At Least One D.C. Politician Understands the Metro’s Problems–Because She Uses It

I’ve might have noted once or twice that the crappy weekend service of D.C. Metro is a problem (and this post explains why that’s a problem for everyone, not just D.C. area residents). This stems, in part, from the Metro’s leadership not riding the Metro. Well, Council member Elissa Silverman (whom I supported) gets the problem (boldface mine):

Wiedefeld was candid when pressed on the system’s declining rail ridership. Council member Elissa Silverman (I–At Large) pointed to figures that show weekend rail ridership is down 12 percent compared to last year. She said long wait times discourage riders from using the system in their leisure time.

“We need to basically deliver what we say we’re going to deliver,” Wiedefeld said. “It’s not only the distance or the spread of time and the headways on the weekend, but we’re not even meeting those at times. If it says 25 (minutes) and it’s coming (in) 35 that basically compounds the issue.”

Wiedefeld added that Metro also should more effectively communicate with riders when service issues arise.

“We have to be very clear to people what we can and cannot do,” he said. “And to be upfront about that. We cannot pretend like we can deliver something we cannot deliver. And if we need to make hard decisions, then we need to let people know these are the challenges we are facing.”

Silverman fired back that even 25-minute wait times are too long.

“I would just say 25-minute headways are very discouraging,” she said. “I can say as a Red Line rider when I see a 25-minute headway I walk back out the faregate.”

What Wiedefeld is hinting at–and this is an educated guess on my part (he sort of suggested this during a public meeting a few months ago)–is that they might need to shut down parts of the Metro on the weekends (e.g., an entire line) to speed up repairs (it also might be cheaper). There’s something to be said for shutting down weekend service on the Red Line (or the Blue/Orange/Silver lines), if there is additional Metro Bus service to pick up the slack. As a D.C. resident, it really does suck getting around D.C. without a car on the weekend. If a few months of pain (and we need good, solid estimates) could fix one of the lines more quickly, then we should do it.

That said, Silverman’s questioning is really unique for the D.C. Council, as they typically focus on general safety concerns or budget problems–things they can understand. But when you use the Metro, it becomes clear that riders’ first concern is better service (i.e., more trains).

I’m thinking in 2016, we need to elect more Metro-riding officials.

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