How Metro can show it cares: Fix something, AC, escalators, anything

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On June 14, I headed to the Farragut West Metro station around 5:30 p.m., as is usual when I'm in town. I first had to put my June SmartBenefits on my card: The machines were down, so no machine would let me do that.

Next, I went through the gate, with my remaining $6 on my card, only to find the escalator was not working. Then I boarded an Orange Line train, on a day when it was 90 degrees. The air conditioning was not working in the train, so I had to sit through that all the way to Vienna. On June 16 at the Vienna Station, the escalator stopped cold in the middle of a line of more than a hundred people trying to get up. Just quit.

The system is simply collapsing, but no one seems to care. Where is the outrage? The demands for something drastic to fix all this? How is it we accept rising fares, collapsing service and system, and do it with a lack of outrage? We've become lemmings; we just let them get away with this.

What puzzles me most, I think, is the seeming failure of the region's employers, governments and private, to speak out, demand improvements and strong steps to keep this system an integral part of the region's infrastructure.

How can they accept, every day, employees that are stressed, tired, angry and frustrated when they show up for work because of what they have to go through on either the Metro or the highways? Surely the impact on productivity is enormous. Yet, the employers, along with the employees, are silent.

I don't claim to have the answers, but I'd sure like to know someone is looking for answers, real answers, not just Band-Aids that always end up with excuses because of lack of funds.

And the answers clearly are not just having people move farther and farther west, or whatever direction. The roads beyond the Capital Beltway are now more crowded that those within the Beltway. The buses to the Metro stations pour out the people all morning.

Perhaps we should, one day a week, just completely boycott the Metro, put all our cars on the roads, bring them to a complete halt, and get out of our cars and have a big picnic, music, party, etc., and send a message to the local powers that be, public and private, that the time has come to change things. Once a week, for a year or so, maybe that will get some attention, beyond raising the fares and cutting the services.

How much longer can it go on like this? Does anyone out there care?

-- Marshall Cohen, Fairfax

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