Friday, October 18, 2013

These Metro Songs are Amazing

Metro is testing three safety songs.

They're pretty incredible.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Metro Offers Free Techno Music




To go along with your fare hikes.

From MA:

So last night while heading home from Friendship Heights Metro I thought someone had taken over the central PA system and started playing techno, but it turned out to be some sort of speaker error.

But it went on for a very very long time, at least more than 30 minutes since that is how long I was there.

Metro workers were just standing around. People found it amusing at first, but it slowly started to become very annoying very fast to have to listen to this blasting everywhere at the end of your day.

I wonder if this is also a safety concern since they wouldn't have been able to use the PA for any emergency messages or anything of the sort while it was blasting error tones.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Where are the Buses?

Wonder why it looks like Metro is only running 30 buses at rush hour? Here's the reason.

From Mike:
Metro provides an interface for developers for us to get data about the system: bus schedules, bus predictions, bus locations, train information signs, etc.

Every once in a while, some of the data goes stale, and we need to prod WMATA to reset something on their side so the data goes correct again.

Starting over a month ago, the bus position data that Metro provides us to see where all the buses are on the roads started to become less and less.  900 buses became 800, became 700, became 600, and now we’re down to approximately 30 buses at rush hour, or at least that’s what we’re being told by the system.

Obviously, more buses are out on the road, or this wouldn’t be the first time you’re hearing about it, but due to an “upgrade” on the bus position system, we have lost access to 97 percent of the buses out on the streets, and app developers have no way to show you on your smartphone, tablet, or web browser where the buses are.

Ironically, Metro contracts with NextBus to get this data, and the NextBus site still appears to show correct location data for almost all the buses in the system.

Third party developers are forbidden by WMATA from accessing the NextBus data because WMATA wants everyone to go through its own API, unlike many other transit systems which allow NextBus to publish the data for them.
So if you have any apps on your smartphone that are supposed to show where the buses are but isn't, it's not the developers' fault. WMATA just isn’t providing the data.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Oops! Another Wrong-Side Doors

Via @zestyteich: @wmata culture of safety (doors opened on wrong side) @unsuckdcmetro pic.twitter.com/rr8clLpi9J

From this morning. This really should never happen.

Here's another shot:

 (via @willchong25)

Update from @willchong25: Doors were open for at least 40 seconds. It beeped & closed then reopened on wrong side for another ~20 seconds

'Absolutely Absurd'

Here is perhaps an explanation as to why the new Dupont South escalators are among Metro's worst performing.

From Emily:
The Dupont South escalators presented me with a tough choice one night last week around 8 p.m.:  Do I hobble down on crutches with all the risks entailed, or do I hobble through the circle on crutches to reach the elevator that may or may not be in service? 
I hobbled down the still escalator stairs. 

When I reached the bottom, I had a word with the really nice, and almost equally frustrated, station employee.

It turns out that when Metro contracted with a company to replace the escalators, the contract included a clause that said only employees of the contracted company can touch the escalator.

Since the Dupont South escalators had been replaced by this company, Metro personnel (including the engineer standing there during the conversation) are unauthorized to adjust them.

The station manager had to put in a request to the contracting company for them to send an employee to Dupont South just to switch one escalator's direction from up to down.

The station manager had been waiting for 4 hours for someone to come and make that switch.

Absurd.  Absolutely absurd.
Metro finally "responded" obliquely to this post, which meticulously documents the problems with the "transit grade" Dupont South escalators. They wouldn't respond directly to the statistics based on their own data that bear the problems out, but a spokesman emailed WAMU:
"The escalators at the South Entrance are performing as designed,” the statement said. “We are happy with their performance, and so are the 20,000 people who use the station each day and understand how much better their experience is now."
Last week, when DCist approached Metro asking about the original post, Dan Stessel told them:
"I have a standing rule of not commenting on Unsuck."

Other items:
Metro veteran to lead "independent safety oversight" group (WaPo)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New, 'Transit Grade' Escalators Among Metro's Worst

Photo via @DougCassaro

Metro recently bragged about how much escalator performance has improved under the pricey Metro Forward campaign. But a closer look reveals an ugly truth. Two of the major--and most highly touted--replacements under Metro Forward have yielded among the worst performing escalators in the entire system.

All three escalators at Dupont South, which were closed for months for a complete replacement, rank, on average, 387th in availability among Metro's 588 escalators. At Foggy Bottom, the three new "transit grade" escalators rank a collective 471 out of 588. One of the new escalators at Foggy Bottom has an availability of 79.7 percent  - in 556th place out of 588 escalators.

For every 17 minutes that Metrorail is open, an escalator goes out of service.

"This is what Metro Forward is all about: delivering more reliable service and significantly improved escalator availablity [sic] for our riders," said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles in a press release.

Really? All this money is being spent for what exactly?

How could brand new escalators break so often? I think it's because of this.

Perhaps measuring escalator "availability" system-wide is not the most honest way to measure performance.

Since June 1, Lee Mendelowitz (aka @MetroEscalators) has been tracking escalator outages published through the WMATA API. Here, he uses this data to set the record straight on Metro escalator performance. All of the data used to generate this report is available at DC Metro Metrics.

Here's what he found:

Q: Is the Metro escalator availability for the second quarter really 91.9 percent?

A: Possibly.

Escalator availability is defined as the average percentage of escalators that are operating while Metrorail is open. Both unscheduled outages as well as scheduled maintenance and inspections result in a lower value for escalator availability. The escalator availability computed from WMATA data is 93.5 percent for June 1st through September 15th.

However, this value is a generous overestimate due to missing data. Since a station manager must manually report each escalator outage, some go unreported for several hours. On other occasions, outages are never reported at all.

For example, on Sunday 9/15, @MetrorailInfo reported that all nine escalators were out of service at Navy Yard station for 90 minutes due to a power outage, but these escalator outages were never listed on the WMATA website. This is the norm rather than the exception. WMATA never officially listed the escalator outages associated with power outages at Union Station (6/25), Bethesda (7/3), Shaw-Howard (7/8), or Clarendon (7/10). Escalator outages that go unreported have no impact on the escalator availability.

Q. Is system-wide escalator availability is a good measure of what Metrorail riders experience?

A: No.

The Metrorail system has 588 escalators, which means there are many reliable escalators that inflate the system-wide escalator availability average. In fact, 139 of Metro’s 588 escalators are operating at least 99 percent of the time that Metrorail is open. It’s the chronically underperforming escalators that frustrate riders the most, and these get “washed out” when computing a system-wide average.

