Not For Tourists Guide to Washington, 2011: The Metro


Don’t people from Wisconsin have their own problems?

Guess not, judging by Christine Connel of Siren, Wis. (pop. 988), who was motivated to write to the Post this week about the squalid transit conditions in D.C.

I often wonder what prompts people to write letters to the editor. You would figure if someone is riled up enough to write something that will be read by thousands of people, she would put her journalist hat on and really give it a go: Some facts, snappy writing, maybe a quote or two.

Perhaps Connel thought she was doing just that when she fired off an angry rant about our Metro system. Her message is good: Give Metro more money. Unfortunately, her letter is as generally written as possible with no facts (save for a hyperlink gracefully added by a Post web producer). I am glad it was published: The letter is a window into the brain of the tourist. Still, I can’t help but offer a rebuttal…

My husband and I went to see our nation’s capital recently, as do millions of Americans every year.

Happy to have you!

We took the subway once,

It’s called the Metro.

and it was scary.

Mmmhmm.

One of the escalators didn’t work,

That is AMAZING. What station did you use? I might consider moving closer to it. Did you know that generally speaking 10 percent of escalators are out? I  wish just one escalator was out during my Metro trips. I estimate there are two to three escalators out on my daily commute. That’s in just 2 of the 86 stations. The target operational rate Metro wants to hit is 93 percent. In an ideal world, dozens of escalators would be out everyday in the system. It is not an ideal world.

and there were too many people on the train.

Nice quantification there. Did you, gasp, have to stand? Did you have to brush up against another person? Washington is 10 times as dense as Siren, Wis. You may even see people walking the streets at night. It’s normal. How was Ben’s Chili Bowl, by the way? And those Georgetown Cupcakes? Were there too many people IN LINE at those destinations?

I heard from people who live in the D.C. area that there have been some accidents in the past, with loss of life and injuries.

Here’s the web producer save. Nice. Because without that link this is just a straight-up uninformed opinion. Really, you couldn’t be bothered to find out what the accidents were? You “heard?”

This took me 10 seconds to find. For the record, the worst-ever accident was in 2009 and killed nine people. It was terrible —  lives were lost, traffic slowed to a grind and the trains are STILL on manual control. I know this not necessarily because I am a Washingtonian, but also because I

a) keep up with the news

b) know how to use the Internet

c) am motivated to do research if someone tells me that something I am about to use or am currently using is unsafe

Our leaders should renovate Metro soon,

Agreed.

because the citizens who spend money to go to Washington deserve safe transportation.

Really? What about the people that live in D.C., Maryland and Virginia? Also, how was your ride unsafe? Did you get hurt?

We are not concerned with transporting tourists. According to this questionably accurate article, D.C. has 15 million visitors a year. Metrorail has about 213 million riders a year. I doubt all the tourists use the Metro, but even if they did take one trip each (like the letter writer did), they would make up at best less than 10 percent of yearly riders.

I like that tourists visit and drop $15 for a sandwich at The Green Turtle and spend their hotel dollars in Crystal City, but that’s where the flattery ends. Close to a milli people ride the system every day. Let’s fix Metro…for the people that live here. Every Metro ride loses money, so unless you are suggesting we soak the tourists, WMATA’s focus  needs to be on transporting Washingtonians, not pampering tourists. Did you know that WMATA’s first GM had to be convinced by the National Capital Planning Commission to even add the Mall entrance of the Smithsonian Station? It’s great when tourists use Metro, but Metro is not FOR tourists. There’s a huge difference.

Washington is an important and inspiring place,

Agreed.

and people won’t be motivated to visit if the subway

Metro.

doesn’t work right.

I guess. In my experience, visitors that are used to riding public transportation think Metro is in good repair and, especially for an American rail system, pretty sweet. Those not used to the rhythm of a big city tend to complain about how long it takes to walk from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial and may opt for double-decker tourist buses, rental cars and taxi cabs over our “subway.” There’s some cool architecture in the system, but I don’t think Metro is making or breaking the decision to take a trip.

Sorry about your awful time here Christine. We’ll get the Metro renovated soon so we can slightly improve your occasional visits to D.C. In the meantime, please do something about that crime problem in Siren, Wis. I would like my impending visit to be safe.

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2 Responses to Not For Tourists Guide to Washington, 2011: The Metro

  1. dnice says:

    Fantastic rant.

  2. Pingback: Metrorail/MARTA comparison: Ridiculous | DC Crank Tank

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