It’s taking way too long to fix the Metro

Just a few years ago, riders of the Washington D.C. Metro system had to deal with entire lines being shut down for months at a time while the entire system was inspected due to years of inadequate maintenance. It was a major inconvenience that should not have been necessary had the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority done its job in the first place. 

Now, having endured the system’s so-called Back2Good plan, area riders are once again being inconvenienced due at least in large part to WMATA’s failure to do its job. Yes, Kawasaki shares the blame for selling defective cars to begin with. And I would certainly hope that Kawasaki is paying a hefty portion of the cost for fixing this problem.  

But the question I keep asking in my mind and out loud to anyone who will listen is: What the hell is taking so long? If the wheel assemblies are defective, insist that the manufacturer replace them. Immediately! That should have been the first course of action when this issue was first discovered, well before the incident at Arlington Cemetery station this past October. 

With the pandemic still raging, this is definitely not the time to be packing people on six-car trains running on limited schedules. Sure, they suggest that riders consider Metro buses as an alternative. But that’s not a viable option for many folks, and we still end up with overcrowded buses and trains alike. 

Look, I get that sometimes stuff happens. But the depth and breadth of seeming incompetence among Metro leadership is truly frustrating.  

On the day of my writing this rant, they decided in the middle of the day to temporarily close the Pentagon City station for Covid-19-related cleaning. I needed to get back home to D.C., so I thought the most efficient course would be to catch a bus one station stop away at Pentagon and take the train from there. Ha! I thought wrong.  

I waited for my train on the upper platform where it would normally arrive, but was redirected to the lower platform, only to be informed later that the Pentagon station was also going to be closed. I and many, many others were told to go back up to the bus bays where shuttle buses were due to arrive. We waited and waited in the bitter cold, desperately hoping that one of the many buses that pulled in would be a shuttle. When half a dozen not-in-service buses had gone by and a seventh arrived, I shouted to the only Metro employee in sight, “Hey, why don’t you turn that one into a shuttle bus?” Eventually, that’s what the employee ended up doing. 

On another occasion, while on a six-car train during morning rush hour on the green line between Anacostia and Navy Yard stations, a rider vomited. That particular car was taken out of service and all passengers, at least those that would fit, were transferred to other cars. As passengers from the out-of-service car crammed themselves into our car, one rider asked a common sense question. “L’Enfant Plaza is only one more stop away and a lot of people will get off the train there anyway. Why not take the car out of service there?” Anyone familiar with Metro Rail knows full well the practicality of such a suggestion. Yet the WMATA employee calling the shots wasn’t interested, and we all were delayed. 

Metro’s general manager is stepping down and new leadership is on the horizon. We can only hope it will make a difference. 

Jeff Taylor is a vendor with Street Sense Media. 

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