In addition, riders frequently use at least four escalators for each Metrorail trip. An escalator availability of 92 percent means that there is a 28 percent chance that at least one of those four escalators will be out of service. Despite this fact, WMATA has set their target escalator reliability at just 89 percent.

Instead of looking at system-wide escalator availability, one can look at how frequently escalators go out of service. Since June 1st:
•    There have been 7,255 unscheduled outages.
•    For every 17 minutes that Metrorail is open, a new escalator goes out of service.
•    215 escalators (36.6 percent) have a mean time between failures (MTBF) of less than 7 days.
•    38 escalators (6.5 percent) have a MTBF of less than 3 days.

Q: True or false:  "When an escalator is out of service today, more often than not, it is for scheduled rehabilitation or preventive maintenance," said Rob Troup, Deputy General Manager for Operations.

A: False.

Most escalator outages are due to unscheduled outages.

•    Since June 1st, there have been 10,443 escalator outages, and only 31.8 percent of these were for scheduled maintenance or inspections. Most scheduled outages are for preventative maintenance inspections that take place overnight while the Metrorail system is closed.

•    Only 9.2 percent of escalator outages that occur between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. are due to scheduled maintenance or inspections.

Q: True or false: “In service status is tracked as units are reported to the Metro escalator/elevator control center. Because this is a manual process, an out of service escalator may take up to an hour to be reflected in the computer tracking system; this margin of time does not significantly change the availability score.”

A: False.

I’ve already written a few blog posts detailing escalator outages that go unreported for several hours. See here, here, and here.

A very revealing plot is looking at the time of day when unscheduled escalator outages are first reported. The hour of day with the most escalator outage reports is always the opening hour:

•    On weekdays, 9.6 percent of unscheduled outages are reported between 5 and 6 a.m.
•    On weekends, 19.9 percent of unscheduled outages are reported between 7 and 8 a.m.

It is highly unlikely that such a large fraction of escalators stop working in the opening hour of business when very few customers are using the Metrorail system. Instead, these escalators stopped working at some point during the previous day and go unreported until a station manager reports them during the first hour when Metro opens.

 Click for larger

Q: How reliable are the six new street escalators at Dupont South and Foggy Bottom that have been replaced during the Metro Forward campaign?

A: The Foggy Bottom street escalators re-opened in July 2011, and the Dupont Circle South street escalators re-opened in October 2012. Despite being Metro’s newest escalators, they are among the worst performing in the system.

Since June 1st:

•    The middle escalator, A03S02, at Dupont South has had 42 unscheduled outages – 11th most in the system.
•    The right escalator, C04X03, at Foggy Bottom has had 46 unscheduled outages – 10th most in the system.
•    The middle escalator, C04X02, at Foggy Bottom has an availability of 79.7 percent  - in 556th place out of 588 escalators.

 Click for larger

Conclusions:

While escalator availability may have improved in recent years, it is a misleading measure of what riders experience. The computed value for escalator availability is inflated by the fact that outages often go unreported for hours or are never reported at all. Escalator outages continue to mount at an alarming rate – one new outage every 17 minutes that Metrorail is open. The newly replaced escalators at Dupont South and Foggy Bottom are among the worst performing in the system. While Metro plans on replacing another 128 escalators by 2020, it may end up being just more of the same.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Metro Now Spamming Riders

Remember when you registered your SmarTrip card or gave Metro your email for MetroAlerts?

Bet you didn't count on being spammed after giving Metro your personal information.

Well, it appears Metro is making money off your email.

Here's the email that was sent out today:

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: SmarTrip Savings
To: xxxx@yahoo.com
Sent: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 4:44 PM
Subject: Show SmarTrip Card and Save

Enjoy a higher level of savings with SmarTrip®.
Metro has partnered with Madame Tussauds, Washington, DC to reward you with valuable savings just by showing your SmarTrip® card.  Just present your SmarTrip® card at the time of purchase and receive $5 off an adult admission ticket.  Bring friends and family, this offer is valid for up to 8 guests. Offer expires 12/31/13.
Take Metrorail to Madame Tussauds at 1001 F Street, NW, Washington, DC  20004
      Red, Blue, Orange lines - Exit Metro Center - 11th and G Streets, NW
      Red, Green, Yellow lines - Exit Gallery Place - 9th and G Streets, NW
This discount offer is not valid for advance ticket purchases and cannot be combined with any other offers. The Madame Tussauds may close for special events, so please call 1-866-823-9565 or visit their website for updates www.madametussaudsDC.com.
Enjoy Madame Tussauds and thanks for riding Metro!

Optout: http://w.v12.net/u2.aspx?e=xxx@yahoo.com&a=s

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is Rush+ Over on the Orange Line?

From Brian:
Just an open question from an Orange Line rider (East Falls Church station). 
Over the past few months, it seems like the frequency of trains going into DC has slowed.  I get on around 7:30 a.m. each day, and lately I've gotten onto an already crowded train that's 5-6 minutes after the preceding train, and the monitor shows another 5-7 minutes until the next one comes.  Granted, there are other windows where a train might be 2-3 minutes behind, but all in all, it sure seems like WMATA has quietly reduced the number of trains coming through. 

This link about the Silver Line says there would be 19 Orane Line trains per hour during Rush Plus.  I really have a hard time believing that there are 19 Orange Line trains per hour right now. 
I have a job and don't have time to monitor this, but I'm curious if anyone has the ability or wherewithal to simply plant themselves at one of the Arlington Orange Line stations (Clarendon, EFC, whatever) and simply count the number of inbound trains from, say, 7:00-9:00 a.m. 
If WMATA is correct, then 38 trains should come through over that 2-hour period, give or take one or two.  I dunno; just curious if anyone else has noticed anything, and I'm weary from being on one packed train after another.


Editor's Note: Posting is going to be hit or miss for the next little while as real life has been encroaching on Unsuck time.

Other items:
Ride Metro at your own risk (Examiner)
Ridership continues to fall (Examiner)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dating Via Emergency Intercom?

Photo via @nevermindtheend

From Jim:

I saw the STRANGEST thing this morning!

I was at the back of the very last car on a train from Silver Spring to downtown. At one of the next stops, a guy gets on, presses the emergency intercom button at the back of the car and starts chatting up the train driver.
"Hey, baby, this is Cooper.  Remember Cooper? Yeah, so, how are you?"

He obviously knew her from somewhere and was "interested," but she didn't remember him as much as he thought she would.

The driver was clearly flabbergasted and said "What, huh? Who is this? Can I help you?"

