But give Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld some credit. Wiedefeld, having just started on the job in November, deserves a little patience and some more time as he tries to turn the long-neglected system around. He might even deserve some appreciation for making the decision– along with Metro’s board– to shut the system down for at least 24 hours in the name of safety.
It’s a gutsy move, and maybe something his predecessor should have thought of. But you get the sense that for too long, Metro’s management has been like the feckless mayor in “Jaws” who insists on keeping the beaches open despite the threat of shark attacks because it’s the height of the tourist season.
If you live anywhere near Washington, you understand the impact of the closure. The effect is startling on the federal workforce alone, not to mention private businesses, hospitals, schools, and universities – even the museums in the nation’s capital– which decided to open at noon. It’s inconvenienced thousands and thousands of people and enraged at least as many more.
The best you can say is it brought out a predictable and welcome amount of gallows humor on Twitter.
Arguably, the decision could have been handled better. Metro should have announced the decision earlier in the day, to allow institutions and commuters more time to plan workarounds for the closure. And if it wasn’t such an emergency that it put people in immediate peril – and Metro reassured customers that it would be safe to ride home Tuesday night — couldn’t the shutdown have waited until the weekend?
But it was the right call to ensure rider safety. And maybe it’s a cry for help to the people that are really to blame for this mess: the leaders of the District, Virginia, Maryland and the federal government, who have short-changed Metro’s funding for years and passed the buck on oversight. It’s taken how long for the governors and the mayor to set up the Metro Safety Commission? And they, arguably only made it as far as they have because U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx basically put a $15-million gun to their heads.
But the new Metro guy is at least trying to show that he’s putting up a fight against the encroaching darkness. Wiedefeld has also been trying to be responsive to the people who count the most: Metro’s riders.
When there was a series of high-profile crimes on the system, Wiedefeld and Metro Transit Police Chief Ronald A. Pavlik Jr. attempted at first, not without reason, to reassure the masses by trotting out statistics to show that there was no major crime wave.
But after yet another incident, Metro announced that more police would be walking the platforms and riding the trains. New, brighter uniforms were ordered so that police will be more visible. Wiedefeld’s shown that he’s listening in other ways too. He’s even been seen riding the damn thing.
But for all that, it looks like there’s a very long slog ahead, and it’s not going to be any easier with people looking for other ways to travel into the city—first by choice and now, it seems, by necessity.
So until a gondola is strung on the Arlington County-Georgetown High Line over the Potomac River, here are some suggestions, courtesy of Twitter, other readers, and Tripping, for alternative modes of travel: