Dear Dr. Gridlock:
As someone who must rely on Metro, I find it expensive, exhausting and down right irritating. A day doesn’t pass without some form of Metro headache.
It can be any of the following unacceptable occurrences: train delays, track work, elevator/escalator down, no information postings regarding train arrivals, broken fare gates, trains that stop for no reason, trains that can’t seem to brake without tossing riders into each other, overcrowded weekend trains, the 20-minute wait for a train outside rush hours and the nonstop fare increases.
This is Washington, D.C., and the public transportation is flat out embarrassing. I spend more money, waste more time and am super miserable riding Metro.
Metro: Wake up!
— Andrew Holtz
I can tell you what Metro says about the conditions Holtz describes: The experiences you have now are the product of years of failure to maintain the transit system. Now the transit authority and the governments that support it have identified the condition, boosted their investment and aggressively attacked the problem.
But you’re in a treatment phase: You’re still experiencing the pain, and the medicine prescribed to cure it is having strong side effects. This will get better, Metro leaders say, but they can’t say exactly when.
When they describe the condition, treatment and prognosis, it all sounds logical enough. But sometimes the patients just want to scream.
I hear from the next letter writer when he thinks I’ve messed up. For some reason, I hear from him frequently. This was his reaction to my Thursday column in the Local Living section, in which I wrote about crowding on Metro cars and theories on how to solve it, such as keeping the doors open longer to allow more people to get off and on.
The writer says Metro is not over capacity, and holding doors open longer would be counterproductive.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
If crowding were a problem, asking Metro to hold the doors open longer will just make crowding worse. It cannot be otherwise. No one can repeal the laws of physics.
Holding doors open adds almost four people per second, increasing crowding. Late trains foul up the best laid plans. If a train is delayed 48 seconds, it throws a red signal on the following train, making it stop in the tunnel.
Each stop adds more delay and further reduces capacity. That is why Japanese subways use white gloved “loaders” to push people onto the trains to get the doors shut quickly.
I do not advocate pushing people, but in the newer cars with no handholds near doors, people need to get close to the doors before they open. If passengers stay back to hold onto a seat frame, people start to board before passengers get off, further delaying the train. Gridlock, just like your name.
— Ed Tennyson, Vienna
This writer focused on the car design issue.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Removing the poles near the doors on Metro cars may possibly induce people to move to the middle, but during rush hour, when the middle is filled, many riders are forced to stand unassisted near the doors.
Not all seniors are tall enough to reach the overhead bars, and the absence of poles leaves them with nothing to hang on to except other standees, who don’t necessarily welcome such attention.
— Stanley Falk,
Riders often complain about the removal of the poles near the doors in the newest cars, but we haven’t talked about them in relation to how long the train doors should stay open. Does the car configuration create gridlock at doors?
Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or