In interviews and online submissions, several passengers considered Metro’s best and worst in 2016 — and their hopes for 2017– and came to the rough consensus that the worst thing was also the best: SafeTrack, the massive rebuilding campaign that shuttered parts of the system for weeks at a time.
“Finally, repairs [are] being made,” said Jody Carlson, a Fairfax County resident who rides the Orange Line from Vienna most days. But, like many other commuters, she also said the worst thing was the delays and disruptions the program created.
As for the coming year, Carlson, who is a paralegal, said she hopes Metro will do more to enforce the prohibition on eating and drinking in the subway.
“It leaves the cars looking trashy,” Carlson, 58, said. She added, however, that she knows the Metro Transit Police Department also has plenty of other important duties, too.
Here are some other passengers’ views:
Vamsi Reddy, 22, an intern at the National Institutes of Health, said the worst thing that happened last year SafeTrack. He started riding the Red Line in July from his home in Rockville.
“It took a long time, and it was really crowded,” he said.
The best thing?
“I don’t have a car,” Reddy said. “So without the Metro, I’d be in big trouble. But with it, I can get to the airport and get to my job. So it’s really nice.”
His big hope – one shared, no doubt, by thousands of riders and others who rely on Metro to transport people in the metropolitan area – is that 2017 somehow comes and goes with “no issues, or breakdowns.”
Ron Bush, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health, said he couldn’t think of a single thing that was so bad in 2016.
“I can’t think of the worst thing,” Bush, 68, said while waiting to hop the Red Line.
When SafeTrack kicked in, the Gaithersburg resident switched to the bus, and he found out that that wasn’t so bad. The express bus—the J9 from Lake Forest – took him to the lab almost as fast as Metro did, he said.
What’s his big worry this year?
“It doesn’t sound like they have enough money to do what they need to do to be completely reliable,” Bush said. “So I’m fearing that they’re going to have to cut way back on service. And the more they cut back, the less money they’ll have. So I’m hearing it’s going to go downhill.”
Shauda Nix is another rider who thought SafeTrack was the worst thing to happen. When the safety surges began, Nix was looking for work, and so she found herself traveling a lot — and missing connections or trains.
“And that really made me hate Metro,” said Nix, 29, an office cleaning employee who lives in D.C. She said she boards the Green Line and switches to the Red Line to get to her job in Bethesda.
Her biggest worry for this year is that fares will go up.
“It’s $14 because I’m always in rush hour. I have to be on the train starting at 5 a.m.,” she said.
Her biggest hope is that Metro will add more new cars.
Dave Roberts, 35, a consultant from Arlington who was aboard the Silver Line during the rush hour on a recent morning, said, like so many others, that the delays caused by SafeTrack were the worst.
“One time it took like an hour to get home – just getting stopped at every station – and that was the worst thing that happened to me,” Roberts said. A close runner-up was the decision to cancel late-night service.
“It’s just harder to go out and do stuff,” he said.
The best thing?
“Nothing in particular,” he said with a chuckle.
His worst fear for 2017 is that the agency will continue to cut service hours.
“I hope they will bring back the later hours for the weekends,” he said.
Jaimol Cheeran said the worst thing was crowding during peak service hours on the Orange and Silver lines, which she said became even worse with single-tracking and other disruptions to regular service during SafeTrack.
Cheeran, 40, a nurse at Washington Hospital Center who lives in Fairfax City, said on two occasions she saw passengers get caught in the closing doors.
“It was scary for me. I saw that she could hardly get in and her hand was stuck in the door, and people were trying to separate the door,” Cheeran said. “It was really a very terrible situation.”
(Note: Metro warns riders that you should never try to force your way onto a crowded train; wait for the next one. Also, Metro doors do not bounce back like elevator doors and you should not try to hold them open; it’s dangerous and could cause them to break down.)
She hopes Metro will come up with better warnings, procedures or technology to keep people from getting jammed in the doors.
Anthony Duggan, a government worker who was boarding a Green Line train at L’Enfant Plaza recently, said that the worst thing was getting stuck inside tunnels for long periods of time, apparently because of traffic backups with the trains ahead.
“There’s always an issue with a train being in the station,” Duggan, 42, of D.C., said. It also seemed to happen more often last year, especially during the morning rush and often between the Waterfront and L’Enfant Plaza stations on the Green Line.
“So if they leave from Waterfont, and then they leave you in the tunnel five [or] six minutes in the tunnels. And it seems it’s only been this year that that’s happened.”
Those relatively brief delays alter the nature of the trip, he said.
“It doesn’t bother me personally. But it all the people who get freaked out who make it worse – people that are claustrophobic, I guess. People just for no reason get very annoyed because all of a sudden people want to sit down because they feel faint. And then the person next to them doesn’t want to give them the seat.”
The best thing about 2016?
“I think the fact that they owned up to the issues that are there, that they took responsibility,” Duggan said. That’s especially evident in the decision to reduce late-night service, he said.
“It’s a short term inconvenience with Metro with finishing up early on Friday and Saturday night, but over the long run it’s going to be a benefit,” said Duggan, a native of Ireland who said he has never owned a car and so relies on public transportation.
Duggan said he’s ridden Metrobus and Metrorail for so long that he’s been able to watch the city’s demographics steadily shift as reflected by the people who boarded the buses around him over the past decade or so. He also said that as the mass transit system for Washington, Metro is, in effect, a showcase on the state of infrastructure for the world. He has a simple wish for 2017:
“I hope this year and in the length of time that it takes them to finish making the changes they have to, that they don’t put any more bandaids on the issues,” he said. “People are always annoyed initially when you tell them there’s going to be an inconvenience. But what they don’t like to hear afterwards is there are going to be more inconveniences down the road.”
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