Transcript

Traveling Metro: Latest News

Dan Tangherlini
Interim Metro General Manager
Monday, June 26, 2006; 12:00 PM

After a night of torrential rain, Washingtonians began a slow, treacherous commute Monday morning after flooding, downed trees and mud slides closed highways and commuter rail lines.

Read More: Record Rain Wreaks Havoc on Morning Commute (Post, June 26)

Interim Metro General Manager Dan Tangherlini will be online Monday, June 26, at Noon ET with the latest information on conditions in the Metrorail and Metrobus systems.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Video: Rain Causes Flooding in Metro Area (AP, June 26)

Weather Forecast (June 26)

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Dan Tangherlini: I want to thank everyone for joining me to chat this afternoon. We have had our share of problems this morning, so I want to thank all our customers for their patience as we dealt with this unprecedented level of flooding. I also want to thank all the Metro employees who worked throughout the night to deliver the best service we could given the circumstances. After this chat, I will be sitting down with my operations staff to discuss our response to this morning's events, so please give me your input on what worked right, and what worked not so right. Don't be shy (like that will be a problem!), I need to know how we can make your Metro better.

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Anonymous: I applaud Mr. T for coming on for a chat today. I have a feeling you won't get to all the questions today, so may I make the suggestion that you get a printout of all that were submitted so that you can read them later?

Dan Tangherlini: Easy one first - you bet. Thanks!

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Washington, DC: What is the outlook for tonight's rush hour? Is there any possibility that Federal Triangle will be reopened today?

Dan Tangherlini: Federal Triangle is looking good for reopening this afternoon. I visited it this morning and it was simply incredible the amount of water that got in there...

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A compliment from College Park: Personally I did not have a major problem with my commute, though possibly because I did not have to take a shuttle bus anywhere. The green line from the north and the red line from Silver Spring ran just fine and I got in with out a problem. I have heard some complaints around the Post site this morning and it sounds like a better speaker system and more sound padding in the stations would be a big help.

Dan Tangherlini: Thanks. We are working on improving speakers throughout the system. Its a multi-year program, so patience will be the watchword.

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Arlington, Va.: Does WMATA have any "bus contingency plans" with the other bus co's in the area, like the Arlington ART bus, Fairfax Connector etc.? The idea is that these other bus lines can use their "extra" buses or change their schedules to join Metro routes.

As I waited for the 38B this morning (with 50 others, rather than the usual 4), seeing the buses roll by without being able to pick up any passengers, I noticed completely empty ART buses. Couldn't the ART bus begin riding the 38B bus route under exceptional circumstances like today's?

BTW, the 38B East is ALWAYS at least 10 minutes late in the mornings ... please try to do something about that.

Thanks.

Dan Tangherlini: Thanks for the tip on the 38B. I will look into your idea about working with the regionals on route-sharing. However, they have had all kinds of service issues of their own this morning too. Bus routes were badly hit by the multiple problems with flooded roads, signals out and major freeway closures. It was a very rough morning.

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Washington, D.C.: I would just like to say, that despite all the problems this morning, I found the staff at Metro Center to be willing to help. They didn't always have the answers, but there were lots of employees directing people and trying to help. The shuttle bus line moved surprisingly fast, although it took forever for the bus to get moving and it hit terrible traffic. I really think that Metro did pretty well under the circumstances. The question is, how can these circumstance be prevented in the future?

Dan Tangherlini: Ahhh, I'd like to say I knew how to avoid 6-8 inch rainfalls. However, there are take-aways in terms of more field staff and more information - I think we are getting better at this, but also have work to do. Street level message boards would help, and we are going to do a demo on that in the coming year.

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Anonymous: In addition to the problems with the sound system, you need to address the problems with your unintelligible employees. The person making announcements at Ballston simply did not speak clearly. Unacceptable.

Dan Tangherlini: I will look into the issue at Ballston.

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Pentagon: As I sat at 7th St SW and Independence for the 13A this morning (which I gave up on after 20 minutes), I saw several empty Circulator buses with "Not in Service" signs lit. It seems to me that these buses could have been used to alleviate the Metrobus shuttle crush. Why weren't they?

Dan Tangherlini: The Circulator route is run by the District, but it traveled essentially the exact route of the shuttle service, so that option was available - albeit not for free. I am not sure why the busses had "Not in Service" on their displays, but I will look into it.

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Washington, D.C.: Metro's Web site could be more forthcoming: The ALERT ticker displays 20-minute delays on Blue/Orange Line, I had to dig around to confirm that Fed Triangle was still closed. Isn't this a little disingenuous?