"Cooper, baby, it's Cooper. How you doin'?"

Eventually, she just said,"OK. Hi. OK. Have a nice day" and cut off the conversation.

That was new. I've seen people use the intercoms to ask for directions to the museum or whatnot, but that was new.

Other items:
Pedestrian killed by Metrobus (Examiner)



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Does the Transit Subsidy Make Metro Worse?

From Steve:
I live in Arlington and commute to DC on Metro daily. So does my roommate.

I pay every cent of my Metro costs out of my pocket. No pretax discount, and my employer doesn't chip in a dime. My roommate, on the other hand, is a federal worker and doesn't have to pay a single cent of his own money for his daily commute on Metro.

Our levels of frustration with Metro are quite different as a result.

My question is whether or not Metro would be better if it couldn't count on 40 percent of its riders being heavily subsidized. Shouldn't Metro have to compete for all riders rather than just counting on a large chunk of riders saying "I know it sucks, but at least it's free." (Yes, I know Metro is not completely free for all federal workers.)
Another reason to question the subsidy is that it allows Metro to raise fares with very little grumbling from a huge portion of the ridership. I just don't think that's a fair system.
I ask this question in all seriousness. It's obvious that Metro needs some kind of fundamental changes at the very foundation, and I'd like to know what others out there think about this particular topic.
Other items: 
False alarm evacuates McPherson Square (Examiner)
Metro workers lends helping hand (Fox)




Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just How Safe are the Trains?

From Steve:
I experienced something alarming on my Metro train the morning of May 9 that I'd like to report.

I was traveling on the Red Line between Union Station and Silver Spring. Silver Spring was the final stop of this train, as it was reversing and going back into the District. I was in car number 4088, and it was the train the arrived at Silver Spring at 8:38 a.m.

Around Ft. Totten, a Metro employee who appeared to be some sort of an inspector entered the rear of my car from the last car and contacted the train operator on his radio.
He told the operator the last car had brake problems and that he needed to keep his braking "below B3." Further down the line, as we approached Silver Spring, the inspector contacted the operator again and told him, "Come on, man, I need you to hold that braking to below B3. I want to try to get this train back over the line."
The operator apologized and said something about "overspeeding." The inspector said, "Then keep your speed 5 miles below the limit to keep from overspeeding." The operator responds that "it just changed by itself."

The fact that the train was having some sort of braking problems that warranted the operator to drive below the listed speed, and that when talking about the train's speed the operator said "it just changed by itself," and that despite all this the train continued to carry passengers, are alarming to say the least.

Other items:
Metro "fires" two workers for stealing (Examiner)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Happy Bike to Work Day from Metro

From Joseph:

I was riding my bike home on May 17 at 5:50 p.m.  I was on M St. going straight near the Key Bridge. The D5 bus #2387 merged left and almost hit me. 
The driver then looked out his window and began yelling.  He used a lot of profanity. 
He stated that bikes belong on the sidewalk and that I better get out of the road and on the sidewalk or he was going to hit me.  This was while he was still driving. 

Other items:
Two new Metro entrances coming to Pentagon City (Examiner)
Riders ask for better refund policy (GGW)

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Open Letter to Dr. Gridlock

Washington Post reporters talk with Metro GM Richard Sarles during a Google+ Hangout. Via: The Washington Post

From Fake Dr. Gridlock:

Greetings,

I am writing as a reader and a daily Metro commuter who is fed up on two fronts. I'm fed up with the lousy deteriorating service provided by WMATA, and I'm even more fed up with the lousy coverage provided by Dr. Gridlock and the transit team over at the Washington Post. I'm not even sure I should even call it coverage, because it barely even scratches the surface.

On Tuesday, May 14, there was an mini-explosion and fire on a Red Line train outside of Silver Spring. After writing an initial story on the incident, there was absolutely no follow up in the Dr. Gridlock blog as of Thursday. After the Green Line meltdown a few month ago, Dr Gridlock said Metro needed to improve communications during situations like this. The Red Line incident was a perfect test for Metro to prove they were fulfilling their promise. Metro failed miserably. Not only was there a giant, restless crowd outside of Takoma station, but Metro's Twitter feed had the nerve to actually blame the fire department for the delays. Dr Gridlock decided it wasn't necessary to call out Metro for failing to fulfill it's promise of better communication. The Dr Gridlock team was able to write about important stories like a crosswalk opening and Captain America being filmed in town. Another mini-story that came of the Red Line fire that has been picked up by other local outlets (but not Metro loyalist Dr. Gridlock) was that Metro's Twitter (run by self-proclaimed Twitter guru and social media trailblazer) blocked prominent critic FixWmata for calling them out for thanking the fire department after blaming them for the delays at least five times. Both stories portray Metro in a negative light and were ignored for trivial matters.

Most of the articles regarding Metro (track work, etc) are eerily similar to press releases put on the Metro website. When there is an article "covering" an incident at Metro, most of the articles don't do anything more than report what happened through the eyes of Metro. They will report what happened, ask Dan Stessel, Metro spokesman, for comment and leave it at that. A good deal of the time, Stessel is not being honest (he has a terrible track record with the truth). Dr. Gridlock does nothing to ever follow up or pressure him when he's being dishonest. He just takes it at face value. This is not journalism. And this SHOULD be embarrassing for the Washington Post. This is the same newspaper that was instrumental in uncovering Watergate. Could you imagine if those reporters just dropped everything at "I asked Nixon's press secretary about it, and he said there is nothing to see here." If Dr. Gridlock and Dana Hedgpeth were pulling their weight, the LEAST they could do was develop a relationship with sources at Metro to find out what is going on. Dr. Gridlock is very supportive of weekend track work. What he fails to notice is the sections that are "repaired" over the weekend often cause problems the following Monday. Same goes for the escalators. There is a system of sheer incompetence at Metro that he fails to even address, let alone investigate. I don't think he's mentioned once the fact that there is almost no accountability whatsoever at Metro. Metro's union has a stranglehold over disciplinary measures, making it borderline impossible to get fired. Yet these problems are never brought up.

