be nice. however, you must be speaking of a different metro service, not the one that wmata runs.

Posted by: blafhhhh | February 18, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

"But seriously, folks. Take this money and buy 4,000 "Stand Right, Walk Left" signs. 'Nuff said."

Second that.

Always makes me wonder where the left-standers are from that they've never experienced escalators before. Even Londoners stand right/walk left on the tube...

Posted by: JackTrade | February 18, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Stencil and spray paint "Walk Left Stand Right" on the actual steps of the escalator, as the moving walkway at DCA is painted.

Third for the signs.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | February 18, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

"Metro is a failure, I see no reason why we the tax payer subsidizes the agency. Unless we're riding for free then I would suggest they do a better job of managing their money."

No askgees, metro is not a failure. Anything that safely and efficiently (most days!) moves hundreds of thousands of people from place to place, cheaply, is not a failure. They may "fail" at some things they try, as do most entities that include one or more human beings. But a failure? No, defintely not.

Posted by: rbates40 | February 18, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Nobody needs more signs. Signs don't move people. The current signs are fine. Get a decent alternative for the handicapped instead of notifying everyone that they're screwed.

Posted by: fuquafalcon | February 18, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

So many of these whiners say metro is a failure. Well stop riding already and leave a seat for the rest of us. Metro is no failure. It may be bloated but it still does an admirable job. One poster compared metro to Denver's rail--PALEEZE....

Posted by: lovinliberty | February 18, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

In the past several years, I've ridden rail transit systems in: New York, Boston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Dublin, Rome, and London.

Metro is the best of all those systems hands down in my opinion. Its not perfect, but its better than the alternatives. The trains run fast between stations, at least twice as fast as in NY. The trains are clean, unlike New York's.....and aren't graffitti covered like Rome's. It might be expensive to commute from the outer suburbs, but at least they have park and ride stations with reasonably affordable parking (in NY, most parking is restricted to residents of the town in which the station is located, or is really expensive and requires a monthly contract), and the train gets you into town much quicker than a comperable trip on most other cities' transit systems. And its still cheaper than a quick hop on London's tube, which can run upwards of $4 depending on the exchange rate. Short hops on DC's system are $1.65 in rush hour (cheaper than NYC), and $1.35 in off-peak (a bargain). Headways are long, but ever tried catching light rail from BWI to Baltimore on a weekend? Those half hour headways are awful.

Granted, the system is nowhere near as comprehensive as London or NYC or Chicago...but it is serving a much smaller population.

Posted by: thetan | February 18, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Sincre I moved to an apartment next to the Grosvenor Metro station, my monthly cost for gasoline has been $14 or less. Metro works.

So it can be better.

That means we should give it a steady source of funds and think of how to improve it.

Posted by: gary4books | February 18, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Did anybody else notice that this is a $20 million list? I hope they are not planning on spending all $230 million on it.

There were some good ideas in these comments, thus I would suggest that Metro solicit other rider suggestions for utilizing this handout.

Posted by: postid2008 | February 18, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Metro is a failure? I guess transporting 800,000 plus people a day, helping to mitigate gridlock and keeping thousands of additional cars off the road is just not sucessful enough for some people. To be sure these are people who have never used the system or understand the concept of "public transportation".

Posted by: sbg1 | February 18, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Seems like FRIVIOULIS spending here.

Replacing buses is a capital improvement. . replacing rail is system maintenance, flat scren TV's? Are we talking SPORTS BAR here?

Blue Line Short Cut

Link the Farraguts

Expand & Link up Metro Center & Gallery Place stations on the REDLINE

Design/Engineering Study on building a
3rd track system wide

Do these construction projects BEFORE you throw away BILLIONS on SILVERLINE to Dulles/Tysons & Stadium Armory.

Posted by: Robbnitafl | February 18, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Rainer1 has come up with the solution to close metro's budget gap: I'm not looking for somebody to shine my shoes while I wait."

Get indepdent shoe shiners right down on the platform or guys with the boxes in the cars (yeah, rush hour could be a problem, this is still in the planning stages). Part of the cost of a shoe shine goes to Metro, the rest goes to the shoe shine guys. Everyone will clean up.

Posted by: epjd | February 18, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

If you want stimulus, why not use this money to extend the metro network? If more areas were served by metrorail, more people would use it.'s_law

Posted by: reston75 | February 18, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

""But seriously, folks. Take this money and buy 4,000 "Stand Right, Walk Left" signs. 'Nuff said."

Second that.

Always makes me wonder where the left-standers are from that they've never experienced escalators before. Even Londoners stand right/walk left on the tube..."

When I lived in Japan, it was stand left/walk right. I always assumed it was due to traffic patterns and I guess maybe it is, but I find it funny that the British don't do it that way too.

Posted by: sammyct2 | February 20, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

My suggestions

1. Use the money to buy light fixtures and light bulbs. Metro is too dark. The lighting inside Metro cars is great but once you step off the train you are in darkness. I feel like I am in a dark restaurant or club.
2. Replace the Metro station sings on the platforms. They are too small and there is often no contrast between the sign and the wall.
3. Do something about the mold\mildew in some car and stations.
3. As someone mentioned, connect the Farragut stations and Gallery Place\Metro Center.
I have to say that I don't see how the Metro Sale stations are a priority.

Posted by: mythoughts3 | February 20, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

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