In almost any other industry, a dramatic increase in the number of customers would be greeted with joy.
But Metro officials have the opposite reaction to the expected growth in ridership during the next 20 years on Northern Virginia's Orange Line.
Delays are sure to increase as the system adds a $4 billion Dulles extension to the Orange Line. That proposal has been called "reckless" by one official.
Here's a suggestion borrowed from private industry, which is usually pleased and able to accommodate more people who want to use its services:
Raise fares on the Orange Line during rush hour. In the short term, higher fares will lower demand and resolve delays that plague the line. In the longer term, higher fares might generate some of the revenue to help Metro to correct its $40 million budget deficit.
A more radical suggestion is to get government out of the business of transportation altogether. Private companies that routinely operate with budget deficits, cost overruns and project delays go out of business. Government operations, such as Metro, dip into the public till when they make mistakes.
In the Sept. 24 front-page article "Breakdowns Rising, Delays Worsening on Metro Trains, Buses," Metro officials blamed increased ridership for the increase in broken doors.
I saw a Metro passenger get caught in a door the other day because there was no delay between the bell warning that the doors would close and the doors closing. The passenger understandably fought to push one of the doors open so he did not lose his backpack, which was caught outside the train. After that, the door did not work.
Since then I have noticed that the warning bells on other trains do not give passengers enough time to react. I understand the need to get the train moving, but if a passenger is caught in a door, the passenger is going to fight with the equipment, and doors will continue to break.
In October 2002, I called Penn Parking -- the outfit that "managed" reserved parking at Metro stations -- to inquire about a reserved parking space at New Carrollton Station, because the unreserved spaces were all gone by 7 a.m. Penn Parking informed me that 598 people were on the waiting list ahead of me and that the wait would be about two years. One year and 11 months later, I still have no parking space. I have e-mailed the company several times, and the response has been "Don't call us, we'll call you."
Penn Parking was involved in the missing money at the parking lots, and I understand its contract has not been renewed. So who is maintaining the list of those waiting for reserved spaces now? Does anyone care?
The bottom line is that if you can't find a parking space at Metro you can't ride Metro. A Blue Line station is supposed to be opening at Largo Town Center in December, and I have tried to get information on having my name transferred from the New Carrollton list to the Largo list. I have not yet found an official who knows anything or is willing to help me.
I started my quest in January, thinking I might be able to avoid a list and get in on the ground floor. Dream on.
CAROLYN PALMER MILLER
I recently had to retrieve my wife's car from the Shady Grove Metro station, but I didn't have her SmarTrip card. I couldn't leave the lot without it, and I was told to return to the station to buy a card, even though I had money and a farecard worth the amount of the parking fee.
This system does not tolerate customers' errors or oversights. Metro also doesn't seem to appreciate the sometimes-dire importance of getting people from one place to another. Sure, an automated parking system may save Metro money, and the savings may, over time, offset revenue lost through Metro's previous mismanagement and the malfeasance in parking operations. But Metro should clearly post contingencies for riders who forget or misplace SmarTrip cards and for drivers who enter a lot by mistake. It also should stop asking customers to finance their own abuse.
STEPHEN J. HEINIG
While Metro is extending service to earlier morning hours [Metro, Sept. 28], perhaps it also could pay more attention to the service it provides night-shift commuters.
On the Red Line, where sporadic single-tracking occurs to accommodate construction of the new station at New York Avenue NE, my inbound commute from Takoma to Metro Center in the afternoon takes 15 minutes; after 11 p.m., heading home, it often takes an hour or more. The trip home often includes long, unscheduled stops between stations; whiplash-inducing starts and stops; and a failure to stop or open doors at all stations, with passengers enduring cattle-car crowding en route.
Maybe service would improve if General Manager Richard A. White, WMATA board members and local elected officials took a ride on the wild side occasionally to see what conditions are like for off-peak commuters.
THOMAS C. HALL