Furthermore, Dr. Gridlock's interaction with readers is pathetic. His Twitter consists of nothing other than promoting his articles and retweeting Metro. His weekly chats, which should have SOME value, are completely worthless. A week after some passengers were injured when an escalator panel fell off, Dr. Gridlock spent the majority of the chat discussing with riders how far apart cars should be spaced at a red light. I couldn't possibly make this one up. There couldn't be a more inconsequential, ridiculous, and irrelevant subject to discuss, yet Dr. Gridlock felt like this was more important than riders being injured by an escalator. In the last week, Dr. Gridlock offered a steadfast defense of Metro's out-of-touch decision to remodel the Bethesda Metro Station. Despite the fact that 67 percent of riders polled were against this decision, and the vast majority of comments reacted negatively to this decision, Dr. Gridlock and friends classified this as "some riders" being opposed to the idea. He is deliberately misrepresenting the feelings of the riders with this nonsense. And last weekend, Metro was unbearable. People would wait 30 minutes for a train if they were lucky. So were these items discussed? Of course not. Waze and I-66 message boards took priority.

I'm not asking Dr. Gridlock to be as negative as, say, UnsuckDCMetro or FixWMATA, but it sure would be nice to feel like he has the riders back once in a while. It would be nice if just once in a while, he'd do a better job following up, calling the PR department out on their misleading/dishonest statements, and doing some investigative journalism for once. As the newspaper industry is having financial troubles, I have to ask if you have considered the fact that Dr. Gridlock gets outdone on the reporting front by UnsuckDCMetro, who is an UNPAID BLOGGER. UnsuckDCMetro reports on Metro as a hobby, and has been able to break more meaningful stories more frequently than the Washington Post, has been able to develop relationships with sources inside Metro, without being paid a penny. Meanwhile, you are paying a full year's salary and benefits to a guy who does little more than parrot Metro PR talking points and discuss irrelevant topics such as car spacing at a red light. Not only should the Washington Post's journalism department be embarrassed, but their financial department should be as well.

I have to ask whether the soft coverage is the result of a cozy relationship the Washington Post has with Metro. In addition to the Post having an agreement in terms of The Express distribution outside Metro Stations, they have even teamed up to host events. The Post hosted a media event "Conquering the Commute" which was sponsored by Metro. Of course, nothing of importance to improving Metro was discussed, and notably absent from the panels was anyone who is critical of Metro. They had nobody to counterbalance David Alpert, a strong Metro Apologist, (who also writes articles for The Post, and has been given guest blogging duties by Dr. Gridlock) who has no background in transit or planning whatsoever. Of course, nobody can forget the Google + hangout with Dr. Gridlock and Richard Sarles, where he was, asked a series of laughable, softball questions, most notably "Why are some platforms on the center and others on the side?" This is unacceptable. This is not journalism, and you, as Dr. Gridlock's superiors, should be embarrassed. Metro is becoming increasingly unreliable and unsafe. If things keep going this way, its not a question of if someone will be fatally wounded by Metro negligence, its when someone will be fatally wounded. Dr. Gridlock does not represent the interests, safety, and wishes of Metro riders. In two months, Kytja Weir and Liz Essley will be let go from the Washington Examiner. Personally, I'm not a fan of the Examiner because I find their political writings to be extreme. But these two young ladies do a phenomenal job when it comes to covering Metro.  They have sources, they acquire records and comb through them. They probably do more work in a week than Dr. Gridlock and friends do in four months. If Dr. Gridlock doesn't want to change his approach to covering metro, I'd be glad to recommend these two to replace him and Dana Hedgpeth. You would get a lot more value out of real journalism.

Sincerely,

Fire Dr. Gridlock
Related:
Fancy pants Washington Post

Other items:
Metro to roll out short trip passes (WMATA)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Silver Line Sticker Shock?

Photo via: wfyurakso

From Timothy:

Residents of Reston anticipating the opening of the Silver Line late this year, may be in for a surprise as the cost of the daily commute will jump significantly.

The first phase of the Silver Line will start at Wiehle Avenue. At present, Reston residents can travel from this area with free parking, a net bus fare of $1.10 (taking in account the 50-cent transfer discount) to West Falls Church and a train fare of $3.95 to Metro center or $4.30 to Union Station. The total daily round-trip communing cost to these stations is $10.10 to $10.80.
 
Once the Silver Line opens, free parking will vanish. If other Fairfax County park-and-ride lots are any indication, the daily cost of parking will be set at $4.75. According to Metro representatives at recent open houses, the train fare from Wiehle Avenue to downtown DC will be at the maximum rate of $5.75.

The round trip cost of commuting to people parking will increase to $16.25 – a jump of about 50 to 60 percent. For those who take a bus to Wiehle Avenue, it will be $13.70, an increase of 26 to 35 percent. Those who are able avoid parking and buses with a drop and roll at the kiss and ride will see an increase of 33 to 45 percent.

Anyway you cut it, the convenience of the Metro will come at a cost.

Other items: 
Metro explains Red Line fire cause (WMATA)
WMATA blocks Twitter user (WUSA)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

'Fire Department Activity' Open Thread



Seems like whenever I take some time off, Metro has a big meltdown or, in this case, a flame out.

Metro originally called the incident "fire department activity."

Here's the Examiner's take and here's the WaPo's take.

Were you there? Were you caught up in the post-fire mess? How'd Metro handle it?



Friday, May 10, 2013

See Something? Wake Someone Up!

Via: http://statigr.am/p/450987034573602188_23846086

I wonder if Metro will be able to identify this guy so he can be awarded a two-week paid vacay.

Unsuck will be off Monday and Tuesday.

Other items:
Metro orders wrong parts for escalators (WaPo)
Metro won't pay Jim Graham's legal bills (Examiner)
Those in Purple Pine path put on notice (WaPo)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Metro Pooper

From Wes:
This past Friday, at 1:15 p.m., I encountered an unusual sight on the Farragut North Metro escalator.

As I was descending the second set of escalators to head down toward the trains, I noticed a station manager standing at the bottom of the escalator directing everyone to stay to the right. At the bottom of the moving escalator was what appeared to be human feces. It was moving.

The poo was caught between the steps and the comb plate, the poo was actually spinning due to the escalator's motion! It was strange looking, hilarious and stinky!! Anyway, I had to take a few photos of the spinning poo.

A few moments later the station manger stopped the escalator and placed an orange cone, marking the poo for any unaware travelers.

My train arrived shortly thereafter, so I do not know outcome of any of this crap!
Other items:
Moms say Metro police beat their kids (Examiner)
Circulator system could be expanded (WaPo)
Circulator fares could double (WaPo)
Metro's hiring protocols defended by board member (FixWMATA)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Doors Close with No Warning, Trap, Injure Rider


From Erica:
Last Thursday, May 2nd, at about 11:30 a.m. (Not rush hour),  I was waiting for a train to U Street at L'Enfant Plaza.  The platform was almost empty, and there were three others standing with me when the train stopped.

The doors opened, and they were open for about 30 seconds, just long enough for the three others to walk on (no one got off).

