How To Improve WMATA’s Service And Why That Matters

I write about D.C.’s Metro (run by the WMATA) not only because it affects me, but because it’s important for mass transit nationally:

Like it or not, D.C.’s failures of governance, including Metro, affect everyone. D.C. is full of people who are interested in government, regardless of which side of the aisle they’re on. These are typically younger people, for many of whom D.C. is the first time living in a city and dealing with local government as adults. Every time there is a failure of governance, a new cohort is taught that government is a failure and that urban living is screwed up. Neither of these lessons is helpful.

Which brings us to an article about how Metro could win back customers–I want to focus on this solution (boldface mine):

2. Minimize unnecessary service cuts during track work: While cuts to the overall level of service were well-publicized, the agency often ends up with even more curtailed service around track work.

This upcoming weekend, for example, Orange Line trains will run every 30 minutes due to track work between Vienna and West Falls Church, halving how frequently they normally come.

The agency could try to creatively deal with it, like by rerouting the Silver Line to New Carrollton or attempting to run normal service at East Falls Church and stations east. That would allow more service at the opposite side of the line.

This same thinking extends to the Red Line, where single-tracking between Medical Center and Grosvenor shouldn’t mean all stations between there and Farragut North (the next-closest pocket track) see reduced service. There are a number of interlockings in between that could be utilized to turn trains.

For those who aren’t D.C. residents, what this means is that three of the stops with the highest residential density on the Red Line get really crappy weekend service (Dupont Circle, Woodley Park, and Cleveland Park). It turns a 10-15 minute trip to get downtown on the weekend into a much longer trip (and if you’re switching to another line that also has work, add even more unnecessary time). Essentially, Metro is training people who could drive to only use the system when there’s no other choice. It means D.C. residents will be less invested in the success of the system.

This has been really foolish and short-sighted on Metro’s part. The system needs buy-in from users. As long as Metro is only an alternative commuting strategy, that won’t happen. Of course, it would help if those who governed the Metro actually used it

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