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WMATA Forum   » Question & Answer with WMATA guests   » All About Metro: Customer Service, Reliability and general Metro Topics (6/3/05) from noon to 1 p.m.  

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Welcome to the chat!
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Richard White Hi. Welcome to today’s chat. There’s a lot to talk about today.

As reported in The Express, it has been a continual challenge to keep many of our 209 elevators and 558 escalators moving. The Express story, which will be expanded upon in Sunday’s Post, is a historic look back at our elevator and escalator program over the past 5 to 10 years. We hope the Sunday story also looks at how the reliability of our elevators and escalators has improved over the last several months. (See our April 21 news release at http://www.wmata.com/about/MET_NEWS/PressReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=754.)

Here are some facts that today’s Express didn’t mention:

* Riders are able to find a working elevator 97 percent of the time, which averages about 2 percent higher than three years ago.

*You are able to find a a working escalator 93 percent of the time, an increase of about 3 percent on average over the last five years.

*And we plan to overhaul 70 percent or 413 escalators and 45 percent or 95 elevators by 2010, which should increase performance even more.

We have focused on improving our worst performing escalators in the past to improve those first, and they have shown the most improvement.

More on The Post’s series later. Let’s get to your questions.
Weekend Trackwork During the Summer
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Biker on Rail Thank you for posting your summer trackwork schedule online. I find it very useful to know where the work zones will be so I can plan accordingly.

May I suggest that in order to minimize disruptions on these weekends, that short turn trains be instituted wherever possible. I know this has been done in the past, but last week's press release did not state whether the practice would be used. For example, with this weekend's work on the Red Line, I would have alternate trains turn back at either Grosvenor or Medical Center, so that headways between Grosvenor/Medical Center and Glenmont would be as close to normal as possible.

Also, it would be helpful if announcements of trackwork returned to the PIDS displays.

Thank you.
Richard White Hi. Glad you’re getting a lot out of our posting the tentative schedule for weekend track work through the summer.

This weekend’s single track area does not allow for short turning of trains between Shady and Grosvenor. However, this concept is always considered and/or used when appropriate. Trains are schedule to depart every 28 minutes from Shady Grove (8-cars to Glenmont). It is 12 minutes between Shady Grove and Grosvenor. (12 down and 12 back) the best we could gain with a shuttle is 2 minutes and that is without factoring in turn around time. So that means:

SG to Gros, every 28 minutes
Gros to SS, 7 minute headways (normally 6 minutes)
SS to Glen, 14 minute headways (normally 12 minutes)
Bike Racks on Buses Sometimes Missing
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Biker on Rail I have noticed that a number of buses are not equipped with bike racks. This is not a problem at Ride-On. While it has not happened yet, I would not be pleased to be waiting with my bike for a bus and when the bus arrives, not be able to board with my bike, especially on a route such as the T2 where service only operates every 30 minutes most of the day.
Richard White Hi Biker on Rail. We know we have at least 28 buses in service from the reserve fleet that were never equipped with racks. These buses were needed as new service was added in March and to replace buses that have had to be taken out of service for mechanical failures while we are waiting for new buses to arrive. These will be replaced when new buses arrive in late summer.
Exeloo Self-Cleaning Restroom at Huntington
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SchuminWeb Mr. White:

Are there any plans at this time to install more of the self-cleaning restrooms, like the one currently located at Huntington, in other stations?

Ben F. Schumin :-)
Richard White Ben: Hi. No, we don’t have any plans to purchase or install more self-cleaning toilets.
Pedestrian Walkway
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SH I saw a story about building an underground pedestrian tunnel between Metro Center and Gallery Place. Great idea. When?

Also, have you considered something similar to connect Farragut North and West? that would be so helpful, and fast.
Richard White Hi SH. The conceptual engineering study for the pedestrian connection between Gallery Place and Metro Center was just completed. We currently do not have plans or a timetable for the construction of this passageway. A similar study looking at a passageway connection between Farragut North and Farragut West was completed last year. This passageway tunnel would connect the two stations via underneath 17th Street, N.W.
SmartGrowther Why doesn't Metro program faregates so that at least people with SmarTrip cards can take a free above ground transfer between the two Farragut stations? Other cities like Chicago have above ground transfers, and surely this would help reduce pressure on Metro Center, no?
Richard White Hi SmartGrowther, good question! Our current technology can't support the walking transfer between stations. Still, you have come up with an excellent idea. The contractor who provides our SmarTrip software is currently working on a new software upgrade. We will explore the feasibililty of incorporating your suggestion as this development occurs.
Bus routes
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SH When going home from the Pentagon to my house, I can take the 22A or any of the route 25 buses. But they are scheduled to leave the Pentagon 2 minutes apart. Then there is a huge gap between the next two buses. Why not space them out better so instead of having two buses come within 2 minutes of each other, then waiting 20 minutes for the next two buses, they instead come every 10 minutes, 22A, then a 25G, 22A, 25F, and space them out better?
Richard White Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will look at revising the 22A afternoon schedule leaving the Pentagon so that trips are more evenly spaced between Route 25 trips as you suggest.
Metrobus reliability
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Tom Metrobus offer practically door to door service from my home to my office. However, I seldom take the bus because it is unreliable. Even at rush-hour, the buses do not seem to run a consistent schedule. I live near the origin of the #30 series buses at Friendship Heights, so it cannot be blamed on traffic.