Then, as I was walking on, the doors slammed SHUT.  WITHOUT WARNING! No warning chimes.  No warning recording.

I couldn't get out. I was scared the train was going to start moving. Both my hand and leg were jammed and being squeezed so hard, I couldn't walk for a couple of minutes after the doors opened.

I have bruises on my hand and leg, and my hand was actually bleeding.

Of course, the guy driving the train didn't care. He yelled me.

The station manager didn't care, and merely threw a piece of paper at me and said, "If you have a complaint, fill this out and send it it."  He wouldn't event talk to me.  He walked away and shut the door of his cubicle.

Is there a reason why Metro employees are so miserable and surly?  And what is Metro's responsibility in this situation?  I want to know who that conductor was, and I want to see that he has been punished in some way.

Other items:
15 percent of Metro employees scared to report safety concerns (Examiner)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Frustration Calling Metro Transit Cops

From Josh:
This past Friday morning, while passing the Naylor Road station, I noticed something was up.

 Four, twenty-something ladies had another twenty-something lady encircled.  It appeared they all knew each other, and their discussion was becoming more volatile. 

As I passed the group, it became more physical with the women pulling each others' hair.  Since Metro is always saying "see something, say something," I called the WMATA police on (202) 962-2121.

After 30 seconds of ringing, I hung up and checked the number.

I called again and waited for another minute before the operator finally took my call and sent an officer.

In the normal world, if you need help, you can call the police by dialing the universally easy to remember number--911.  By calling 911 from your cell phone, the police can locate you using the enhanced 911 service.

In the WMATA world, you call a number that is difficult to remember.  If WMATA bothers to answer the phone in time, they would not have access to your GPS coordinates because your phone does not know the number you dialed belongs to the police.

Other items:
Careful with those iPhones (Examiner)
Metro says parking lot crime at record low (Examiner)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Copping Zs on the Job

Via @smclean84: @unsuckdcmetro: @wmata employee sleeping on the job at Woodley Park Metro. pic.twitter.com/4mQZJkTXXp

Other items:
Riders help elderly woman who fell onto tracks (Examiner)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Unspinning Metro's Escalator Issues


@metroescalators is an interesting Twitter account that uses Metro's escalator/elevator API to provide insight into just how poorly run Metro's vertical transportation system really is.

The stat above is simply astounding.

Remember what ol' Danny boy told WUSA:

Dan Stessel says his statistics don't lie, "I can tell you that escalator reliability has improved 10 points in the last 18 months and it has, but if your escalator is out of service at your station, you don't care about that."  

For the WUSA reporter "10 points" was apparently good enough, and then she launched into regurgitating Metro PR.

Oh, and remember that the guy formerly in charge of the elevator/escalator department is now in charge of the track department!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Come on DC. Offer Your Seat to a Pregnant Woman

From Laurie:

As a professional (and human being) in both Washington, D.C. and New York, I have abided by many rules and adhered to unspoken etiquette.  A portion of the latter being: yield/hold doors for/give up your public transit seat to the elderly, parents with strollers or small children, and pregnant women.

You’d think that it would pay forward one day? Apparently, 50 percent of Metro riders need a refresher lesson from Miss Manners. It took quite a while for my now-seven months pregnant belly to look more than a post-Chipotle food baby, but the jig is up. I know I’m pregnant, you know I’m pregnant, I know you know I’m pregnant, and my stomach is actually heavy, so I can please have your seat?

I do my best to avoid crowded trains. I don’t like being stuck in some guy’s armpit on a normal day, so why subject my unborn child to inevitable elbowing? However, there are some days that you just gotta do it. Take the morning of May 1 for example. The Red Line was a mess due to a cracked rail, and there were no ghost trains running from Grosvenor, my home base. A woman (I’d put her in the 40-45 age bracket) standing on the platform right next to me, who very clearly looked at my belly (apparently no one has seen a pregnant person before, because everyone seems to stare at me), hightailed it onto the train and took the one empty seat. Really? Since I hadn’t quite woken up yet, I chose not to call her out, so I silently hoped she would burn her tongue on a cup of coffee. Thankfully, a very nice gentleman immediately got up. I wanted to ask for his wife’s phone number so I could tell her what a polite husband she has.

Those types are hard to find, however.  On the afternoon of the 30th, after letting one Red Line train pass by, I boarded the second. The lone empty seat was taken by an elderly man (age tromps pregnancy in my book). However, there was a very willing and able man sitting in priority seating, pretending that I didn’t exist. The woman next to him glared at him in horror, mumbled obscenities and two minutes later, told me to take her seat. In her honor, I loudly rustled my newspaper in his ear.

I’d like to thank the lady on an Orange Line train on Monday the 29th who told me that she remembers being pregnant on the train and would give up her seat in a heartbeat; and the guy on the Grosvenor-bound Red Line train on Thursday afternoon the 25th who looked around the train for a seat for me and body-blocked it until I got there.

For the chick who pushed her way in front of me to get on the escalator at Dupont Circle, and the guy on Orange Line who looked up from his book, saw my belly and then went back to reading…do you believe in karma?

I’m not pulling an entitlement card here. I’ve taken great care of myself, am in good shape, but my feet blow up like an allergic reaction gone wrong when on them for stretches of time. Think of last summer’s 100+ degree weather plus walking around the National Mall all day with your family and thousands of your closest friends during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Unpleasant, right? Besides, you’d be upset if an able-bodied person ignored your standing 7 months pregnant wife/sister/best friend/daughter/cousin, wouldn’t you? I’d do it for them.

Other items:
Stessel on riders' top 10 complaints about Metro (WUSA)
MoCo, Metro battle over Silver Spring Transit Center (WTOP)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cracked Third Rail Open Thread

Via @urbanbohemian

Another spectacular Metro commute. This time, it was reportedly a cracked third rail north of the NOMA station.

Scarily, Metro was working on the third rail in this area this past weekend. It's starting to seem like the more "rebuilding" Metro does, the more Metro breaks.

What was your experience this morning?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is MetroForward Making Any Difference?

We're coming up on two years of enduring MetroForward, Metro's "rebuilding" project. The self-congratulatory PR (look we fixed some tiles)  has been constant, but what about the results? There's no doubt Metro needed serious work, but have Metro managers, in their zeal to spend capital funds, lost track of Metro's mission?

We've tolerated weekend closures, bus bridges, endless single tracking, weeknight track work, mid-day trackwork, single tracking on Columbus Day and Veteran's Day when a lot of people still have to work. A lot of people I know have simply given up on Metro and are likely never to go back.

