Columnist

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have to take exception to the letter from Abby Thomas, who wrote that she had to cancel a get-together with a friend at Dupont Circle on a Saturday because the Red Line was closed.

On a recent weekend [when the east side of the Red Line was disrupted for maintenance], my friend and I took one of the many waiting buses from the Forest Glen station to Rhode Island Avenue, where we caught the Red Line to Judiciary Square.

Our bus was an express, which stopped only at Silver Spring, but there were others stopping at every station. A representative of Metro guided us to our bus. On the way back, after an enjoyable afternoon downtown, we took the train back to Rhode Island Avenue and, again, found several buses waiting. This time, the bus we were shown to went straight to Forest Glen without stopping, and it was free.

So brave the system and take whatever mode of transportation Metro provides. On weekends, a few extra minutes probably would make no difference.

— Anneli M. Levy,

Bethesda

 

Few people write to a column like mine because they have something good to say. So the finding in a recent Washington Post poll that a large majority of the D.C. region’s residents have favorable views of Metro, just as they did in previous polls, stunned some readers.

Not so fast

This letter is more in line with those who loathe Metro’s performance.

 

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I’m writing this as I wait 12 minutes at the Silver Spring station [on a weekday] for a Red Line train into D.C. First of all, it pains me that Metro finds this acceptable. What pains me more, however, is that we aren’t doing more to hold the transit authority accountable for the service, or lack thereof.

It’s an embarrassment that we live in a world-class city and have a public transit system that barely functions on the weekends. But what are we to do?

It seems that fares keep going up, and the level of service keeps going down. People gripe and groan when it makes the news, but then nothing.

What can Washingtonians and our suburban friends do to hold Metro accountable?

— Rachel Maisler,

The District

 

I find merit in all the letters — from Thomas, Levy, Maisler and others who have written in about Metro service. They all have something real to say, but you need to read them all.

To say Metro is one of the region’s greatest assets isn’t to say it’s all we want.

Thomas said riding on weekends can be daunting. True. There are a lot of moving parts in the weekend schedule, and they don’t always come together.

Levy said you can do it. True. After several years of experience with the intensive and disruptive rebuilding program, Metro managers have made many improvements in their weekend operations.

Maisler said fares keep going up while service declines. Many riders — including many in our poll — have legitimate issues with Metro’s cost and reliability.

Those concerns need to be addressed, but it’s going to require a lot more effort on the part of riders. They need to involve themselves in the transit system’s governance in the same way that parents involve themselves in the success of local schools.

There’s nowhere near the level of rider involvement in Metro’s governance that would be necessary to shake things up in the way Maisler has in mind. The transit authority is more difficult for the public to influence than a school system is.

Yes, Metro has the 21-member Riders’ Advisory Council, consisting of many smart transit users who want the system to be better. That’s a good start. But this painful rebuilding program calls for more opportunities to bring riders, transit managers and Metro board members together.

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 e-mail drgridlock@washpost.com.