March 17, 2016


This blog is not supposed to be about complaining but this is two complaint posts in a row and for that I'm sorry. Admittedly, on many levels the last one was not really a complaint. This one really is.

For the past 16 and a half (or so) years, my primary mode of transportation to get to work has been riding on Metro's Orange Line. Whether it's West Falls Church to McPherson Square or Ballston to McPherson Square, Foggy Bottom, Clarendon or Farragut West, I've done a lot of riding Metrorail to get from home to the place where I make some money. Getting to and from work would have been a whole lot more complicated without Metro, that's for sure.

For the past 15 and a half (or so) years, my primary mode of transportation to get to Washington Wizards games has also been Metrorail. Pretty much always the Orange Line from home and the occasional Red Line train from work or to take me from Metro Center (where I hop off Orange) to Gallery Place when I'm feeling lazy or it's raining or it's just too cold for me to tolerate hoofing it a few blocks downtown.

I know lots of people who don't like Metro. Either the cars are dirty (sometimes they are) or the stations are poorly lit (yep, that too even though they were conceived the exact opposite way) or constantly late (well, not constantly) or just don't run frequently enough (I guess...). I know at least two people who claim something goes wrong every time they use Metro. This last statement is not true. I can cite a number of times I've ridden Metro with those two people when nothing has gone wrong.

For my part, I love Metro. In fact, I generally love any form of public transportation. It's relatively cheap. It's relatively quick. It allows me to simply ride rather than drive (important after some games with maybe more than a couple of beers at Verizon Center). And it's really environmentally friendly. What's not to like?

But this year getting to Wizards games on Metro has been a little more challenging than usual and that's because this year, Metro has been a little more challenged than usual. It took me about an hour to get to Monday's game vs. the Detroit Pistons from my home in Ballston. I took Metrorail from Ballston to Courthouse; sat about 20 minutes at Courthouse while single tracking but with no trains coming the other way; abandoned ship and decided to cab but finding none hopped on a Metrobus to Rosslyn; where I took a cab with really old shocks and tires downtown to the corner of F and 7th NW. That 20 minute wait for nothing at Courthouse was a killer and it was all because there was a fire earlier that morning at McPherson Square and the issue hadn't been resolved 10 hours later!!!

Here's the thing with Metro. And by Metro, I mean Metrorail. When something goes wrong, there's the potential for it to go horribly wrong. And by horribly wrong, I mean huge delays, frustrated customers on crowded trains and in some terrible terrible cases, death. Yes, death. The same issue that caused Monday's delays all day filled a tunnel with smoke near L'Enfant Plaza last year and killed someone. To this day I get nervous when Metro stops in tunnels because that's where the death occurred. It's not supposed to be that way.

Free Metro!!! Not necessarily a bargain by the way.
Monday was not the first time I've had issues with Metro on my way to a Wizards game this year. January's snowstorm forced the closure of all above ground Metro tracks but somehow made the ride to the game, which for me is completely below ground, inexplicably slow. I don't understand how this happens when there's no temperature or ice issue below ground but whatever. We allowed some extra time and Metro made up for their slow service by just opening all the turnstiles and not charging anyone anything. Now, if they would only find a way to reimburse me for waiting 20 minutes at Courthouse on Monday...

Monday's issues with Metro ended for me with my trip to the game, by the way. By the time I got out of the game, the section of Orange Line between Federal Triangle and Foggy Bottom was closed. Bus service, as I understand it, was available to take me from Federal Triangle to Foggy Bottom but since I wasn't at Federal Triangle (or anywhere near by the way) I opted for $30 cab ride home. Now I really want that reimbursement for the whole Courthouse delay.

And then came yesterday, when Metro decided to shut the entire Metrorail system down for the day. The ENTIRE system for THE DAY! I'm not knocking Metro for erring on the side of caution by closing the system for the day. If there's a possibility of death, no matter how slim, then maybe something needs to be done. But honestly, there's the possibility of death every day on Metro from a variety of very very unlikely scenarios. Can't the inspection to identify possible sources of additional fires like the one on Monday be staggered over several days or be done at night? I guess somebody thought not.

My trip to last nights Wizards - Bulls game was stretched over about 11 hours. Not by Metro's choice but by mine. I walked to Clarendon to work; hopped on the most crowded 38B bus ever down to my other office downtown on K Street and then hoofed it over to the game (since I couldn't Metro). Not really inconvenient I guess but I would have liked to have handled things differently. Unfortunately, the ride home again cost me $30 since there's no way I was going to take a series of buses back home late at night. I'm hoping there's no more of this stuff. That's about all the guilt I'm willing to heap upon Metro for this moment. Time to think about other happier stuff.

So some of the things I've written here are tongue-in-cheek or trying desperately to be comical. But seriously, Metro, if you have to shut the entire underground transportation system of a major metropolitan city in the United States down for a day, then there's something really wrong with your operation. And it's not like this is a news flash. This has been going on for years. Despite my love of Metro (and I really really love the bus system which I think is fantastic), even I can't defend what's happened this week. Get it straight and quick. Yesterday was a mess of the first order and is absolutely and totally unacceptable. I'm fortunate that I could find alternate ways to get to the game, but I don't want to do that even once a year. I get the snowstorm issue and I appreciate the free ride, but for this Metro lover, this week was pretty much a catastrophe.

My friend Mike on his way to the Celtics game after the snowstorm. Metro car for one?

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