Metro has spent hundreds of millions on MetroForward, but is it paying off? Are they just placing new equipment on top of a rotten foundation--namely a completely ineffectual board of directors? Is there ever going to be an "ah-ha" moment when things suddenly get better?

By the looks of the daily disruption reports,  number of derailments, train malfunctions and switch malfunctions along with numerous cases of trapped riders, it's hard to see much, if any, improvement.

One Metro source explained that trying to maintain Metro is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you finish, you have to go back and start painting again. Metro itself admits that there are likely at least several more years of these kinds of service cuts, particularly on the weekends. Is this the new norm? No one is talking about that.

What do you think?

Monday, April 29, 2013

In Tough Economic Times, it's Important to Cherish Your Job

Other items:
DC plans to expand Circulator (Examiner)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Watch Out Pedestrians! Metro's Culture of Safety is Coming

Thursday, April 25, 2013

An Ugly Scene

From Paul:

On April 17, at about 8:30 p.m., I entered the Potomac Ave. Metro stop.  As I walked down the escalator to the platform, I heard the scream of a little girl.  I quickly walked past a dozen or so passengers waiting for their train, seemingly oblivious to the death cry from this young girl.

About halfway down the platform, I saw a woman with two young children -- maybe 7 and 4 years old -- sitting on a concrete bench.  With an open hand and her forearm, she attacked the older child over her face and head, again and again.  The girl screamed and tears streamed down her face.

I ran over to the woman.  "Stop," I yelled.  "You're beating your child!"

The woman stopped and looked up at me.  "This is none of your business," she huffed, pushing her child away from her.

"Yes it is my business.  You cannot hit your child."

"Well," she said, "I am teaching her a lesson."

"I don't care," I told her.  "It's one thing to spank her on the butt, but this is different.  This is abuse."

"I can deal with my child however I want."

"No you can't," I told her, my voice straining.  "It is illegal to hit your child."

"No it's not," she responded.

I turned away from the woman and ran down the platform, past the dozen obvious people, up the escalator, and to the manager's station.  I knocked on the window and went around to the door.  The station manager opened it.

"This woman down there is beating her child," I told him, nearly out of breath.

"I thought I heard a girl screaming," he said.

The manger walked out of his booth and I followed him as he walked down the escalator and towards the woman.  At that point, a train heading into town pulled up and the doors opened.

"That's her," I told the manager, pointing to the woman with the two children.  "She's getting on the train."

We jogged to the door, where we were joined by another Metro employee.  She asked what was going on and I quickly explained the situation.  The manager signaled to the train driver to stop, but either the driver did not see the signal or he did not care, because the doors began to close.

I quickly stepped onto the train, along with the other Metro employee.  She punched the emergency call button near us and spoke into the radio -- I don't know what she said, but shortly after, the train departed towards Capitol South.

Looking at the woman with her two children, I explained in further detail about what I had seen.  I pleaded with her to alert Metro police so they could arrest this woman at the next stop, but she said there was nothing she could do.  She opened her phone and tried to make a call, but apparently there was no service because she put the phone back into her pocket.

At that point, the woman with the two children began defending herself, claiming the same excuses as before -- she was teaching her child a lesson, this was none of my business, etc.  While she spoke, I looked at the two little girls and apologized for what they were going through.  They looked helpless and afraid.  Bruises spotted the older girl's face and dried tears lined her cheeks.  If this woman would attack her child in public, I could not imagine what she would do in the privacy of their home.

As the train approached Eastern Market, the woman stood up and walked towards the door with her children in tow.

"She's going to get off at this stop," I told the Metro employee.

"Because this is my stop," the woman said, her voice cold and defensive.

When the train stopped and the doors opened, she ran out of the train and into a train that had stopped in the opposite direction.  Both the Metro and employee and I followed her out of the train.

"Please stop that train," I pleaded, pointing at the woman.  "She's going to get away."

The Metro employee repeated that there was nothing she could do.

"I'm not able to stop service," she said.

I ran towards the door and for a split second considered following the woman.  It was no use, though -- I did not have the power to arrest her myself and I don't get phone service on the train.  My best bet, I figured, was to follow the Metro employee to the manager's station and report what I had seen.  Perhaps they could arrest her at another stop.

I watched as the doors shut and the train pulled away.  Then I turned and followed the Metro employee up the escalator and to the manager's station.  She took my name and number, and then picked up the phone and reported what had happened.  To her credit, she described the woman and her two children in much greater detail than I could have.  She spoke with emotion in her voice, explaining that the older girl had bruises all over her face.

I waited at the manager's station for about thirty minutes, talking with the Metro employee and three different plain clothed Metro agents.  All of them were angered by what I told them and insisted that she would be apprehended.  Eventually, the Metro employee opened the manager's door and told me that the woman had been "cleared."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"They stopped the train at Benning Road and found her, but the agent let her go.  He said he didn't see any signs of abuse."

I could not believe it.  "So that's it?"

"Yeah," she said, nodding her head.

The three plain clothed agents shook their heads, clearly irritated, but seemingly powerless to do anything.

"Can't you pull up the video from Potomac Ave.?" I asked.  "There are cameras everywhere."

"We'll file a report, but right now, there's nothing more we can do," the employee told me again.

I left my card with her, walked down the escalator, and boarded the next train into town.  Later that night, when I returned to the Potomac Ave. Metro station, I asked the station manager if they were able to apprehend the woman.

"We've filed a report," the manager said.

"That's it?" I asked.

"That's all we can do," he said.

Once I got home, I called the DC child abuse hotline and reported what I had seen.  Apparently, the police will open an investigation.  It should not be hard to find this woman, though.  There is a camera directly above where she had been hitting her child.  I am willing and able to serve as a witness against her.

You can report child abuse or neglect 24 hours a day, seven days a week to 202-671-SAFE (7233). 

Other items:
MetroAccess driver arrested for sexual assault (WMATA)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Riders Trapped Yet Again in Another Derailment Close Call

From Chris:
I enjoyed being trapped on Metro's Red Line last night (April 22) for over 35 minutes on a broken down train just outside Van Ness station.

We were told by operator, we were single tracking but that wasn't the case. We were finally off-loaded through one of the last cars, apparently there was a track issue or a wheel had derailed. But of course Metro never told us what was going on.

Plus the rude Metro workers just made the evening/morning so much fun.
According to a Metro source, the train ran a red light at the Van Ness-UDC interlocking at around 11:30 p.m.

