Shopping Kiosks May Be Coming To Subway Stops

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 5, 2006

At Metrorail stations, riders do little else except get on, get off and wait for trains. But Metro has a plan to provide a whole new world of shopping in which riders could buy a newspaper or magazine, drop off dry cleaning, maybe even get their shoes shined.

To boost revenue and provide riders with more conveniences, the transit authority is proposing to open some stations to businesses that would sell a variety of merchandise through kiosks and other retail spaces. A pilot program would set up such retail shops inside and outside 12 Metrorail stations.

Note to Metro Transit Police: Food and beverages will not be included.

The Metro board's real estate committee gave the plan preliminary approval yesterday, authorizing the transit agency to solicit proposals from businesses that would own, operate and manage kiosks for at least five years and pay rent to Metro. The full board is likely to vote on the plan in two weeks.

When Dan Tangherlini, Metro's interim general manager, outlined the proposal, he initially suggested that Metro ask vendors to provide estimates that included the sale of food. But after much discussion, board members rejected the idea.

In fact, they were worried that even a discussion of such an option could backfire.

Metro does not allow eating or drinking on its trains and buses, a fact that occasionally brings widespread publicity to the agency.

Two years ago, Stephanie Willett, a 45-year-old federal scientist, was handcuffed and jailed for chewing a candy bar in the Metro Center Station. In 2000, a 12-year-old girl was handcuffed for eating a french fry in a station.

At the same time, one of the biggest passenger complaints has to do with people who eat on the train and leave greasy wrappers, empty bottles and sticky spills on seats and carpets.

"This is getting worse by the month," wrote one rider during an online discussion last week on "A guy this morning got on at Union Station and continued to eat his English muffin . . . AND he was blocking the door!"

Gordon Linton, who represents Maryland on the board, asked yesterday, "Are we prepared to change our policy on food?" Referring to Willett's arrest, he added, "You think you had problems with candy bars before . . . "

Board member Charles Deegan, who also represents Maryland, wondered whether the no-eating policy could be maintained by allowing a Takeout Taxi-type of service that would allow riders only to take food out of a station.

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