Waging War On WMATA

Sunday, January 29, 2012 / 5:45 PM

Perhaps this is coming too late, now that I no longer have that DC zip code to my address, but it still doesn't wash away the five months of hell I lived through as a dependent of the DC metro system.

When I first moved from California, I found myself enjoying the easy transportation. Public transportation was not a common component of life in California, and I was happy to have the metro system transport me where I needed to go. Quickly, the charm wore off, and I learned exactly why Mengfei had told me before I moved that I would hate the metro.

Unless you are traveling during rush hour, expect to be waiting for a really long time. It's as if WMATA forgets that they have people to serve on off-peak hours, or on weekends too. They seem to be doing track maintenance all the time, and my question is, "Are you actually making improvements?" Because if you're doing maintenance all the time, you must not actually be fixing anything. I once waited 45 minutes at Gallery Place for the red line on a Sunday because of single tracking. Seriously, WMATA--why don't you do your maintenance during non-operating hours? It's bad enough the metros stop running at midnight (or at 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) so that any chance of enjoying the limited DC night life is impossible, but then you force people to endure delays while you "improve" your system. But you're not improving anything.

And now there's talk of a fee increase? For what? It is already ridiculousy expensive because you charge by distance and don't allow for a monthly unlimited pass the way the New York subways do or, hell, even the Sacramento light rail does. Plus, it costs more to ride the metro during rush hour--the only time it's somewhat efficient! I'll support your fee increase when you actually do what you're supposed to be doing.

It would also be lovely if the escalators and elevators worked in each station. The tracks are so far underground that stairs would kill most people. I remember a time when the Woodley Park elevator was out for a month, and then it "worked" for a week, but then was out again for another three weeks.

I've been passed by trains that just didn't stop, offloaded for no discernible reason, and trapped in tunnels without so much of an impersonal intercom apology. And I know I'm not the only one--just check the @unsuckdcmetro Twitter.

And, of course, if stranded and in a time crunch, you will be forced to take a taxi, which is another rant itself. DC taxi drivers take advantage of everyone, whether you're a tourist or not. They will drive slow, take long routes, and charge you for the most ridiculous things. Unfortunately, those taxis are your only option, especially if WMATA shuts down stations you need in the guise of "improving your experience."

When people ask me what it was like to live in DC, I wish I could spend more time talking about the historical sights and the wonderful galleries and the amazing time I spent at NPR. But all that takes a backseat to my explanation of why it is one of the most frustrating cities to live in: because WMATA will rob you of your time, money and patience.

The one positive thing is that the metros are clean. But I'll take the cold, gray New York subways over a cushioned orange seat any day.

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  1. The fact that Sacramento's light rail can compare positively to ANYTHING is deeply worrisome.