Metro planner asks riders for ‘low-hanging fruit’

February 13, 2013
Red Line riders await train pulling into Wheaton. (Michael S. Williamson – The Washington Post)

Metro’s chief planner called on riders in Silver Spring Tuesday night to give the transit agency suggestions of what he called “low-hanging fruit” — things that would be quick fixes for the aging and deteriorating rail system.

The more than 40 transit riders, who had come to hear Shyam Kannan explain Metro’s long-range plans, had plenty of ideas.

Make three digit phone numbers for calling to check on the next bus instead of long seven digit numbers.

Paint escalator steps so people know where to walk and where to stand.

Make better lighting in stations.

Give better communications, especially when there’s a problem.

Kannan told the group there were plenty “of things that need to get fixed” in Metro’s troubled rail system. Writing them all down would be a “terrifying process,” he told the group as many laughed.

Kannan and his staff are on a road show of sorts to try to win public support for Metro’s ambitious strategic plan for the next several decades.

The plan includes $26 billion worth of work over three decades that would include building a new rail tunnel under the center of the District and a second tunnel under the Potomac.

Kannan took notes. But residents questioned whether their more immediate concerns would be meet.

Kannan didn’t respond to a phone message seeking followup comment on Wednesday.

Dan Stessel, a Metro spokesman, said Wednesday “we take all suggestions and they get reviewed.”

“Some things may not happen,” he said, noting that Metro doesn’t “encourage people to walk” on escalators because of “safety reasons.”

He said Metro launched a customer service action plan last summer and has implemented some of those items, including redesigning its mobile site and putting in screens at stations to give riders updates.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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Dana Hedgpeth | February 13, 2013