Wednesday, November 07, 2007

When Did Metro Become the Ford Pinto of Transit?

Seriously. I love Metro, but it has become such a royal pain over the last couple of years. And I can't figure out whether that's due to my getting older and crankier, or if they've fallen so far that even I can see it.

It's not just that Metro has significant delays and rude customers, it's that they've gotten downright surreal. This week, there was a deer wandering around the Red Line tracks for four hours, causing extensive delays. This brings many questions to mind:
  • How did the deer get down there in the first place? Paper farecard or SmarTrip?
  • How did the deer avoid electrocuting itself?
  • How come a deer has an easier time navigating the Metro's inadequate lighting, slippery tiles and punchy crowds than I do?
  • Why did it take so long to remove the deer? It's not like it could have hidden for long, it's a pretty big animal. Zap it with a tranquilizer, dump it in a wheelbarrow and haul it out.

And, let's consider the other insidious aspect of Metro: it's misogynistic. Seriously. New train cars have severely cut back on the number of floor-to-ceiling hold-on bars. Instead, we're supposed to move into the center of the car and use the overhead bars, which are useless for anyone under 5'6". As the average American woman is 5'4", I can only conclude that Metro has it in for women. Maybe they don't want us to get to our jobs, so then we won't have jobs. It's a plot!

With its cramped quarters and propensity to randomly burst into flame, Metro is virtually peerless. With one exception: The Ford Pinto. The Metro is the Pinto of Transit. You heard it here first.

18 comments:

Capt. Jack Sparrow said...

If that deer got a seat in the morning on the red line, I'm pissed. Meanwhile, I'm flailing all around trying to grab that high, overhead hand bar....

I bet the deer smelled better than some of the people I encounter on the train, and I bet the deer did not fart. [Yet another] meanwhile, I had guests in town last week and we were all treated to a face-melting fart by a fellow rider.

You have to be dedicated to the cause to ride Metro... I guess I am dedicated.

Hang in there, Shannon.

JustAnotherTwentySomething said...

Can we seriously stop complaining about decent public transit systems with decent federal funding? Try living in a city that's constantly on the verge of shutting it down. Where the seats and stations are truly dirty. And where the efficiency is most definitely in question.

I'll give it to you that the Metro is far from perfect - surely its more like a Taurus than a Pinto

Shannon said...

Fair enough. But my issues with Metro have little to do with funding, and everything to do with basic competence and customer service. I mean, how hard is it to find a deer? And how hard is it to figure out that if you redesign the cars to take out the floor-to-ceiling poles, a significant number of riders have nothing to hold on to? I mean, any idiot can figure out that not everyone can reach an overhead bar.

Then again, Metro doesn't employ just ANY old idiot. They have specially trained ones.

Colin said...

Go to Philly, spend a little while and traverse its decrepit and incredibly inadequate public transportation (just two subway lines for the entire city, with a range of slow above-ground regional rail lines filtering out to the suburbs). After your experience there, tell me if Metro seems so bad.

I'm not saying that the Metro couldn't improve...as a Red Line rider, I know it could. But after living in Philly, the Metro is like a godsend. Yes, I used the words Metro and godsend in the same sentence...

Sean Robertson said...

You don't even have to go all the way to Philly. Just take the Marc to Baltimore and check out their subway 'system' (all one lines of it) and what they seem to think qualifies as light rail.

As for federal funding, Metro could use a HELL of a lot more of it. All these jackasses driving in from Virginia and wrecking our roads without paying DC taxes should be getting billed for it and at least a significant portion of that money should go to fixing metro. We really need to disincentivize driving here.

Anonymous said...

Each seat in the traincar has a metal bar on the back. This is a handle for your use, and it works great. (It works best if you stand facing the side of the train, though I know Red Line commute crowding doesn't always allow that.)

jeff said...

