A WMATA employee asleep while manning the Columbia Heights Metro station kiosk. Photo credit: Collin Kettell, via Unsuck DC Metro.
Recent news of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opening later this month in D.C. started me thinking about our Metro system. Like any major event in the city—say, a presidential inauguration or the Stewart/Colbert Rally just about a year ago—the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has promised "early opening and enhanced service" on August 28th. According to the website, this means:
- Open the station two hours earlier than they normally would on a Sunday
- Trains will come every 8-12 minutes throughout the day
- No bicycles allowed on the cars, at all
- "Many" escalators will be turned off
- Free parking at all Metro stations for that day
Ah, just what I bet everyone wants to do with their weekend! This means that countless armadas of SUVs and minivans will be fortunate enough to:
- Arrive with a somnolent yet irritated family at an outlying station at 5am
- Cram the car into a lot filled with fellow tourists and weekend warrior cyclists/runners/rollerbladers/decathletes/competitive unicyclists/child pageant stars on hovercraft who are accessing the W&OD trail
- Ride into the city on a car filled with sweaty, camera-laden tourists while unwillingly engaging in borderline frottage
- Climb the longest damn rack of "out of service" escalators and feel them shudder disconcertingly under our weight
- Stare at the event like it's the pin on a Par 5 and hold my children up to block the non-view of everyone behind me
(Alright, so maybe I'm a bit jaded towards the wave of tourists that show up every summer. Hey, it happens.)
(Thanks, Mitch Hedberg.)
Personally, I'd really prefer that early opening and more frequent trains were considered Metro's standard of performance (I would love to Metro to the firehouse one day, haha). However, it seems that these luxe items won't be a regularity any time soon. On the contrary, it appears that Metro lowered their standards back in May: instead of trying to be on-time for the rail system 95% of the time, the new acceptable margin has been dropped by 5%.
I stumbled across this information while browsing a new favorite DC blog, entitled "Unsuck DC Metro." The watchdog website that provided the opening photograph prides itself on analyzing as much of WMATA's performance as possible, while offering an outlet for anyone who wants to submit their frustration regarding the function of the system.
For instance, Station Managers sleeping on the job. From the standpoint of both a firefighter responding to a Metro incident as well as a frequent user of the system, this is appalling. There's a reason there's supposed to be a warm body within each kiosk: watching the camera monitors, listening to the radios, keeping an eye on the elevator functionality, maintaining an even and organized flow of persons through the turnstiles, and communicating with OCC (the Operations Control Center, located in downtown D.C.). If you've ever been through a Metro station you might not see it, but they are in fact imbued with a hefty set of responsibilities.
But it's okay, you can just doze off in the confines of SOME OF THE MOST VISIBLE WORKING CONDITIONS IN THE CITY. Thousands of commuters walk past your fucking glass box every single day… are you kidding me with this?!
Again, absolutely appalling to me. But maybe we as a city shouldn't bring up our complaints too much. Somebody might become upset!
Remember my post on how Facebook can really screw up your life? Well, one not-so-clever WMATA employee (a "Certified Rail Station Manager, Line Platform Instructor, and Utility Depot Clerk, according to his FB profile") apparently didn't follow directions.
Ozzie L. Andrews' status updates turned mean three days ago, when he posted:
Good Morning Facebook Family_I have a problem with these damn Examiner, Unsuck DC Metro People and Catherine Hudgins our Board Chairwoman. I challenge any one of these people to put on a blue or white shirt and come out in the field/on the front line to see if they could make it through a day without going the f**k off on someone. It may appear to be an easy task but trust me it's not.
Somebody must have stoked the fire a bit, because about an hour later he wrote:
We deserve our pay raise and some, I refuse to let haters and these white people who hate Metro kill my belief, my vision, my purpose, my peace, and my joy. They have nothing else better to do but complain and yes f**kup the USA only to have a brother in the white house trying to fix what they broke-ain't that some sugahoneyicetea. Love you fam for letting me vent today!!
I mean, I'll give you some leeway here. I'm not sure I'd want to sit in that little-ass booth for an entire shift dealing with difficult and petulant commuters. But the color of your skin has nothing to do with it, and I hope they fire you for saying it.
"Enhanced service" for Dr. King's memorial dedication, my ass.