Metro rider protests crowding at Gallery Place
Among the letters I've received since inviting travelers to comment on Metrorail conditions is this one that focuses on crowding but also discusses Metro's financial plight. Several of the letter's themes -- including the crowding at Gallery Place -- are quite common now in my correspondence.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I take the Yellow and Red lines every day on my commute from Huntington to Union Station and back. A few comments and observations: Whoever designed the Gallery Place station should be reprimanded.
The platforms there, especially the Red Line ones, are entirely too narrow. I see crowds there every day that make it almost impossible to get on and off the train. People are packed so tight at rush hour that even a linebacker would have trouble moving through them.
Second, train operators -- especially Red Line ones -- are entirely prepared to shut the doors on passengers as they are entering and leaving the train. They plea that, "There is another train right behind." But that train is generally not just "right behind," and it is usually just as crowded as the first one.
Third, I would be quite willing to pay a little extra to have service improve -- not just not deteriorate. Fourth, Metro-funding jurisdictions need to step up and and realize that if all of us -- or even many of us -- who take the subway and bus each day were to take to the roads in our cars, the gridlock would be horrendous. They would be faced with a public outcry for more roads the likes of which has not been seen here for years.
Finally, people who commute to work in their cars need to understand that they are able to do so only because many of us don't drive to work, but take Metro instead. Opposition to raising Metro's revenue that comes from a vocal few should not determine public policy.
We've been discussing why the trains seem more crowded despite declining ridership. I think there are several likely explanations for that. One is that ridership is not down all that much. When rush hour conditions combine with manual control of the trains and longer stopping times at the busiest stations, we get crush conditions. (Metro says it has not reduced the number of trains, or the number of eight-car trains.)
The Gallery Place situation is unusual, resulting from the design of that station's mezzanine and the policy of stopping all trains at the front of the platform as a safety measure. Two tides of humanity collide in the narrow channel where some Red Line passengers are trying to get off the platform while others, coming up from the Green/Yellow platform, are trying to reach it.
We almost certainly should go for the 10 cent per ride surcharge that the Metro board is considering this month to avoid service cuts. But do keep in mind, as Jim Currie does in his letter, that this merely means that things won't get worse for four months.
Almost immediately after the board decides that case, we're going to get hit with something much worse: Fare increases AND service cuts to help close a $175 million gap in the budget that takes effect in July. This will be confusing and disheartening to many riders. Some will say, Didn't I just agree to pay more to avoid cuts? Why are you putting us through this again?
At the moment, I don't see any way around this. But we need some new ideas to help us avoid going through it again next year.
January 20, 2010; 9:36 AM ET
Categories: Metro , transit | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail crowding
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