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Metro Board to Consider Food Vendor Proposal

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I use the Metro system often, boarding at the Silver Spring Station. It has become more and more obvious that the "no food/drink" policy is being ignored. Riders of all ages routinely board the Metro carrying food and drink.

And while not all eat or drink while riding, I have witnessed at least one person doing so every time I have been on the Metro this year. Wrappers, gum on the floors/carpets, and stains attest to the disregard of the policy and fellow passengers. To make things worse, the free newspapers available at the stations add to the mess. Food vendors at the Metro stations? No!
Paul H. Parent
Silver Spring

I'm no fan of eating and drinking on the trains. (Reading is okay, as long as people take the papers with them.) But I think it's possible we have our cake and not eat it till we get home. Perhaps the vendors' exact location and the type of food sold could be written into the contract so as to discourage taking food onto the trains. Combine that with stepped up enforcement, along with more visible warning signs, and you might have a formula that could work.

Here's one writer who thinks we could find a way.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
What's all the fuss about eating and drinking on Metro? I've lived in other cities where eating and drinking are allowed on the trains and it's really not a big deal. That said, since there seems to be a strong feeling among most Metro users that it should not be allowed, so be it.

Nevertheless, the vendor plan is a great idea. Metro clearly needs to look at more ways to raise revenue to keep the system up and running without raising fares. I live at Crystal City where I pass a Dunkin' Donuts that is probably only 200 feet from the Farecard machines, yet people do not bring their coffee and donuts into the station. Instead, people buy these things on the way out of the station.

I love the convenience of being able to drop off my dry cleaning, pick up a gallon of milk, and even buy things for dinner all within a few hundred yards of getting off the train. Surely people living or working at stations where these amenities do not already exist would appreciate them, and Metro could make some money in the process.
P. Cunningham

On Thursday morning, the transit authority staff will ask the board of directors for approval to initiate a Retail Services Demonstration Program at a dozen stations. Many riders like the idea of allowing retail sales at stations, so Metro can make some money. The controversy is over the food part. The proposal would allow:
-- Fixed retail services locations and structures that sell food items packaged
to discourage consumption in the Metrorail system.
-- Mobile retail vehicles that sell food items packaged to discourage consumption in the Metrorail system, such as take-home dinners.

See the full proposal here.

In a report scheduled for delivery to the board Thursday, Riders' Advisory Council Chair Diana Zinkl writes this about the RAC view on the food vendor issue: "Members were concerned that selling food or beverages would send riders a mixed message about eating and drinking in the system. One of the comments that I have received on several occasions from riders who have experienced other rail systems is high satisfaction with the clean, pest-free environment of our Metrorail stations.

"Members acknowledged that riders would patronize food vendors when exiting as well as entering stations, and that signage and rider education could help address confusion
about 'eating and riding,' as well as possibly limiting food sales to packaged foods or to exterior locations."

The board should approve the experiment, but it should set conditions regarding enforcement of the rules. Riders are clearly concerned about the increase in eating and drinking and trash aboard trains. The vendor proposal provides an opportunity to address their concerns.

By Robert Thomson  |  May 27, 2009; 9:55 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , transit  
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ENFORCEMENT of the no eating/drinking rules needs to be a priority. People eat & drink because they know nothing will happen. Were that to change, the food vendor proposal could work.

Posted by: bdk64 | May 27, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

It is depressing to see that so many other countries and cultures can have very clean subway systems without resorting to infantile "no eating or drinking" rules, while DC's citizenry can't keep its metro clean even with the rule.

There's a larger cultural problem here, that goes WAY beyond the "no food" rule.

There's a sense of community responsibility that is completely lacking in too many of us; not all of us, but enough that any public area rapidly becomes trashed and vandalized.

And regrettably, socially responsible behavior seems to correlate positively with the average IQ of the community; DC may be at an unrecoverable disadvantage in that respect.

Posted by: DupontJay | May 27, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

It was only a few years ago where a 15 year old could get arrested for eating french fries. Is this current lack of enforcement an overreaction to the backlash from that incident?

Posted by: ddowhan | May 27, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

No Food on Metro! Get back to locking up the 15 year old brats who munch and crunch their french fries then discard the container on the floor. Adults trash the trains with their newspapers and the kids trash it with food, eat at home and take your paper with you.

Posted by: dem4life1 | May 27, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Again, a big reason I'm a fan of the Boston's T and NYC's subway system is the fact that it acknowledges that people work and LIVE in the, can we please nosh on lunch or sip some water while on a commute?? Boston, there's a Dunkin Donuts in almost every T station; NYC, a newspaper stand with snacks/gum...why is DC so haugty about this...we're a CITY, DEAL!

Posted by: sigmagrrl | May 27, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Part of the problem with enforcing the rule is what is the rule? No eating or drinking or no bringing food or drink on board? Can I bring a 20 oz bottle of soda with me as long as I don't drink it? But what about a cup of soda from McDonald's, can I bring that? Even with a lid, it can spill. I can apparently bring that pre-packaged doughnut as long as I don't eat it, but what about a box of doughnuts that can crushed and crumbs going everywhere? Or what about that bag of fast food I just bought, its in the bag, but the smell and the grease stains on the bag. What is the rule and how do you define it.
Also, please keep in mind that all types of food is already sold at Union Station and New Carrollton. I assume at Union Station mor epoeple bring food and drinks on board since MARC lets you eat and drink on trains and since tourists don't know. But, ar ethe incident's higher at New Carrollton?

Posted by: GlenBurnie | May 27, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Please, no eating or drinking on trains. Have a restaurant or food kiosk at the station if you want but keep the activities there in a cordoned off area. We are becoming a hurried nation. Why can't we take time out for replenishments instead of eating on the way somewhere? Foods on the train are going to mean spills, and dirty seats cannot be occupied. I've seen it a few times even with the current rule and we all know there is a shortage of seats on the Metro, especially during rush hours.

Posted by: pspox | May 27, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

GlenBurnie, the rule is you can carry food or beverage, you just can't consume it. So you can bring your cup of coffee, just don't drink it until you reach your destination.

In terms of enforcement, I was at the Rosslyn stop heading up the escalators and heard a Metro police person pretty much scream (he yelled quite loudly) at a kid drinking a soda on the way down the escalator. He told him "you can't drink that in the system. Throw it away". So enforcement does happen, just probably not often enough. I think they should be giving out tickets more often though.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | May 27, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

This proposal, which would make the trains smelly & messy, is because Metro has no fixed source of incomefrom the 3 jurisdictions it primarily serves. Our local politicians have dropped the ball in not working out Metro's funding.

Posted by: Max231 | May 27, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Laws should only be things that we can enforce and that follow human nature. The goal is to keep the system clean. OK. Charge enough to pay for clean up. Have many people dedicated to pick up and dispose of all trash. It will be cleaner than it is now. Food is not the problem, it is the clean up. Do that and everyone can be happy. Keep people from eating and you just tempt them to break the rules. We have too many rules that are just "got you."

Treat people like adults and they may behave that way. Treat them like children and you can be sure that is how they will behave.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | May 27, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't think of eating or drinking in a Chicago or NYC subway. I'd be afraid of what particles may fall upon my food/drink or what company I may attract.
However, after being led by fancy escalators into elaborate and spacious stations, walking on carpeted floors and sitting in cushioned seats, somehow a morning latte and a breakfast bar seems appropriate.

Posted by: cprferry | May 27, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

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