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Tuesday, January 19, 2010



If anyone had every told me that I would miss the NYC subway, I would have laughed from one end of the 2/3 line (New Lots to Bronx)!

Starting my fifth month of my mostly five days a week in Washington, DC, I have contemplated DC's METRO Mess almost everyone of those days.

Since the General Manager just resigned, I figure this is a great opportunity to provide the new METRO GM with my Top 10 Things to do immediately.

1. Install some lights - at least in the NYC subway, you can see enough to read. the METRO is dark...and I mean dark hole, not just "you have old eyes" dark. It is virtually impossible to read on the METRO platforms. It is sad to see people huddled on the platforms next to the big display advertising kiosks trying to read. A very early lesson every NYC kid learns is ALWAYS carry something to read (adults traveling with small children can add food, drinks & playing cards! And yheah, we know - now it includes IPODS, games & other electronic entertainment). So, when the system screws up there is enough light to read & you can avoid personal combustion! And...if you are reading something really good you don't remember how long you waited.

2. All the METRO stations look alike & you never know what station you are at. In NYC even if you don't know how to read you can figure out ways to know what station you are in. Ok, I know the "conductors" are supposed to announce what station you are at...but they don't...and why don't they? They don't know what station they are at either! I asked them and was told "I get really confused day after day so we just say which way we are going" Glenmont or Shady Grove if it's the Red Line.

Suggestions for Metro management - the stations need some personality. Give the conductors incentives (like an extra day off ) to tell folks what station they are at - riders could vote on the best messages/methods - poems, perhaps a serial verbal novel that takes place from station to station, a rap or even songs.

3. Get rid of the carpet in the cars - it stinks. Install linoluem that can be hosed down. The carpet is filthy and smells like mildew, aggravated by the constant "smoke conditions" that delay the trains.

4. Ban the free EXPRESS newspaper - you can't eat or drink on the METRO - so most of the litter mid morning or afternoon is from advertising shopper papers (masquerading as news) that are handed out by the Washington Post at every station.

5. Pay the General Manager a decent salary - as I understand it, the GM (who just resigned) is the most poorly paid executive in the City.

6. Make Vice President Biden the MTA Boss & get him to ride the METRO - Granted, it has not really helped Amtrak (which no one can afford to take anymore.)..but maybe it would help with the insane governance standoff which now allows any one vote from one of the 3 jurisdictions (VA, MD, DC) an absolute veto & derails significant improvements. It is the problem of too many bosses...(Congress, the MTA Board, etc. etc.)

7. METRO should be a Federal stimulus project with a direct grant from Congress. Get the Federal workforce to refuse to work if smoke conditions persist.

8. Send METRO conductors & drivers for OJT in NYC - these folks only learned to drive on computer-assisted trains & have a very hard time stopping at the right place on the platforms...and we won't even talk about what happens when the platforms get over-shot.

9. Personal space (even if it is small) is a concept not understood on DC Metro. On the NYC subway, if you roll your kid's stroller over someone's foot, block a vacant seat with a suitcase or knock someone in the face with your bulging will hear about it & incur wrath in multiple languages about how you need to get that "$%** outa my face, leg, etc." I think if we could bring some NYC subway riders to DC and place them strategically on the trains during rush hour for a couple of weeks the problem would get solved!

10. Finally - give everyone a transit subsidy - Federal employees get "Smart Card" benefits - if private employers also provided a subsidy perhaps they would demand some serious attention to METRO.

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