Does Metrobus track its bus locations so you can understand why buses do not leave the origins as scheduled? If you don't assure scheduled departures then the posted arrival schedules at the bus-stops are meaningful. If the buses were reliable, more people would ride and the crowding issues on metrorail would be reduced.

Ideally, I'd like to be able to log online and see the bus leaving the origin. As it is, I skip the whole system and either take the Metrorail or drive.
Richard White The #30 Line operates from the far NW part of the District to the far SE part of the District. Due to the fact that this route travels so many miles through the District there are numerous challenges it faces on most days. Most of the buses that are scheduled to leave Friendship Heights after 7 a.m. are scheduled to make earlier trips from far southeast to Friendship Heights. If these buses encounter delays on the earlier trips, it could affect on-time departures from Friendship Heights. In order to address this problem, we revised the schedule effective March 27, to allow more scheduled recovery time at Friendship Heights, so that buses that arrive late would be better able to leave Friendship Heights on time. Preliminary service monitoring since March has shown some improvement in schedule reliability
SmartGrowther Isn't the real problem with reliability on the 30s buses that the route is simply far too long?? Shouldn't this route be broken up into 2 or 3 smaller ones to improve reliability? I mean how many riders are really sitting for an hour or more to get all the way from SE to Friendship Heights??
Richard White We've made some service improvements to this long 30s route, however there are many riders who utilize the most of the route from end to end (or close to it).
Our planning department is studying the feasibility and cost of further improvements to this heavily traveled route. The 30s and 70s are our most heavily used bus routes.
Doors closing too soon?
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mister.darcy Hi there,

I don't own a car and rely exclusively on Metro to get around. DC's public transportation is a godsend; thank you for having such an extensive and (mostly) reliable system. Metro is the only means of independence for those of us who can't afford a car, who aren't old enough (or who are too old) to drive, and who have horrid eyesight and shouldn't be driving!

I had a question about train doors closing. Sometimes the "Doors closing" signal rings before everyone's had a chance to board. Occasionally it rings even before everyone has disembarked! It's one thing when this happens during rush hour (after all, another train is soon to come, so it's no big deal to wait). But it can be really frustrating in off-peak hours too, for those of us on the platform who've already waited a long time and will have to wait even longer because the doors closed on us. I also think it encourages rude pushing behavior, because riders still on the platform can get panicky as soon as they hear the signal.

How are train drivers instructed to handle the "Door closing" signal? Do they even try to give people time to disembark/board, or do they get punished for doing so because their trains get behind schedule?

Thanks very much for your time.
Richard White Hi. Trains pull into stations and there are set “dwell times” for how long a train sits in a station based on the passenger traffic flow in a station. Once the train operator sees people are on board, he or she presses the door chime. That’s when you hear the “Ding dong, doors closing” chime and voice. It takes 2 seconds for the chime and the closing message. After that it takes another 2 seconds before the doors close. That gives people an additional four seconds to finish entering the train. If a train operator sees customers still boarding a train, he or she should give it a few more seconds for the platform to clear before signaling for the door chimes to start. Like you pointed out, during rush hour, if you can’t fit on the train, wait for the next train because the next one is coming shortly.
First trains of the day
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LL The first trains of the day don't really come at the time the system opens at 5 a.m. They come later. Why do you tell people that you open at 5, when you only open at some stations at 5? And the same thing when you close. Some times the last train comes along well before midnight, or even after midnight. The opening and closing times are in flux. Why is that?
Richard White Hi. Trains leave the stations at the end of the line (Vienna, Branch Ave, etc.) at 5 a.m. and are scheduled to pass through downtown stations at midnight. The first and last train times for each station appear at each station's kiosk. You can also check our web site.
W McGee This seems to be a good place to note that there are a lot of stations that have outdated information on their front doors about when they open and close. For example, West Falls Church station says it closes at 2am on weekends, even though the last train from Vienna arrives at the station at 2:35 or so (and of course the last train going towards Vienna arrives sometime after 3am). There are a number of signs that say Metro closes at 1am on weekends as well. Most stations also still say they open at 5:30am (this could be a good place to place the first am weekday and weekend train departure time).
Richard White Humm. Good to know. I'll pass that information along to get those signs updated. Thanks for letting me know.
Differential parking fees at 3 stations / Using passes
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Harvey Grosser At Twinbrook, White Flint, and New Carolton stations, patrons who who do not use their SmarTrip cards to enter at another station are charged a much higher parking fee ($7.75 instead of $4 at TB/WF; $7.50/$3.50 at NC), thereby precluding them from using passes to travel on Metro. However, I have found that if you enter and exit the same other station with your SmarTrip card and then use a pass to travel to one of these 3 stations (I tested it at TB), you will be charged the lower rate. Unfortunately, this results in your paying the minimum fare of $1.35 to go in and out the same station. So, in order for patrons at these 3 stations to be able to use the same passes as everyone else, could the fare be changed so that one could go in and out the same station for free? (You could restrict this to patrons who only do this within a half hour or less so that people who take a trip and return without exiting somewhere else would still be charged.) This would also enable patrons whose train is delayed to exit immediately to find alternate transportation. (Sort of like a money-back guarantee during the first 1/2 hour of a movie!)
Richard White During our roll-out of our cashless parking program, we informed the public that at certain parking sites where a premium rider fee is charged patrons would have to utilized our SmarTrip card and would not be able to utilize paper passes at these sites. It is anticipated that in future, system enhancements will address this issue.
pedestrian tunnel(s)
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Jean-Paul Schaub A pedestrian tunnel between Metro Center and Gallery Place may ease the congestion in both stations*. Could we imagine a similar tunnel between the two Farragut stations. Not only would it ease the congestion at Metro Center, but shorten the travel time on Orange/Blue and Red lines between West and North by-passing the loop through McPherson and Metro Center. Any feasibility?

