The Tom Toles cartoon in Friday’s Post neatly captures the experience of Metro riders. It shows a commuter facing a station entrance marked “Closed because it’s broken.” In the distance is the other entrance to the station, with a sign reading “Closed for repair.”
To Metro officials, the distinction is very important. They say they are working aggressively to overcome years of neglect that left the transit system unreliable and created potential safety hazards. After a while, they say, all these disruptions will result in better rides.
But to many riders, the distinction between the types of disruptions makes no difference. To them, it’s all the same ride.
Metro officials think they’ve got a strong case for this aggressive maintenance program. But the message they communicate from Metro headquarters is quite diluted by the time it reaches the station platforms.
What riders hear is that transit leaders have committed them to an endless war.
She writes: “Even after new track circuits and switches are installed on the Red Line over the next three years — safety upgrades recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board — Metro officials said there will be a ‘steady stream of maintenance’ that will involve shutdowns and single-tracking.”
Mary Hynes, a board member from Arlington County, channeled what many riders are thinking: “The real question on people’s mind is when is my ride going to get better?”
Metro officials have been saying that train passengers will gradually discover that their rides are smoother and more reliable as programs like the rail and track fastener replacements proceed. The track circuit replacements will eventually lead to the restoration of automated train control, the way the trains were designed to operate.
Of course, those are very good things. But they’re also saying they don’t see an end to the disruptions caused by trains sharing tracks around work zones and by station shutdowns for maintenance.
To riders, those are not good things. The message they receive is: There will be no end to the disruptions.
A rider just sent me an e-mail asking, “When will all this be done?”
When I summarized what Dana said in her story, the rider wrote back:
“Then I’m done with the Metro.”
In a region with some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation, not that many commuters wind up walking out on Metro. But many now feel trapped in a loveless marriage.