Democracy Dies in Darkness


DC Rider’s Answer Line: Why was there no alert about my delayed train?

July 9, 2018 at 4:20 PM

Question: Gabriel Gitman was frustrated one recent morning. He was waiting at Gallery Place at about 6:25 a.m. to take the Yellow Line to King Street. But the arrivals board only showed when the Green Line trains would be coming.

As the minutes passed, he checked the Status and Alerts page on WMATA’s website. He kept checking for about 15 minutes, but saw no mention of any problems with the Yellow Line.

If he hadn’t been so bleary-eyed, Gitman said, he would have taken the Green Line to L’Enfant Plaza, and then the Blue Line to King Street. But in his early-morning haze, he took the Red Line to Farragut North, then walked to Farragut West to get on the Blue Line to King Street.

He was exasperated that he couldn’t find out what was happening with the Yellow Line. “Why bother with a Status and Alerts page if it won’t tell me the Yellow Line is shut down? I waited for no reason for a Yellow Line train that never came, all while being given no information by your website,” he wrote in an email to Metro and to us.

“Announcements on the lower level were unintelligible. This was a huge waste of time. Why not use the signs to inform passengers? Why not update the website? Why not send an employee to inform waiting riders? This was a terrible performance this morning.”

Answer: The problem was partially bad timing, WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel said in an email. Alerts are triggered, he said, when there’s a delay of more than 10 minutes — the point at which riders have said in surveys that they’re likely to give up and find another way to get where they’re going.

When Gitman entered the station at 6:25 a.m, he had just missed one train. Another train should have arrived eight minutes later, but that train was out of service; the next train came another eight minutes after that.

Stessel said that for the purposes of triggering an alert, the delay didn’t begin until the time when the malfunctioning train was supposed to arrive. And then, since the next train was scheduled to come in eight minutes, no alert was sent out.

Let us know what frustrates or confounds you about Metro. Reach us at or @theDCrider.

Read more DC Rider:

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Kery Murakami is a reporter focusing on feature stories about those who ride and work in the Metro system. He also serves as an advocate to get the transit system to answer questions and deal with concerns raised by its customers.

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