Dan Tangherlini: I don't think it is intentionally disingenuous, but I take your point and will get that changed.

I am told the News Headlines section may have been a bit more specific, but you shouldn't have to root around.

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Bethesda, Md.: Having heard about the flooding in the Metro this morning (didn't go to work today because I'm on vacation, lucky me!), I wonder if you will be evaluating how to improve future response to this type of situation?

I know in New York they have specialized rail cars that have high-volume pumps on them that can send in after floods due to rain, water-main breaks, etc. Even though Metro is about 20 percent of the rail mileage and this is an extremely rare event, it would seem like an excellent idea to have this capability available.

Dan Tangherlini: Our problem was NOT a lack of pumps or pumping equipment - our problem was where to put the water!

NEWSFLASH: Federal Triangle is OPEN. (as of 12:15)

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Why doesn't Metro provide travelers from Largo the same alternative (Metro Bus Route 38B) for riding the metro bus to downtown?

One of the Metro Bus Routes 29 busses could service Largo and terminate at Faragut for a return round trip.

Seems NOVA gets all the benefits

Dan Tangherlini: There is a complicated answer about regional bus service and local bus service, who pays and who hasn't. But I think you have a very valid idea here and I will ask our bus people to explore the kind of service you describe. With rail capacity being strained, we are going to have to look more and more to the bus to help.

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Kingstowne, Va.: Is it possible to have metro-wide announcements that are broadcast on the in-motion trains as well as in the stations? Boarding the Franc-Spring station, I have a couple of transfer options available for a route to Judiciary Sq. Hearing station/route disruptions while riding would give me advance notice and better planning options. Thanks.

Dan Tangherlini: I will look into this idea, its an excellent one.

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East Falls Church, Va.: I know there are huge challenges today, so I understand some delays. I assume the afternoon commute will be ultra slow like the morning commute. I had to take a taxi to work from my station because all the trains were overflowing before they even got to my platform and they were 20+ minutes apart. Will you still be charging rush hour fares even though the trains are so far apart? I hope not. Also, please change the chimes and voice. Why do we need a voice saying obvious things. Just have a voice saying DOORS CLOSING IN 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, DING.

Dan Tangherlini: I anticipate our rush hour service to be back to "relatively" normal levels. However, there is more rain on the way so I think we should all keep an eye on the clouds. Given how many people chose not to come in today, you should experience a lighter evening rush than usual.

As for the new door voice, I have heard this complaint from a number of people. We are simply trying to get people to help us move the trains along given how many more people are riding each day. But maybe there is a way to make it a little more polite.

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Anonymous: The alerts on the WMATA Web site that scroll horizontally across the screen force me to wait to find out what Metro lines are affected. Please just put the information on the page, no scrolling, no waiting.

Dan Tangherlini: Good suggestion.

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Fairfax, Va.: If the rain continues all week as expected, are problems just going to get worse and worse?

Dan Tangherlini: I hope not! Clearly we have a handle on where our trouble spots are right now, but you're right in thinking that they could continue to present problems. I am also concerned about the subsequent rise in the Potomac we will see in the next few days and whether that can hit some of the low-lying portions of the core system, such as Smithsonian and Federal Triangle. We will continue to throw what we have to keep the system going - we know how much you rely on it. But, we need folks to keep an eye on the news and/or our web site for information.

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Virginia: Despite a 1 hour and 30 minute commute from the Courthouse Station to Farragut West (normally a 15-20 minute route), my frustration was mitigated by a train operator that gave frequent updates and spoke clearly as did the station manager.

Wish there was some system among riders that let those waiting the longest on the platform get in the cars first- seems many think they are more important than the rest of us and elbow their way onto the train...come on folks, we all need to get to work, use some courtesy!

Dan Tangherlini: A region-wide courtesy program is an interesting idea. For roads, rails, political discourse... Perhaps I have gone too far.

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Falls Church, Va.: As you probably recall, there was an incident not too long ago where a Metro station flooded overnight, and the flooding was not discovered until the following morning when the station manager arrived to open up. Was last night's flooding in Federal Triangle and Archives similarly undiscovered until this morning, or was it known to Metro overnight?

Dan Tangherlini: No nothing like that. We knew it was happening from the first minute. But this was epic! I was on the phone with folks around 2 am, and they already had been working on the issue for several hours. I can't say enough good things about how hard these folks worked through the night to make sure that 83 out of 86 stations were available when we opened. And no one rested until all three remaining stations were back on line by 12:15 this afternoon.

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Washington, DC: Dear Mr. Tangherlini: Thank for for participating in this chat! I imagine you are under a lot of pressure today, so doing this chat is greatly appreciated.