"They had to let people out of the back of the train, then back the train up," the source said. "The train stopped before hitting the 3 switch, which was laying for a reverse move, which would have derailed the train."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Metro Even Endangers Non-Riders

From Brian:

Dear Mr. Sarles,

I wrote to you back on January 14 about your Metrobuses blocking fire hydrants on 9th Street N. in Arlington (Ballston). I wrote after you solicited feedback from riders on a local radio station.
I thought you took this serious in that you had the bus GM contact me, [who said] corrective action would be taken, and he promised that this would not happen again, and more importantly, it would be monitored.

Imagine my disgust and disappointment when around 4:40 p.m, April 22 again a bus (#2170) was parked on the fire hydrant and left unoccupied.

In your bus GM's word this is a gross safety violation and in my mind puts thousands of residents in danger should their be a fire at the high rises, mine included, and the hydrant cannot be accessed.

I sadly believed your bus GM when he promised it would be monitored. I don't know why I did, as it seems that is not the case and the takeaway would be all WMATA does is lie.

I await your response.

Brian

Brian added that the bus GM apologized profusely back in January, mainly for the fire hydrant issue and agreed it was a huge safety issue. The GM told him the operator was identified and instructed not to park there. He also promised that all the Ballston operators would be told the same thing and Metro staff would monitor it.

Other items: 
Metro does what Metro wants (Examiner)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kudos to an Outstanding Operator

Sorry for the service disruption. 

I appreciated the many concerned emails. 

Just to confirm, I was not kidnapped by Metro's PR staff. ;)


From Raphaela:
I know that often, there are many complaints of rude or unprofessional Metro operators, station managers, and other workers. Combine this with the frequent mechanical failures, and one’s experience with riding Metro can be downright dreadful.

I want to take this time to highlight the exemplary customer service of one Metro operator who handled a bad situation very well and was courteous throughout the entire trip. I hope that others follow his example.

I was on waiting for the Blue Line train the other day around 5:15 p.m. at McPherson Square. The train I boarded started to have problems with the door closing. Mind you, it had already taken 6 minutes for that train to arrive at the station, so the platform was already packed.
After several attempts, without any update from that particular train operator, the train had to be offloaded. 
The next Blue Line train arrived two minutes later.
The operator on this train was very professional and tried to inform everyone that he would provide enough time for passengers to exit and board. He politely and continually asked the crowd to be patient and board in an orderly fashion.  In the subsequent stops, including Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza, he kept updating the crowd on the platform of the situation regarding the crowded train and asked that passengers please let others exit first. He also informed everyone when he would be closing the doors. Overall, he was explicit in his instructions and requests, as well as polite the entire time.

When the train finally got to Largo Town Center, the train operator exited the train and began to apologize to every individual he saw, saying sorry for the inconvenience and the delays. He never once expressed an ounce of frustration or impatience. He was very kind and polite.

I understand that it is frustrating when there are mechanical delays on the Metro, but sometimes, the attitudes of its workers exacerbate the issue. This train operator was very professional and I appreciate his level of customer service. He made a delayed and crowded trip a lot more manageable for passengers.

Other items:
Board members don't ride Metro (Examiner)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Things Never Change at Metro

Via Leah on April 8 on Facebook

Update: Metro says this operator was "fired" on March 27.

Metro can create a big buzz among the local media with a video about one station enhancement that may or may not happen years down the road, but...

Other items:
Metro to Blue Line Riders:      (Examiner)
Horrible harassment case (CASS)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Metro Board Does Not Have Your Back

From CS:
Regular readers will recall that Unsuck has been working for nearly three years to pry vital safety and rider information out of WMATA via a series of public record requests (covering railcar doors, automatic train control, and the practice of “bellying” older and more dangerous cars in the middle of trains).

After agency staff utterly stonewalled our requests, violating their own policy and asking that we pay tens of thousands of dollars in costs for what should be public information, we recently turned to the supposed ultimate bosses, WMATA directors, for help.

We asked each of them (less one for whom we did not have an address), in their capacity as a board member with oversight responsibility for the transit system, to request from WMATA staff the same information we have sought in our requests, and then share the information with us, so that we could distribute it publicly right here.

We thought that new, highly trumpeted, reform-minded directors might seize a chance to liberate information important to riders and the capital region.

We thought at least some directors would understand that in the end, transparency really is a good thing for all concerned, and see that leveling with riders is the best course.

We hoped that among the bunch of them, at least one would be committed enough to stick their neck out and put riders first.

We were wrong.

And wrong.

And wrong.

Not a single one responded.

Never mind that no one said they’d help. We didn’t even get a single acknowledgment. Not even the pablum of, “Thank you for your concerns. We want to assure you that safety is our highest priority…” or some such thing. And keep in mind these folks are politicians – they ordinarily leap at the chance to blather about their commitment to public concerns.

Thus, it appears that the capture of the would-be reformers is now complete. Recall that after the preventable, fatal Red Line accident, a new slate of “tough” directors was supposed to keep more attentive watch over transit system operations.

But today, the WMATA echo chamber is working better than ever before. The staff tells the directors what a great job the staff is doing, and the directors chime in to sing the staff’s praises. Everyone is pleased.

During recent meetings, for example, the directors have been atwitter with praise about the new “safety culture” they say has taken hold, and the success of the rebuilding program.

Then, like clockwork, comes something like the latest derailment (an out-of-service Red Line train, as it was leaving a rail yard Saturday) or another in the series of track problems, power problems, and all manner of other problems that seem to be increasing, not decreasing, in frequency, judging by the daily service alerts.

A full discussion is for another day, but I’ve reluctantly come to believe that the only solution left is for Metro directors to be directly elected by voters in the member jurisdictions.

Otherwise, no one’s ever accountable. And the assortment of pols and other hacks, often on their way to somewhere else, that pose as “leaders” is just not up to the job of staring down Metro managers. WMATA management may not be able to run a safe, reliable transit system, but they certainly know how to take care of themselves. And management will continue to win as long as the best Metro directors can do is lay back, paws in the air, and ask for a belly rub from the staff they're supposed to command.

Other items: 
New Twinbrook garage has cracks (Examiner)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Metro Escalator Boss to Run Rails

According to the Washington Post, Rodrigo Bitar, general superintendent for Metro’s escalator and elevator division will be promoted to assistant general manager for the agency’s transit infrastructure and engineering services division. He'll run the rails, essentially.

Totally makes sense.

According to the Post:
Bitar joined Metro in 2008 and worked on the quality assurance group, which supported the 2000, 3000 and 5000 series rail cars. Those rail cars have had troubles with brake parts falling off of them.

