Trying to save money, Metro has halved the size of its late-night trains, forcing riders to sprint along the platform, only to find they can't get on the overcrowded cars. Here are some suggestions for other ways the Metro system can raise or save money:
* Discontinue all Monday service after 7 p.m. Come on -- who goes out on Monday nights?
* Each seat will easily accommodate more passengers if people will sit on each other's laps. Raise revenue for Metro -- and make a new friend!
* At Metro Center station, install a dunking booth where, for $1 a throw, customers can try to plunge Metro Board Chairman Robert J. "No Problem" Smith into a tank of frigid water. Hell, make it $2 a throw. People will pay it.
* Problem: In cold weather, bulky coats reduce the number of passengers who can be shoehorned onto a train. Solution: $1 per trip Winter Surcharge.
* After waiting 40 minutes on the platform for a train, would-be passengers grow faint with hunger. Why not stock otherwise-useless Metro clerk booths with an array of snacks, to be sold at exorbitant markups?
* Turn off the air conditioning. Oh, wait, they've already done that.
* Metro should begin referring to passengers as "applicants." Every time a rider actually manages to cram into a car, he or she will feel like a winner!
* Why should your heftier neighbors get to occupy more space for the same fare? Charge by the pound!
* Reserve "premium seats" in each car. Then follow the example of the Redskins by charging a 10-year seat license fee, a parking fee (be sure to ban walking to the station) and a mandatory catering fee.
* Stop running trains to Virginia until they remember who won the Civil War.
* End royalty payments to the "Doors closing" lady.
* Look at all that wasted space near the ceiling! Go the Full Tokyo and install luggage racks to stow children and post-concert crowd surfers.
* Stop trying to fix the escalators: Lay off the maintenance crews, stop buying new parts, freeze them in place and call them "stairs." Which they are most of the time, anyway.
* Put a shingled roof thing over the recycling containers and relabel them "wishing wells."
* Open a bar car. Then you can really pack 'em in.
* So far, guidance from mass-transit officials in Bucharest and Calcutta has worked perfectly. Continue to model Metro's system on theirs.
-- Peter Kaufman,
with staff contributions