As Metro proposes fare increases, transit officials make pitch that service is improving

Robert Thomson
Columnist December 11, 2013

Metro dished out some sweet and sour soup last week, committing to more improvements in customer service while unveiling plans for fare increases.

The transit staff and Metro board members got out in front of rider questions about whether they would see better service for their money.

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

Last Thursday, a Metro board committee adopted a statement of the transit authority’s commitment to customers and forwarded it to the full board for approval.

Here’s what it says:

“The safety and security of our customers is our fundamental commitment. Metro is committed to quality transit service, including clean transit vehicles and facilities, as well as courteous customer service.


Passengers ride the escalators at the Wheaton station. In the past month or so, the Red Line has been beset with problems that delayed passengers. But overall, Metro “had a very good year,” its general manager said, and wants to increase rail fare prices. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

“Metro strives to meet customers’ expectations of reliable service and recognizes the importance of timely and accurate communication, especially during service disruptions. To be responsive to our customers, we will regularly incorporate their feedback in decision making.”

It’s hard to argue with any of those goals, and the board members didn’t before adopting them. It’s the process that’s encouraging. The statement stems from the writing, debate and rewriting of the pledge over the past few months by the Metro Riders’ Advisory Council. The council members volunteer their time because they want other riders to have a better experience.

In that sense, this set of transit goals comes from the people who use the system.

But the proof of customer commitment is in the performance. It was encouraging to hear Lynn Bowersox, Metro’s assistant general manager for customer service, note that all the elements of the pledge are reflected in the performance targets that Metro tracks though its own Vital Signs score card.

The Vital Signs reports, however, have their limits as a public accountability tool: The Metro staff sets its own performance goals. The measures are broad, and by the time the public sees the statistics, they’re a few months old and don’t necessarily reflect the experiences of riders.

The latest edition of Vital Signs, presented to the Metro board’s customer service committee last Thursday, illustrated the ups and downs of these measurements. When Metro General Manager Richard Sarles talked with reporters about the fare-increase plan, also presented that day, he told them, “We had a very good year.” He could back that up with on-time and reliability statistics from the Vital Signs report.

In the July through September quarter, escalator availability improved to 93.1 percent, the best performance in five years. Metrobus on-time performance improved to 80.5 percent. Metrorail weekday on-time performance improved to 92.2 percent. For the fifth quarter in a row, that was above Metro’s target for itself. Performance was better on all five lines, compared with the same quarter last year.

They don’t necessarily mean your escalators or your Metrobuses, and they certainly don’t mean the Red Line last month. The rail on-time performance for last month will show a drop, but it won’t appear in the statistics until the next quarterly report is published early next year.

Holiday traffic

You survived Black Friday, but some of the most challenging shopping days are yet to come for local travelers. Here are some survival tips I’ve collected from traffic officials and safety experts.

Plan your expeditions. Analyze your gift lists and divide them into target zones to limit the number of trips you must make through heavy traffic. If your work hours are flexible, aim to go to stores that open early and begin your shopping expedition in the morning, when stores and parking areas are less crowded.

Parking lot safety. The most challenging location for drivers and pedestrians is the parking lot. Seems like everybody follows his or her own set of rules. Drivers get into big debates about whether it’s best to pull straight in or turn around to face out of the parking space. They have strong opinions and short fuses.

When in doubt about someone else’s intentions, resort to courtesy. Be especially alert for pedestrians. Stay in the lanes, rather than cutting across parking spaces.

Tysons Corner. The 495 Express Lanes, the toll lanes in the middle of the Capital Beltway in Virginia, created two new ways in and out of Tysons Corner. There’s one on the north side of Tysons, at Jones Branch Drive, and another more centrally located that connects with the Westpark Drive bridge. Turn left at the new traffic signal on the bridge and you’re looking at Tysons Corner Center. Turn right and you’re heading toward Tysons Galleria.

Traffic elsewhere. Each winter, the Virginia Department of Transportation customizes the signal timing at several hundred intersections to better balance the commuter traffic and the holiday shopping crowd.

The list of shopping areas with signal timing adjustments shows where to expect holiday traffic congestion in Virginia: the Tysons Corner malls, Reston Town Center, Fair Lakes Shopping Center, Fair Oaks Mall, the Potomac Mills outlets, Manassas Mall, shopping centers on Route 234, Springfield Mall, Cascades Town Center, Potomac Run Shopping Center, Dulles Town Center, Dulles 28 Centre and the Leesburg Corner outlets.

Maryland uses a different system, with signals responding to demand throughout the year. But traffic hot spots will include Rockville Pike, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 100 near the Arundel Mills mall, and Interstate 295/Interstate 95 and Indian Head Highway near National Harbor, where the Tanger Outlets opened last month.

SECTION: {section=local, subsection=trafficandcommuting}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=local, subsection=trafficandcommuting}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Most Read Local