Reviews | Metro has a chance to emerge from its turmoil
A blossoming railroad scandal accelerated Wiedefeld’s transition to retirement. Metro recently pulled train operators who lacked the retraining and testing required for recertification. Seventy-two operators did not meet the minimum requirements to operate trains efficiently and safely. According to a statement from the WMATA, it will take two to three months to recertify these rail operators.
Metro riders continue to pay the price for WMATA’s endless incompetence, indifference and mismanagement.
Since the beginning of May, traffic has increased. This is the perfect opportunity for improvement and reform. Metro must prove that the system is reliable, efficient and stable.
Yet the misadventures of the subway hardly inspire the confidence needed to get people back on the rails in greater numbers. For example, the lack of operators will affect train waiting times. The waiting time for the green and yellow lines has been reduced from five minutes to 20 minutes. Commuters don’t want to spend time standing on the platform wondering if they’re about to be late for work.
In September, WMATA closed Shady Grove and Rockville subway stations to replace the Rockville station canopy and make upgrades to Shady Grove station. The timing of the project was dire for employers determined to get their workers back into the office. Shady Grove is a major station that serves as a vital starting point for the Red Line. Rockville is a hub for Metro, MARC and Amtrak.
In October, a subway train derailed on the Blue Line near Arlington Cemetery station. According to a commuter, there was a “good amount” of smoke on the train as it stopped. The incident derailed trains and caused delays of 30 minutes or more. Since that derailment, Metro has removed its 7000 series cars from the system, they have not returned, and they represent a large portion of Metro’s rail fleet.
The subway ride of agony continues to torment commuters. As more Washingtonians return to the office, they face deteriorating transit conditions and significantly increased wait times for trains. In the past, people endured madness because they clung to Metro’s past glory. The subway was once a defining feature of DC. The ability to get to work on time without a car was hugely appealing.
Of course, commuters didn’t have much choice 20 years ago either, and WMATA sat on its captive customer base. So the decline of the system caught an inattentive direction unawares.
Today, individuals have other options. The federal workforce, which is the largest group of rush-hour commuters, can telecommute at least twice a week. Thanks to ride-sharing apps (Uber or Lyft), drivers quickly pick up passengers. Improved cycling infrastructure provides a safe mode of travel much of the year.
Public transport advocates are fighting for additional funding for Metro which they say can boost safety and capacity. However, political leaders and the private sector are hesitant to obtain these funds as management problems continue to worsen. Meanwhile, Metro’s budget is hemorrhaging. Federal grants have kept it afloat, but service cuts remain a possibility if government donations dry up.
The Metro’s failures are a disappointment for tourists and residents who depend on the system to get around the ring road. That is, Metro management has not risen to respond at this time.
Unreliable service will hardly entice commuters to return. The next generation of employees will expect greater flexibility without wasting hours each week on unreliable and unpleasant Metro trains and buses. The departure from Wiedefeld and the train operator scandal are Molotov cocktails of the misery of the daily commute, but they clearly show the way for change.