The bars on the backs of the seats are decent when they are available. More floor to ceiling poles would certainly help the vertically challenged but inevitably some ignorant oblivions will lean their whole body against the bar preventing multiple people from grabbing on without also grabbing or brushing up against various body parts as well. I do feel bad for the shorter women who are forced to essentially free-surf in the middle of the aisle, without holding on to anything, grimacing, while getting dry humped by unwashed, unkempt, letches with smirks on their faces. In some nightclubs this would be called squish-dancing or given some pseudo-erotic name...on Metro though...ewww...shudder.

Shannon said...

Anonymous, I am aware of the back-of-seat bars. They're useless if you're stuck in the middle of the aisle. And I try to use them when I can, but sometimes that involves burying my fingers into an aromatic someone's hair.

As for the pole-leaners? The folks that have to make sweet, sweet love to the floor-to-ceiling pole every morning? I just ask them to move. Usually they're so astonished that they lean forward, giving the surrounding people time to grab onto the pole.

Metro is loads better than the alternatives, and it's definitely easier and cheaper than driving. I don't have a car and I'm on the train every single day. And I sort of enjoy the grubbiness and freakshow of it all.

I just can't see why Metro can't take its customers into account with little things like enough handholds, and not allowing Bambi to screw up the commute. I'm not asking for the moon and stars here.

Anonymous said...

I'm a former deer hunter, so I thought I could explain the getting there for you: the damn things can jump over 8 feet in the air when they feel like it. hope this helps

Jonathan said...

I'm going to jump on the "Metro kicks Philly butt" bandwagon. Honestly, I just moved up here for law school and my buddies from DC and I were sitting in a stinky, dirty, dimly-lit SEPTA station waiting 20 minutes for a train that would promise to be dirty with horrendously uncomfortable seats...and then the train wouldn't really takes to where we wanted to go...we'd have to walk a good distance from the closest subway station. in the downtown part of philly. Meanwhile, we just watched rats run along the tracks and reminisced about how much we missed the Metro.

In all honesty, Metro has its problems...but it could be far, far, far worse. If the Metro is the Pinto, then most cities have Yugos...

jeff said...

Yes...Metro is cleaner and better than many other cities but it is also far more expensive than any other city so it SHOULD be better maintained etc. There is a ton of room for improvement but it's adequate.

Yesterday while standing at L'Enfant waiting on the Orange line I watched a small family of mice play on and around the tracks. Made me laugh to myself because I have always seen DC as a wanna-be city compared to Boston (where I grew up), NYC, Philly...those cities have rats the size of small dogs in the subway...DC Metro has mice...cute in a way.

As for the grubby freakshow...it does provide for some interesting and fun entertainment at times...all part of the experience...gotta love it.

inowpronounceyou said...

I'm always at a loss for why a "sick passneger" holds up the train. Just get him OFF the train and deal with it at the station. Why is that taking 20 minutes? Did he break his neck and has to be immobilized?

Metro is a trainwreck. Literally.

Shannon said...

INPY, I was on a train with a "sick passenger" yesterday. The whole train stopped, two paramedics hustled on board...and the supposedly "sick" gentleman waved them off. He was just taking a little nap. No, I don't get it, either.

Heather said...

Metro officials even admitted that this was the first time that they took height into consideration when designing the new cars.

Too bad that the handles only exist on like, 4 cars. I've never seen one, and at 5', I don't think that I could reach them anyway!

Shannon said...

I've tried to use the handles on the Green Line, and I can't reach high enough to pull them down. I had to ask the gentleman standing next to me to pull one down for me.

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dancer in DC said...

Ugh, I totally agree, Shannon. And it seems like Metro has been worse in just the past few weeks.

I keep saying I'm going to start a second blog just about the daily horrors of commuting, and we can all commiserate together!

maryjanejeff said...

IMHO Baltimore's light rail is fantastic for north-south travellers, I took it last weekend to Camden Yards. 15 minutes tops, quick, efficient. Now if you're travelling east-west you're out of luck. The subway's okay for what it is, not very extensive.