Metro rider angry about delayed opening

Robert Thomson
Columnist January 20, 2012

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Here’s yet another example of Metro’s incompetence and some issues that raise this question: Why should Metro’s ridership pay more for a system that continues to decline in service?

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

Friday, the gates at the Franconia-Springfield station were not opened until just after 5 a.m. (The first train departs at 5.) There was no communication from Metro explaining the delay. An employee finally appeared and unlocked the gates.

Thankfully, the first train remained at the platform for a few minutes, allowing some people to board. There were no apologies and no explanation for the delay. I saw some people leave the station in disgust just minutes before the gates were opened.

In the face of continuing problems that can and should have been fixed a long time ago, including incompetence, Metro now wants to gouge its ridership with yet another fare increase. I have significantly reduced my use of Metro, because its management is abysmal at best and the service unreliable. Metro is a joke, and I am better off taking a car.

— S. Gordon, Woodbridge

The station is scheduled to open at 4:50 a.m. weekdays. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the station manager wasn’t able to get to work on time Friday morning, so the gate was opened at 5:02 a.m. by the terminal supervisor, the person at the end of the line who is in charge of the trains.

The first train stayed at the platform to allow riders to board and then left at 5:05 a.m., five minutes behind schedule, Stessel said.

Among the travel delays we experience with trains, planes and automobiles, five minutes won’t stand out. And the train operator waited so passengers could board.

That’s me being objective about it. I wasn’t there in the cold and dark waiting for the gate to open. By now, many Metro riders are accustomed to delays, confusion and a lack of information, so they’re in no mood to be patient.

I think Metro’s leaders have a good sense of how far the transit system has declined from its glory days and of the commitment to fix it, but I’m not sure they fully grasp the anger that bubbled up during the decline. The deeper we get into the debate over fare increases, the more that anger will be visible.

Where’s the gridlock?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I drive south on Interstate 395 past the gargantuan Mark Center. There had been predictions of bumper-to-bumper gridlock after the building opened.

But the southbound traffic hasn’t changed at all. Where is the additional traffic everyone said would come?

— David Kaplan, Fairlington

There are some factors that could explain what our letter writer perceives.

Not all of the 6,400 workers being transferred have moved in yet. Meanwhile, federal, state and local agencies have been trying to ease the impact of the commuter onslaught that began in the fall. Traffic monitors’ concerns focused on I-395’s northbound ramp to Seminary Road and on Seminary Road itself, especially around North Beauregard Street.

Traffic signals were retimed, new signs were installed and the I-395/Seminary Road interchange was restriped to allow two left-turn lanes headed to Mark Center. Meanwhile, transit agencies increased their bus service.

Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) and other members of the local delegation were able to add a parking cap for Mark Center into the Omnibus Appropriations Bill signed into law Dec. 23. The parking cap will limit the number of spaces to about 2,000 until the Department of Defense can demonstrate for 90 consecutive days that traffic lanes in the area are not failing.

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or
e-mail drgridlock@washpost.com. drgridlock@washpost.com

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local