If Metro has any rider who’d seem willing to cut it some slack, it would be Dereck Norville.
He’s now a Buddhist, and he tries to have the patience of one. And his mom was a New York City bus driver.
Because she was low on the seniority totem pole, Eritsa Jones had to drive weekends and holidays. And because she was a single mom until she married another bus driver, she’d bring Norville and his sister along on her routes through Brooklyn.
In the break room of the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot, the family and the other drivers would share the Christmas meal Eritsa had made the night before.
“It was just part of the transit culture and it felt like a family,” Norville said. “I grew up with an understanding of how complex it is to keep a city moving.”
So it seemed like a sign of the depths of the frustration of Metro riders last week when Norville stood at the Vienna station and said, “I’ve really tried to be patient and forgiving, but I’m at my wits’ end with Metro.”
It was Wednesday evening and Norville was leaving his job at an education policy nonprofit. The arrivals board said the next Orange Line train was 15 minutes away, and it was the middle of rush hour.
The end of Norville’s patience had actually come the day before, when a crippling kaleidoscope of a commute on the Red, then Yellow and finally the Orange Line took two hours to get him from his home in Silver Spring to work.
More precisely, the end came at the Smithsonian station, when his train was offloaded because of a problem with the brakes, and the next train was too full to get on.
Metro has been asking for patience as it “rips off a Band-Aid” by doing two disruptive projects at once, both of which Norville is having to navigate — the closure of a portion of the Red Line between Fort Totten and NoMa to repair the crumbling Rhode Island Avenue station, and the replacement of Orange, Silver and Blue line tracks between McPherson Square and Smithsonian.
There was a time, Norville said, when he was more patient.
When Metro shut down the entire system for a little more than a day in March 2016, Norville thought, “It’s going to hurt, but it probably has to be done.”
But in the past few years, Metro has started to seem like a friend who keeps crashing on your couch because of one calamity or another that you suspect was their own doing.
Last year’s cuts in weekend service were yet another blow to the goodwill toward transit fostered over all those childhood Christmases. Norville is now spending $20 each way to Uber to his Buddhist temple near Dupont Circle.
It’s hard to be Zen about it.
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