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Metro Pledges Better Communication on Track Work

The Metro board and staff this morning reviewed the travel disruptions caused by the extensive track work over the Labor Day weekend and pledged to improve both internal and external communications before the next big round of work on the Columbus Day weekend.

Board member Jeffrey C. McKay of Fairfax said he had a personal experience over the weekend that led to concerns about communications. He noted shuttle bus service and late-night train service was not coordinated for the convenience of passengers. A station manager said he wasn't able to communicate with the bus operation because station managers aren't allowed to use their cell phones, which isn't true.

McKay also urged an improvement in external communications: Let riders know more about what their travel options are during a disruption.

Board member Catherine Hudgins, also of Fairfax, urged the staff to maek use of customer complaints from the Labor Day weekend to improve service during the Columbus Day weekend disruption.

Sara Wilson, an assistant general manager for Metro, said the transit authority had received fewer than 100 phone complaints during the weekend, "not a huge number compared to the number of people traveling."

Read more about the Columbus Day rehab project here.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 10, 2009; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, Metrorail, delays  
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The article states,

"Sara Wilson, an assistant general manager for Metro, said the transit authority had received fewer than 100 phone complaints during the weekend, "not a huge number compared to the number of people traveling."

I think she is making the wrong inference:

--Because it was a holiday weekend, wouldn't more of the people travelling on Metro (particularly to and from airports) be tourists than is normally the case? (In addition, people in DC would be more likely to have heard about the delays in advance)

If so, I would think tourists would be a lot less likely to take the time to...look up the Metro phone through the phone tree menu...and complain
--they would instead just want to get to where they are going and enjoy what remained of their-already-shortened-by confusing-delays, vacation.

So the ratio Wilson mentions of the number of complaints to the number of people travelling on Metro doesn't seem useful when lots of tourists are using Metro, because lots of people may be having problems, but just not calling.

Besides, I didn't think you could even get a live person to complain to on the weekend at Metro...

Posted by: data-driven24 | September 10, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Your argument doesn't really work, since wouldn't people in the area already be aware of the delays and thus wouldn't necessarily be calling in to make complaints? By your logic the people calling in to make complaints would be those that didn't know about the delays in advance (tourists).

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | September 10, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Good point, UMDTG, although I suppose there are also many locals who don't pay attention to the news and thus would not have known in advance of the closures. Also, note that I worded my original comment to indicate that many of the passengers would be toursits and they would not be likely to call, but sure, maybe some did.

My main thought though is that using customer complaints in the way described by Wilson may not be that accurate a guage of anything. I'm not sure what she is thinking it indicates, but I don't see it as a very informative statistic.

Posted by: data-driven24 | September 10, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I guess a better statistic would have been if they had a comparison to another day/weekend when stations were closed. For instance how many complaints did they receive when the red line stations were closed recently for a couple of weekends? If the calls were significantly higher or non-existant you could glean something from that information.

Of course then you would also have to compare normal ridership between the two and compare percentages of locals to tourists, etc.

But yes I see your point that we don't know what "fewer than 100 calls" means.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | September 10, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Great points, UMDTG. Now if we could just get WMATA to think this way, we'll be in business!

Posted by: data-driven24 | September 10, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

This blog dropped the ball. I posted a comment on August 31st asking if you guys could find out the details of the shuttle bus situation since metro never followed up on their early August press release.

Posted by: blah1233242 | September 10, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

And here is the post:

Can you find out what the plan is for Labor day weekend on the blue / yellow line?

Wmata issued a press release a month ago ( stating "Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, Metro will conduct a complete track overhaul between the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Pentagon City Metrorail stations on the Blue and Yellow lines from 10 p.m., Friday, September 4, to 4 a.m., Tuesday, September 8."

They also said they would provide an update with information:

"Metro officials are in the early planning stages of developing an operation plan for Labor Day weekend. Metro anticipates operating free shuttle bus service between the Pentagon and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Metrorail stations. Full details on the Labor Day weekend service plan will be made available later this month."

Well its August 31st and nothing has been posted. Less than a week and we have no idea still!

Posted by: blah1233242 | August 31, 2009 10:34 AM

Posted by: blah1233242 | September 10, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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