Riding the Metro: A Washington DC Story
Congratulations and Welcome!
If you're moving to the city, congratulations on moving to the Washington DC Metropolitan area. If you're just here to visit, welcome to the seat of the United States Government. Whenever I visit a new place, even before I'm there, I'm researching about the different modes of transportation that are available. The most prominent is the Washington DC Metro. It isn't the greatest system out there but it has a ridership averaging out to a million riders a day!
Wow, Metro rocks!
Moving in, after researching your way to work, you realize how incredibly awesome the DC Metro is! If you're from the NYC, it's so less congested and side seating is gone but theater seating has so much more seating! If you're from a place with no light rail, this is the most incredible thing to happen to you because you won't have to drive a car to get to your destination. Life right now is pretty amazing because everything is taken care of. All you have to worry about is to jump off at the right station and work is a 5 to 10 minute walk from the nearest station. The system is so clean and gleams grandeur, I am so proud to be part of this metro-rail system! Did I mention how incredible life is right now?!
- Some Time Passes -
As the months start piling on, you start to feel the everyday grind of work and life. One thing is for sure, metro will amplify that daily grind. You moved in during the winter so there weren't a lot of people on the train during that season; however, the spring and summer months are coming and they are coming...fast.
After a few months of adding Metro-rail to your daily grind, it starts to dawn upon you that you pay an ungodly amount of money one way to get to your destination. I am part of a smart benefits program so they take my earnings before tax and add it to my Smart Trip Card. However, there are a few select group of people who don't participate in the program and it's often those people who feel the most hurt. Regardless, it occurs to you that Metro-rail has raised the fare from $5.40 (peak hours adding $.20 more cents to the fare) to $6.00 with the peak hour adjustment. At first this isn't really annoying but just a curious thought as to what made the fare jump. But all is well for now; however, at the end of the day you realize you just spent $12 dollars riding the metro.
Spring and Summer is Here!
One day in April, it hits you like a brick. There are well over a hundred people at the station you frequent every morning. What's going on you ask yourself? Am I missing something?! How come there is so many people at the station at one time?! What's with the crazy influx?! Will I get a seat? I'm going pretty far, I hope I get a seat! You get on the train; you get your usual seat because you've calculated where the door will be when the train stops. On the side of the seat, crammed into the little corner you find today's Metro Newspaper. You take it out and it reads, "Cherry Blossoms." And from that day forth you get your first taste of tourist and hell has officially descended.
As you get to your destination you're greeted with a globular cluster of people who stand right in front of the door on the platform as they exit and you're forcing your way out onto the platform trying to head to the escalators. You get there only to find out there is another cluster forming at the escalator. You make your way up and get to the turn stile only to have an epiphany that right then and there, the escalators you frequent every morning seems to be a stairway leading to heaven. In fact, DC escalators are actually the longest in the US. But It's never dawned on you until today how massive these escalators really are. But that doesn't explain the congestion. You soon realize the escalator is broken due to the massive amounts of people it has to service. Leaving you to climb 6 stories of stairs to get to the surface. Can't try the elevator because that's been broken the day you started riding the metro..
What just happened?!
After you escape from the rail-system you go about your habitual routine and get to your desk. But you reflect about your morning and what it would be like tomorrow. How should I avoid this tomorrow? Can I avoid it? Should I leave earlier? You go about your day and when quitting time hits, it's time to hit the road. It's about 5 o'clock, tourists should have the common sense to head home before the rush hour right? You get out of the office and make your way to the station entrance and notice there is a line forming to get into the station. The escalator that was broken this morning is still broken the two others are working but realize the escalator is getting congested with people due to tourists (who haven't left and didn't heed the warning) standing on the left while they should stand to the right. You get agitated and say something unpleasant which you think back while you're on the train and regret your actions.
The train is now piling more and more people and you notice the door isn't closing right, you keep on hearing "Step back and allow the doors to close" 5 times before you hear over the PA "Customers please step back and allow the doors to close, if these doors do not close properly, we are forced to unload the train." Thinking this is the first time you've heard this, you get worried and observe the train desperately trying to close its doors a few times hoping this time the door will close properly. The PA system cuts on again and announces "Customers due to doors not being able to close properly we have to unload this train due to mechanical failure. Please unload this train immediately."
The train's hundreds of riders is then unloaded onto the platform. You're left to wonder how will you get on the next train if your train was that packed in the first place. The next train comes and you cram and squeeze your way into the train and worried you'd be squished to death and have no way to hold onto the pole; you're reevaluating your commute.
You've now stood for a total of 40 minutes and the train is still packed. You're two stations from your destination when the PA cuts on again announcing that there is a signaling issue please sit tight as the train has to hold it's position.
10 minutes pass and the train starts to move again. You get off at the station and the whole train unloads and you scramble to the top of the station. You realize then that the turn stile again is getting congested because the globs of people who are on holiday here all are having issues exiting. You hear the station manager give out a yell saying "If you have a paper fare please be advised you will need to add an extra dollar for exiting." The glob then floats over to the fare machine to add that extra dollar, giving you enough time to escape through the turn stile because you have a smart trip.
You get home, slam the door and fall to your knees and just think, What the hell kind of day was that and then you ask the Lord for forgiveness as you've just unleashed a slew of curse words and took anger out on so many pillows and socks you've just thrown around the room.
**DC Metro requires an extra dollar added to each way of your trip.
If you're not from around the area and you're here on holiday, metro forces you to purchase a metro smart trip card. If you don't you'll be penalized by adding a dollar each way. So instead, they make you pay a one time charge of $5 dollars making that trip 5 dollars more. If you don't frequent the Metro-Rail and don't want to pay for the smart trip, because it just doesn't make sense to you to pay the 5 dollars, those riders are penalized the extra dollar each way.
Love or Hate the Rail System?
I find the Washington DC Metro-Rail to be:
Time Heals All....I think...
As time passes (A year later), Metro-Rail starts to leave a bad taste in your mouth and in your nose as well because from time to time you'll start to smell a really rotten fish odor coming from trains.
**Fact! Those smells are coming from the breaks as some metro-rail trains use organic break pads.
Since the day you first experienced signal issues, an unloading and a barrage of people; you've started to get used to these things and because you don't have another way of traveling into the city, Metro is the best you can do.
Since that day:
- Fares keep rising.
- Your luck never really turns for the better because since then, you've been unloaded more times than you can count on all your fingers and toes.
- You feel the pain of having track work during the weekday when it should be on the weekend.
- Your first baseball game rush. (Go Nats!)
- A slew of promises that go silent after a few months.
- Parking fee increase.
- New products/programs, that almost always never work.
- Escalators breaking down more often.
- Even more tourists.
- More fishy smell.
- Fare increase, again.
- During the summer, trains venting out heat rather than AC.
- AC overall is broken.
- That elevator that was broken down a year ago, still broken.
Time certainly does heal almost everything, but if Metro keeps on opening fresh wounds, it's hard for those wounds to heal. One great thing about metro is, when it works, it really works great. But when it doesn't, you are better off walking to your destinations. Metro does try to implement new products/programs that help for a little bit, but overall the system is too overloaded and the trains are too old to hold that many people without encountering issues. New trains are supposed to be entering the rail system and so far it looks to be pretty identical to the old train, but new trains should be able to take a beating before it gets bad.
The new Silver Line that's going to be unveiled could be a blessing and a curse. We will see what happens when that line opens up sometime in 2014.