Two longtime passengers on Metro's Red Line, fed up with delays, broken-down equipment and safety problems on trains, have formed a riders advocacy group to press for a safer, more reliable system.
The founders, who met not on the Metro but in an online chat, plan to launch MetroRiders.Org at a news conference today. They said they will call for an independent review of the Metro system, and for designated government funding of operations.
"We want Metro to be all that it can be," said Kevin Moore, 50, a self-employed adviser to nonprofit organizations who started an Internet discussion group of riders this year that attracted almost 300 people. "There's been such a dent in public confidence in Metro recently. A review that is open and public ought to help restore some public confidence in Metro's management operations."
The new group will fill a void left when a previous advocacy group, Metro Watch, dissolved in 1998 after its founder left for family reasons and no one took his place.
Jack Corbett, a lawyer who joined forces with Moore to form MetroRiders.Org, said their main objective will be to press regional government leaders to ensure adequate funding for transit.
"We don't see ourselves in an adversarial role," he said. "The Metro staff, the board and the riders want to have a better Metro system we can be proud of. Our activity is going to be aimed at those public officials who control the purse strings."
Corbett, 65, parks at the Shady Grove Station, where he boards a train for his daily commute to his office near the Dupont Circle Station. He said he has noticed a steady deterioration in service over the past two decades.
"It's clearly a function of not having adequate capital to keep the quality of cars up to speed," he said. "Consumers are paying the price now. I'm often on the Red Line, when the operator mentions the train ahead of us is delayed. You'll notice 72 people pull out their cell phones to tell the bosses they're going to be delayed. We're expecting a lot of people will have an interest in joining us."
Moore, who lives two blocks from the Silver Spring Station, rides the train at least three times a week. After sharing their concerns in an online discussion, Corbett and Moore met in August with more than 20 other riders. They picked a name and formed a policy advisory committee.
From the beginning, they found Metro officials cooperative. Moore was given a guided tour of Metro's customer service center. Corbett and Moore had a private meeting last week with Richard A. White, the system's chief executive.
"We're looking forward to working with them as part of an ongoing effort to engage with our customers," said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for Metro. "It would be wonderful if we could partner in such a way if it helps relate to funding for Metro. But I don't think we look at this as something focused on dollars. We look at this as a wonderful opportunity to talk with and listen to our customers directly."
Most other cities with public transportation have similar organizations acting as citizen watchdogs or lobbying for public transit money. Some have paid staff, but most are volunteers.
The oldest is the Straphangers Campaign in New York. In the past, the group has been critical of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, suing the system last year over fare increases and mocking its decisions through political street theater. But the group also has mobilized public support for capital funding projects, and recently turned its ire on Gov. George E. Pataki, accusing his administration of starving the MTA.
Josh Silver, who founded Metro Watch in 1992 and pressured Metro to upgrade its buses and improve bus signage, said it is important for rider advocacy groups to highlight management shortcomings.
"Before Metro secures more public financing and wins the hearts and minds of people in this area over, it has to be very accountable," he said. "Through public accountability, the system will get more financing and support."