Metro's board is a mix of elected and appointed officials from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The board hires and fires the chief executive of the transit system, approves its $1 billion annual operating budget and meets weekly to set policy.
Kevin Moore, a co-founder of MetroRiders.org, a recently created advocacy group for Metro riders, said, "If they were riding regularly, they'd be better caretakers."
Cynthia Parkinson, who was riding the Route 42 Metrobus south on Connecticut Avenue yesterday morning, said, "The notion that anyone in charge of the service is not familiar with it firsthand is ludicrous."
It was the Metro board that decided to reduce the length of trains from four cars to two cars after 10 p.m. to save money. The decision created severe crowding in some downtown stations, where theatergoers and restaurant patrons were unable to board the jammed shorter trains. Irritated riders demanded to know whether the people who set the policy rode the trains themselves.
The issue came up again two weeks ago when Metro held its first town hall meeting. Fifteen individuals submitted written questions about whether Metro board members regularly ride the trains and buses.
Mack said her schedule is too busy to rely on public transportation. "My travel, my destinations and my time frames make it very difficult for me to use the system," said Mack, who lives near the Friendship Heights Metro station and works near Howard University. "I would have to take two trains and two buses. . . . It just makes it very inconvenient for me to depend on the system on a regular basis."
Moore said Mack's rationale insults every Metro rider. "If Metro board members feel they could not be on time for their meetings, they could not conduct their daily business in a timely fashion using Metro transportation, what does that say for the rest of us?" he said.
Several board members said their transit use has nothing to do with their job performance. "We're a policy board. I'm not called upon to know whether or not something is working at the Gallery Place Station," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham, who represents the city on the Metro board and drives most places. "I'm appropriately involved with the problems of the system."
Metro Chief Executive Richard A. White recently resumed riding the subway each day after four years of driving to work from Fairfax County in a Metro-issued sport-utility vehicle. He has said that daily riding has opened his eyes to problems and weaknesses that need attention.