The chairman of the Metro Riders’ Advisory Council has urged the transit authority to give its customers a better idea of how long various phases of the rebuilding program will take.
Ben Ball, the council’s chairman, told Metro board members and transit managers Thursday that it was good to know that the most aggressive parts of the program launched two years ago would end in 2017 but that “there are 179 weekends between now and the start of 2017.”
“That’s at least 179 weekends of track work and delays, 179 weekends of Metro thanking riders for their patience, and 179 weekends of riders asking, ‘Are we there yet?’ I’d like to encourage Metro staff and the board to be more forward-leaning with the riding public on what it can expect over the next three and a half years.”
Metro riders have indeed shown a great deal of patience with the rebuilding effort. But other than the 2017 date for an end to the most aggressive part of the program, the transit authority has given riders no clue about what’s going to be completed when.
When Metro describes the program, it’s usually in very broad terms, like this statement from the weekend track work advisory: “Metro is investing $5.5 billion to install new rail, ties, platforms, escalators, signals, lighting, communication systems, and more. It represents the largest capital investment — and work effort — since the system’s original construction in the early 1970s.”
Such statements are more compelling for chambers of commerce than for individual riders. Individual riders think of the Metrorail system in terms of a couple of lines and stations. They see some repair projects underway, and they experience disruptions — scheduled or unscheduled.
While these disruptions are readily apparent, Metro rarely updates riders on the progress of particular repair projects, and it doesn’t provide timetables on when phases of the work will be done — not a month, not a season, not a year.
“Metro riders want to be able to gauge progress toward the goal of ending major track work,” Ball said. “Metro riders want to know when the remaining NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] recommendations will be finally closed out, when automated train service will return, when track work will end on each individual line, and when they will see the end of track-work-related station closures where they live and work.
“I want to urge Metro staff and the board to realistically consider the release of a more detailed track work timeline, one that helps to set rider expectations.”
Ball channeled the frustrations of many riders, and offered one of the strongest challenges in years from the Riders’ Advisory Council to the Metro board and management. When he was done speaking, no board member had a question or comment for him.