On the Metro Rails chat, a lot of commuters were complaining about not being given clear instructions of where to line up for shuttle buses. They were getting incomplete (or no) instructions from staff, so there was little order. It seems to me that this would be a priority for fixing, as it should be easy to fix with clear instructions for staff and a clear chain of command for instructions. Also, having some foam board "LINE STARTS HERE' signage at each site in case of a need for shuttle buses would be an easy, low-tech solution. (In fact, I stole the signage idea from the slugline Web sites.)

Directions and signage are key to reducing chaos, in my opinion.

Dan Tangherlini: Excellent. Look for foam signs next time. This is why I am DOING the chat today.

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Washington, D.C.: If Federal Triangle is open does that mean Orange and Blue Line trains are running through that stop now?

Dan Tangherlini: Yup. Enjoy!

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Washington, DC: Mr. Tangherlini: Does Metro have a crisis plan for station flooding? I'm not being critical -- I'm just curious.

I think the agency's employees generally were very good on a tough morning. And the passengers on my jammed Orange Line were generally in good spirits, though I was so close to a female passenger that I'm pretty sure I owe her dinner.

Dan Tangherlini: I am not going near that last remark.

Yes, we have a crisis plan for just about all the Biblical events (except maybe locusts). Can our plans get better? You bet. And that's part of this discussion.

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McLean, Va.: Is it possible to provide the local radio stations with a list of closed Metro Stations for them to include on their "traffic updates" during the morning rush hour? I listened to a number of different stations (WTOP, WETA) this morning, and there was no mention of closed Metro stations. Thanks for listening.

Dan Tangherlini: I don't know what to say, we certainly did provide all the major media outlets with the information.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I took the Red Line from Glenmont to Gallery, intending to transfer to L'Enfant Plaza. There was no announcement on the Red Line so I, like others, proceeded downstairs to await a train that never came. The announcements at Gallery were unclear and all the guys on the platform were together at the far end instead of at the bottom of escalator to give us the news.

Dan Tangherlini: That won't happen again. Thanks for bringing this specific issue to my attention.

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Re: The Circulator route is run by the District: But, but, but ... when one goes to the Circulator Web site, it says to contact WMATA for customer service. So now I'm wondering (and fretting) about the level of cooperation and communication between WMATA, DCDOT, D.C. Police, and other MD/VA/DC agencies! Flexibility (or in Metro terms, PlanBdexterity) is important -- hopefully today will teach us all that before there's a(nother) real emergency!

Dan Tangherlini: Constantly working on it, but I won't argue that it can be better. This will be a take-away.

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Rockville, Md.: My Red Line driver seemed either ill-informed or unwilling to waver from his usual patter this morning. Upon reaching Metro Center, he announced that the Blue and Orange Line trains were running to Largo/New Carrolton. Leading me to believe the problem had been resolved. Of course, the minute I got off the train, I heard the announcement that Federal Triangle was closed. Are train drivers supposed to be updating the passengers on what is going on or are we to rely solely on station announcements?

Dan Tangherlini: No, they are supposed to be helping too. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Burke, Va.: Would it be possible, in future situations like this one, to have bus drivers alert passengers on pickup that there are station closures/major delays etc.? By the time I get to Pentagon, it's too late to turn around and go home - there's no return bus service until 4 p.m.. But if I'd known before I got on the bus that there would be issues, I could've stayed home and worked from home or taken a sick day, and wouldn't be worried about how to get home in time to get my kid from daycare. Given that there must be lots of people in that situation, Metro could have saved us a rough commute and lowered the number of passengers you all have to deal with, making life a bit easier for all concerned. Why not try it?

Dan Tangherlini: This is another good idea. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: After my experience this morning on Metro, I am concerned about how my experience will be if there is an attack on the city or some larger natural disturbance.

When I got off the Metro at Smithsonian for the shuttle bus that was supposed to take me to McPherson Square, I experienced absolute chaos. There were multiple buses and no one was there directing people. People were frustrated and extremely angry. Like many, I gave up on the "shuttle bus" and ended up walking to work. Is this Metro's usual response to these situations?

Dan Tangherlini: This wasn't a usual situation! But I appreciate your criticism, I have heard a number of ideas about how we can do this better and I will work with our team to incorporate them into our next response.

Thanks again for joining me on the chat this afternoon. I do appreciate your patience and your patronage. We had a number of problems this morning, but Metro really did show its stripes as one of the most reliable providers of transportation in the region given the extremes we all faced. I gained some excellent insight and ideas from our discussion and I will work with the Metro Team to make continuous, noticeable improvements.

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