Tuesday, February 2, 2010

4 Steps How to Fix Washington DC's Metro Problems

I have been riding the Metro since I have basically learned to walk. Although that may not qualify me to be the DC Metro Chief, it does grant me the right to publicly state obvious flaws. Among all the financial and security inefficiencies, Metro continues to struggle. It baffles me how a business like Metro is not only unprofitable, it requires federal subsidies to stay afloat. Let's start with the worst:

1.) Gallery Place/Chinatown stop: Rush hour - I live at this stop, so I have to deal with the pains of it daily. If you're one that has to take the red line North, you've no doubt endured this.

For some reason, Metro decided to only roll 6 cars during rush hour instead of the maximum 8 (which it used to do). Here lies the problem, the transfer area is at the back of the stop, so when each 6-car train pulls all the way up, it leaves a HUGE bottle neck of people that can't deboard or get to the cars. See picture from today:

This is a SERIOUS problem because people who are running late, myself included walk along the edge. It's the most FUBAR operation I've ever see. This line actually snakes around to the escalators going down to the yellow/green line.

Fix: Either use 8-cars during rush hour or have the train stop short so the train cars line up with the transfer area.

2.) Escalators - Why are all escalators running at all times? This is an utter waste of electricity.

Example: My friend lives at the Navy Yard metro, which you are familiar with if you've been to Nats Park. Obviously, baseball season is over. I am often coming and going from that Metro stop at midnight on week days. No one anywhere in site. Why are all 3 of those long escalators running? This goes for all the fringe stops.

Fix: Leave them all on for rush hour but turn off the middle one on weekends and night times (unless there is an event or it is a transfer/tourist stop). That's a lot of electricity savings right there when you add up all the Metro stops outside the transfer areas.

3.) Advertising - Who is in control of advertising for Metro? It is god awful. They've relied on the same platform and train wall spots over the last 20 years. Get creative. Make the SmartTrip and fare cards advertisable. There's also those illegible tunnel video ads. Scrap those. A couple of banner ads have popped up in stations, but they're used sparingly. There's a teet for revenue streaming available there and Metro is not milking it.

Fix: Brainstorm for new ad spots. Banners from the ceiling, tint the car windows and advertise the outside, fare cards, allow marketers to setup booths in some terminals out of the way, anything.

4.) High Volume boarding helpers: Other countries do it and Metro should too for the high volume boarding stops. Have a Metro worker available on the platform that assists in spreading the people out on the platform and getting people in the trains to move to the middle of the car. If you've ever been on the Metro Center or Gallery Place red line stops, people don't spread out. Having someone there to direct people would help immensely in riders' frsutrations. He/She would also have a sign to hold up to signify to the train operator it is clear to close the doors. There are countless times the doors have closed while people are still trying to deboard. In addition to missing their stop, all the people trying to board now have to wait for the next train further increasing the platform volume.

5.) Random - Is it just me or at least once a week do you see someone on the Metro that is bleeding in one capacity or another?