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Dr. Gridlock: Metro call boxes can invite danger

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By Robert Thomson
Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I witnessed another failure in our Metro system:

Sitting in the last car of a Blue Line train by the emergency intercom, I noticed a lady working her way through the crowded train in my direction. She then pressed the button to talk with the train operator.

As discreetly as she could, she spoke into the intercom letting the operator know she was reporting a suspicious man in the middle of the car who was sitting on the floor and refusing to stand up as the train kept getting more and more crowded.

She also stated that he was acting weirdly. Then the train operator responded by blaring on the intercom, "Can you repeat that again?" She repeated herself as quietly as she could while still letting him hear her and then told him not to respond, as the man would hear him.

Then the train operator blared back on the intercom: "So, there is a guy near the middle door sitting on the ground that won't move. Is that correct?" Everyone in the car heard this and began to laugh. I even laughed. But this just shows yet another weakness in our Metro system. There is no discreet way to talk with the train operator in an emergency.

After hearing the train operator repeat her words, the squatting man got off the train at the next stop.

Metro operators need to exercise some discretion and put some thought into what they say back to riders over intercoms, or Metro needs to reevaluate the practicality of an intercom system vs. a phone system.

A phone in each train car would allow for a discreet conversation with the operator. Metro's communications system with riders needs an overhaul.

-- Allison Feasel, Lorton

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