Ready to Grumble


Back in the summer of 2011, I interviewed a guy who was using Twitter to anonymously prod Metro into solving its hot-car problem. Two weeks ago, that guy — now better known as Chris Barnes, and best known as @FixWMATA — announced on his accompanying website that he’s planning to move and is out of the Metro advocacy business.

Over the course of a couple of years, and nearly 57,000 (!) tweets, Barnes built a reputation as a rabble-rouser who used his digital soapbox to highlight every inadequacy and failing of Washington’s transit system. There are plenty of other Twitter handlers out there devoted to similar topics, most notably Unsuckdcmetro, but Barnes’ departure has left a void in the online discussion.

Maybe that’s fine. In his last post, even Barnes cast doubt on the ability of 140-character slams to make a difference. He advised his readers to “REALLY stand up. Not just complain on Twitter.”

But there’s no doubt Metro griping and grumbling will continue on the site, and it’s nice to have someone to commiserate with. So I’ve been reading up on the newest Metro-focused Twitter accounts to see if it’s possible for folks to get a fix without Barnes.

@MetroTAG

Barnes’ heir apparent is the Metropolitan Transit Advocacy Group, which he helped launch in July and then promptly dropped out of. The gaggle of concerned riders (or “scolds,” if you ask the City Paper) is trying to highlight ongoing issues.

Its first campaign: Why aren’t WMATA’s defibrillators more accessible to the public in case of emergency? But if you’re looking for vitriol, you might be disappointed by the frequently cheerful tone.

Sample tweet: Things to do to get attention for #wmata: pull up flowers, have baby on platform.

@ItIsWhatItIs_DC

In a July 19 Post article about the problems disabled riders have with frequent escalator and elevator outages, WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel was quoted as saying, “It is what it is.”

Now there’s a campaign by that name to promote better accessibility throughout the rail system. I think Metro’s already on notice about its escalator/elevator woes, but if the drumbeat can be sustained, it might encourage quicker fixes.

Sample tweet: Foggy bottom and McPherson out. Elevator users walking 15 blocks to work in the rain this morning #itiswhatitis

@MetroHotCars

A Twitter feed about hot cars. Hmmm, where have I heard of that idea before? But the number-cruncher behind MetroHotCars doesn’t sound as though he’s as invested — or as interesting — as Barnes.

“I thought it would be a great data science project to crowdsource these reports and share the results with the public,” Lee Mendelowitz said in a story in The Post. We can check in again in two years, though.

Sample tweet: @wmata @metrorailinfo Car 1069 is a #wmata #hotcar HT @jondagle. Car reported 5 times. http://www.dcmetrometrics.com/hotcars/1069

@BlameWMATA

The description says it all: “A place where we can all blame WMATA for the various woes in our lives. WMATA might not have anything to do with it but it will still feel good.” It sounds promising, but the feed’s two and only tweets (both from June 5) have me worried that this person may have joined Barnes in throwing in the towel.

Sample tweet: I #blamewmata for my hiccups

Vicky Hallett is a MisFit columnists and the Fit editor for Express.
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