We all know Metro's escalator and elevators are a shambles. Even the new, "transit grade" escalators at Foggy Bottom and Dupont South, break way more often than they should.

Below is Bitar's track record for this month alone.

Other items: 
Metro to install glow-in-the-dark signs to prevent self evacuation (Examiner)
Silver Spring transit center opening more than a year away (Examiner)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Only at Metro are Bus Routes Optional

From Debra:

I've been commuting on the J5 route for over three years.  It leaves from a Silver Spring bus bay six times in the morning and from Twinbrook Metro station six times in the afternoon/evening.

Almost everyday in the evening the 5:08 pm and the 6:13 pm buses (this is the last bus) never show up!

This has been going on for months.

I've talked with a supervisor who always says "those buses are always caught up in traffic on the beltway."

But when I ask other drivers about that route, they say that no driver is dedicated to that route. They come in and pick routes from a board.  If they find another route that pays them more money, i.e. overtime, shift differential, they'll take that route versus the J5, and the route goes uncovered.

It's a limited route, if you can't find drivers to make sure the route is covered Monday-Friday why even have it at all? A lot of private industry and federal workers take this bus.  Why drive on the beltway if the bus can take you there?

When the last bus doesn't come, a lot of people can't make their connections to other buses they need to get home and end up paying for taxis.

Metro, are you going to cover that tab?  Because it seems you're covering little else.

Other items:
Metro says they'll replace 4000-series cars (WaPo)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Metro Holds Riders Hostage--Again

Metro had yet another derailment Saturday night, leaving riders stranded yet again for over an hour without any communication. Metro told the Post it was a non-passenger train.

In recent months, Metro has held riders hostage on the Orange Line, Green Line and now on the Red Line.

And of course, a derailment is a pretty serious event, even if no one was hurt. I think it's just a matter of time.

I don't understand why local politicians refuse to see just how bad Metro is. Instead, if the Metro board discusses this event at all, it will most likely be a long back slapping celebration of how no one was injured.

The derailment was not the only incident this weekend.

From Susan:
Was stranded on a disabled metro train underground near Tenleytown from 12:30 a.m. 2 a.mm Sunday with hundreds of others.
I'm not upset that the train broke down-things happen. But we had no communication about what to expect. Police and a supervisor finally boarded the train (after 60+ minutes) after another train attempted to push us and failed.
We had to walk through all the train cars to board another train behind us and then go back to Tenleytown and switch trains again.
You think they'd have a communication and action plan by now on how to deal with disabled trains.
People were crossing between cars and peeing behind the door because we didn't know how long we'd be trapped.

Here are some reports from FixWMATA, who was caught up in the mess.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

On Vacation for the Rest of the Week

I'll be on vacation for about 10 days barring some major Metro news.

I'll keep the Facebook and Twitter active.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Silver Spring Transit Center Shaped Like Failure

Via @jbhaber

To read more about this costly, misshapen boondoggle, click here.

Other items:
Board extends GM Sarles' contract for two years (Examiner)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cameras, Cameras Everywhere

At West Falls Church station on the Orange Line, eight cameras cover a small section at the end of the platform.

From CS:
In recent months, with no fanfare or notice, what must be hundreds of new surveillance cameras have sprouted in the Metrorail system. As a result, Metro is now, or is planned to be, one of the most heavily surveilled places in the region. A rider might traverse dozens of cameras on a single trip alone.
For example, at Metro Center, the ceiling of the downstairs Blue/Orange Line platform has been torn down for months, with no indication when repairs will be complete. But that hasn’t stopped the surveillance cameras from sprouting.



Installation of these cameras – especially on the heels of Metro’s highly questionable “security theater” bag checks – raises worrisome questions. Some (but, in the interest of disclosure, not me) might welcome the cameras as a necessary concession to security, much as some thought the bag checks were OK.


But even if you buy the security argument, that doesn’t mean a plethora of new cameras is necessarily the best use of scarce funds or the most productive or appropriate way to protect people. For example, the cameras raise issues such as:
  • How many of these cameras has Metro installed thus far, and how many are ultimately planned?
  • How much are they costing, and what is the funding source?
  • What are the specific objective(s) for which they are being installed?
  • How will the imagery be managed? In a central location? At individual stations?
  • Will the imagery be monitored in real time, or stored for later viewing?
  • Are the camera coverage areas fixed, or will there be operators who can move and direct camera coverage? (Like, as has happened elsewhere, to zoom in on attractive women.)
  • How long will the imagery be maintained?
  • For what other purposes will the imagery be used?
  • Does Metro plan to apply other technology against imagery that is captured, such as facial recognition? Allow others to do so?
  • What safeguards and operating procedures have been adopted to prevent abuse?
  • Has Metro considered constitutional issues that this blanket surveillance might raise?

Metro has said little if anything about this en masse deployment. We wanted to find out answers to these questions. Metro’s response was typical:







Given Metro management’s perpetual dysfunction, there’s little reason to believe the camera installations have been well thought out, or their utility weighed against other options for providing a more secure system. (Have the Metro cops who hide out in driver cabs actually get out and be visible on trains or in stations?) More likely, it’s a familiar story of someone getting paid a bunch of money to put the cameras in, probably using some federal grant, and the cameras will ultimately make little difference in daily activities.

Meanwhile, the surveillance state expands yet again.

Other items: 
Google maps adds real-time transit info (Mashable)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pee on the Tracks

A couple of years ago, it was revealed that Metro employees had been using pocket tracks as lavatories.

Now, a source has revealed the mystery about why there are so many water bottles scattered around Metro that are filled with a yellowish fluid that resembles urine.

Turns out they are what the source called "operator droppings" and are indeed bottles filled with pee.

The source said operators usually wait until they're in the tunnels before they dump their "gifts."

"You'd think they would just take it with them to dispose, but they just litter the tunnels," said the source, who found three bottles near one platform the other day.

The source added that there are preferred places, like the pocket track in Grosvenor, where "they just open the doors and piss."

"There are quite a few piss bottles there," said the source, adding that the older operators are generally more considerate, while the "new ones think they are piloting the space shuttle and have a weird sense of entitlement."

Not only is dumping bottles filled with urine disrespectful to the many Metro employees who work daily along the tracks, but another source said it shows the tension between operators and management regarding the tight schedules that, according to operators, often leave no time for bathroom breaks.

"Dumping the piss like that is sort of a middle finger to management," said the source.

Other items:
Metro given cell phone extension (Examiner)
Concrete not tested at Silver Spring transit center (WaPo)
 
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