Bicyclists Calling Metro Just Hit a Dead End

By Dr. Gridlock : Robert Thomson
Sunday, June 3, 2007

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I applied to Metro for a bike locker last month. I received a form with the contract outlined. If I sent in $70 for the annual rent and a $10 key deposit, I was supposed to receive my keys and start using the locker May 16. Two weeks after my check had been cashed, I still have not received any keys.

My calls to the department in charge of the lockers were not returned. I am not sure if I will ever get my keys or my money back.

It is distressing. I am trying to do my part to alleviate traffic congestion. What is going on with Metro? They cannot even sort out the bike lockers?

Shyh-Han Tan


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Who exactly do you have to harass over at Metro to get someone to respond to a call on the bike lockers? I have been calling virtually every day for almost three weeks to report my broken locker and have had no response.

I had a great response to my initial inquiry into getting a locker, but now I cannot use it because no one will respond.

Corey Shott

Takoma Park

Metro clearly is having a customer service problem with the locker rental program, which allows riders to store their bikes at stations.

When I tried the phone number, 202-962-1116, a recording told me that "due to staff reductions and higher-than-usual call volumes, individual customer response times may be delayed." This is followed by an option to leave a message.

I described all this to Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. "That shouldn't happen," he said, "and I'll fix it."

In his few months on the job, Catoe has been very open to hearing rider complaints and responding to them. I talked to him Thursday night just before he opened a forum in Columbia Heights to discuss public concerns about pedestrian safety. Afterward, he walked to the Metro station to head home.

On Friday, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel told me the latest on Shott's case: "We apologize to her. . . . It should not have taken a month to get back to her," he said. "We have contacted our maintenance department to get the locker fixed ASAP."

He said Metro is working to resolve Tan's complaint as well. Tan told me that a Metro representative contacted his wife and arranged to get a locker key to her.

It's heartening to see complaints resolved, but I know that Catoe's long-term goal is to manage the customer service system so it functions smoothly on its own.

Milling and Paving

After reading about a fatal motorcycle accident Monday on Interstate 270, where the Maryland State Highway Administration is repaving the 12 lanes, a motorcyclist wrote to warn about the uneven pavement.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Construction crews have torn up the pavement in the left lanes, exposing the grooved base and leaving a two-inch gap up to the paved surface in the other lanes.

Cars have a hard enough time jumping the gap, but for motorcycles, this is especially dangerous, and there are only a few "Uneven Pavement" warning signs. Please warn your readers that motorcycles should use extra caution and should cross as slowly as possible and at as much of a right (90 degree) angle so that the wheels don't catch. Ideally they should avoid the lane while it's under construction.

Joshua Scott


All drivers should use caution on I-270 between Falls and Muddy Branch roads during the repaving, which is scheduled to end next spring.

When I drove that stretch last week, I saw many warnings -- on the permanent electronic signs overhead, plus variable message boards and rectangular orange-and-black signs on the shoulders.

They did not stop motorists from driving well above the speed limit in lanes that had been milled but not yet paved.

David Buck, a spokesman for the highway administration, said that construction personnel checked the zone immediately after the accident. "The edge of the grooved surface was within the 2 1/2 inch tolerance," he said they reported.

But why the time gap between milling and paving?

"Our ultimate goal is to have both the milling and paving operations occur as close together as possible," Buck said. "Along I-270, we have limited hours of work each night, generally between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Milling is slow and requires extensive cleanup each night, he said. For a variety of reasons, he said, it's usually safer to return later to pave. There's another consideration: "It is not always feasible to have the paving contractor waiting around for the milling contractor to finish one lane."

But he added that the highway administration "and our contractor are aware of the need to move the milling and paving along I-270 just as quickly as possible. I-270 carries the most traffic of any road in the state with the exception of I-495."

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in the Extras and Sunday in the Metro section. You can send e-mails todrgridlock@washpost.com. Include your name, home community and phone numbers.

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