Can interim chief return Metro to peak of safety, civility?

Richard Sarles must walk the walk -- on train platforms.
Richard Sarles must walk the walk -- on train platforms. (Mel Evans - Associated Press)
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By Robert Thomson
Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Being a daily rider from Dunn Loring to Farragut West, I have found that getting from one end of the platform to the other is a nightmare. It almost seems that I am walking through a gantlet. Zigzagging left and right, people oblivious to where they are. This is especially true on my Metro ride home in the evening.

What should the correct platform etiquette be?

-- Bruce B. Barber,


Although riders are rightly concerned about the safety of Metro, events such as the recent National Transportation Safety Board hearing and reports to Congress tend to overshadow and obscure many of the day-to-day experiences grinding down Washington's transit users.

For Barber, the crowding on the Farragut West platform between 5 and 5:30 p.m. has become such a part of his daily experience that he wonders whether we should have a mutually accepted set of rules to govern our behavior in claustrophobic conditions.

It's a sorry thing, in that it suggests commuters are locked into the loss of personal space. But it's encouraging that at least someone thinks we still can be civil.

I'm the transportation doc, not Miss Manners, but when I read Barber's letter, I thought of my own experiences walking along platforms. Even though ridership is down slightly, the many platforms seem more crowded, whether at rush hour or at night. And the safety measure of stopping all trains at the head of the platform makes it more likely that some people will need to walk forward to reach a rail car.

I hate walking along the bumpy edge, especially in hard-soled shoes. Should people heading in the other direction on the platform consider that part of the walking space and expect you to use it, or should they make enough room for you to walk along the tiles?

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