The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Some stunned that anyone has positive view of Metro

Some chat commenters questioned The Post’s sample of riders. “Nobody I know thinks that Metro is doing an acceptable job,” one said. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)
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Monday’s online discussion was special because we had three guests to talk about The Post’s new poll on local transportation issues. I was joined by Ashley Halsey III, Dana Hedgpeth and Peyton M. Craighill.

Halsey is The Post’s transportation reporter. Hedgpeth covers Metro transit. Craighill is polling manager for Capital Insight, Washington Post Media’s independent polling group.

I think Halsey and I felt a bit left out, because most of the questions and comments had to do with the poll respondents’ answers to questions about Metro service. (Halsey wrote Sunday’s story about the poll’s major findings about driving in the D.C. region.  I also used some poll material, with Craighill’s help, concerning use of the 495 Express Lanes and the extent to which people check on travel conditions before leaving.)

A majority of poll respondents have a positive view of Metro. That didn’t sit well with many commenters during the chat. Here’s a sample exchange:

Q. The Post has a poll out today that shows high satisfaction with WMATA’s bus and rail service. Did the Post poll anyone who actually takes Metro to work or (god help them) on the weekend? Between the frozen escalators, Red Line delays, poor communication etc., I don’t understand why Metro’s favorability is so high. Am I missing something?

A. Yes we did poll people who ride regularly — 76 percent of D.C. area riders who ride Metro “very often” still rated it positively — in spite of broken escalators, delays, communications. My sense from talking with some of those surveyed is that people had a reasonable long view — basically for the 10 times a week they commute, Metro gets them there okay for 9 of 10. Still, it is that one time that can be a real pain. [Hedgpeth]

In Halsey’s story Sunday, many drivers also expressed positive views about their trips: Drivers see less congestion on area roads. Now, I know from the letters I get from drivers that there are those who would react by saying, “They didn’t poll anybody on my route.” There are many highways where commuter struggle with high volume, narrowing lanes and road work. But that wasn’t the sort of comment we got during the chat.

This was a more typical comment: “My own experience with the Metro in the past few months has been pretty negative. I live near the Glenmont Metro, and every time I want to use it, there’s been track work or — disturbingly often — mechanical failures. And with the endless litany of elevator and escalator outages, it’s impossible to find out when the next train will arrive. If Metro can’t offer better service, can’t they at least communicate the failures before people are on the platform? And maybe let people leave the station free of charge?”

Not all views about Metro expressed during the online chat were negative. Here’s an example.

Q. I am a frequent metro rider (commuter, ball games, trips downtown etc) and am basically happy with metro, especially as I always check on weekend work and avoid metro when it is a problem (I am more unhappy with idiots who try to block closing doors). I am primarily an orange line user. I am wondering whether there was any correlation between line used for the majority of the trip and satisfaction. I expect if I were depending on the red line to get around, I would be very unhappy.

A. That’s a great question. We find no difference in opinion of metro based on those who ride the various lines. Specifically, 80 percent of those who mostly ride the Red line give it positive ratings.

This is an excerpt from Hedgpeth’s story:

The Post survey, conducted on cellular and land-line phones, asked a range of questions about Metro and transportation. The Post did a similar survey three years ago and another in 2005.
The overall perception of Metro hasn’t dropped significantly even after several difficult years for the system, including a deadly crash four years ago that killed nine people and injured dozens on the Red Line. More than six in 10 riders continue to give Metro approving ratings in a variety of areas, including value, comfort, safety, operating hours, reliability and general convenience. Convenience to work is where Metro scores lowest, with half of workers saying the system is “excellent” or “good” on this point.

During the chat, we also talked about the upcoming getaway for the July 4 weekend, and I’ll have more about that in an upcoming posting.