no love for the Metro

The editor of the Philadelphia Business Journal called my office about a year and a half ago. He was writing an editorial about public transportation and wanted a reporter’s take on D.C.’s service. Since I commute every day on the Metro, I volunteered to give him my opinion.

This is how I recall the conversation going (bear with me, my memory isn’t awesome):

Him: “Can you tell me about your day-to-day experience, are you happy with it?”
Me: “Yeah, I am. You have to expect delays every now and then, but I take them in stride because I know it’s public transportation. It makes minor delays much less painful.”
Him: “I remember, when I lived there a few years ago, constantly dealing with really long delays and trains breaking down, etc. And they would never give updates on what was happening. Have you dealt with that?”
Me: “I can’t really say I have. Maybe I’ve been really lucky.”

Well, folks, my luck has run out. Since that conversation, I wrote an article about how unprepared D.C. government is to handle an emergency (i.e. weather related, terrorist attack, etc.) in terms of hospital surges and communications. At the time, a former Metro official told me that it’s the belief of Metro leaders that it’s not a matter of if — but when — the Metro will get attacked by a terrorist. I hate knowing that. Since that conversation, a guy told me (I can’t remember who) that he doesn’t like taking the Metro because he gets freaked out by the idea of getting stuck under the river between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn. I hate that guy. Since that time, about a week ago, I was caught on a train in a tunnel for a half hour with no updates.

This morning, I left my house at 8:15, walked my usual 10 minutes to Metro Center and got on a crowded train. It was emptied at McPherson Station (again, no reason why) and the “No passengers” sign went up on the monitor. Then another train arrived, but the conductor said it was turning around because of a fire at Farragut West. So I left the station and walked nine blocks along I Street past the World Bank and George Washington medical centers to Foggy Bottom. As I took the escalator underground, I barely missed a train to Rosslyn. So, thinking another was coming in 2 minutes, I sat on a bench listening to the occasional updates. The fire was at Clarendon, and it was a light fixture that was giving off smoke. Finally, a half hour later, a train arrived and I walked into work at 9:55, anxious and annoyed.

I think it’s time for another editorial.

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