*in today (June 3rd, 2005) Express

JPaul, Washington DC
Richard White Hi. Yes, a pedestrian tunnel between the two Farraguts was studied last year. That tunnel would be a relatively short one (in terms of length of the tunnel) and indeed would be very convenient for people to use to transfer between those two stations to move between the Orange and Blue Lines to the Red Line without having to wait for a train to transfer.
Problem on Green Line during rush hour 6/2/05
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PublicTransUser1... Hello,

Can you address what happened yesterday on the Green Line? Due to the confusion, it was difficult hearing the station announcements as well as the train engineer during the incident. Also, The bus drivers were not aware of any problems so, they were running on schedule which caused me to miss quite a few of them due to the problem with the Green Line. I had tried using your Metro alerts but, they have not been very effective because they don't suggest an alternate line that could be taken while the problem is being solved. Perhaps in the future, your Public Service Announcements(PSAs)and or metro alerts could include this type of information regarding alternative ways of travel as well as the implementation of shuttle buses and where they are located.

Richard White Hi. Yes indeed, there was a back-up on the Green Line last night during rush hour. A train operator spotted an unauthorized person on the tracks at the West Hyattsville station. We turned down power to the third rail (turned off electricity to the tracks) and the police responded to the scene immediately to investigate. Apparently the individual was not found, the trackbed was inspected and deemed safe and electric power was restored.

We encourage anyone who sees something unusual such as that to report it immediately. Thank you!
Segway usage on MetroRail
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William West Hop... As a Segway user and Metrorail user here in DC, I have found myself using Metrorail more now that I own a Segway.

I am concerned that I hear talk about restricting the Segway usage during rush hour.

I understand that there are concerns about size and feel that maybe the bike regulations should apply to Segways.

A Segway is smaller than a bike and more manageable than a bike. And surely better than the strollers and rolling bagage that I have seen on the system.

William West Hopper

Washington, DC U.S.A<

Richard White Hi. We're glad that you see the policy as a step forward. At this point, we strongly feel that our system, during peak periods, is so crowded that it cannot accommodate Segways except for those approved for use as a mobility device by people with a disability.
It's never too soon to think about winter...
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W McGee Arlington County, on its CommuterPage.com website, has visual snow route maps for a number of Metrobuses that run through the county. This is a very useful item that I hope Metro is considering adding to its website come this fall and winter for all of its other routes.
Richard White Hi. This is a good idea! We'll consider this suggestion. By the way, you're right--it's never too early to start thinking about winter.
Tunnel on the Red Line
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ArlingtonNative Hello,

I first want to say that I'm a long-time area resident, and I think Metro is wonderful, and hope that someday Metro has a source of dedicated funding as it should.

I read/heard on the news this morning about the proposed tunnel between Metro Center and Gallery Place on the Red Line. This sounds like a terrific idea - except that I heard in one source that it would be accessible to folks outside the system as well, meaning that folks wanting a shortcut from, say, the green line to the blue line, would have to leave the system and reenter it if they wanted to use the tunnel.

This seems as though it would defeat the purpose, as people would be forced to pay twice to use the system faster. This would be especially frustrating at times when there is a delay on the red line, but not on other lines. Is it true that Metro users would need to exit and reenter the system to use the tunnel, and if so, what is the benefit to users?

Many thanks!!
Richard White The concept of a pedestrian tunnel still has a lot of details to be resolved, including the passenger flow and methods for access for passengers and non-passengers. By the time such a tunnel might be constructed, we would expect to modify our SmarTrip technology to address the issue you have raised.
extending yellow line north
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dc_bus_rider I'd like to see the yellow line extendend north along the green line alignment to greenbelt or fort totten. This could double the train service between Mount Vernon Square and points northward. Has WMATA investigated the feasibilty of this? If not, I'd like you to!
Richard White Hi. The official expansion plan approved by our Board in March 1999 does not include an expansion of the Green Line further than Greenbelt. However, it is quite feasible to extend the line north of Greenbelt along the CSX corridor 19 miles to BWI Airport with several potential locations for stations.
dc_bus_rider Mr. White,

I think you misunderstood my question. I'm interested in Yellow Line trains continuing northward along the existing green line tracks.
Richard White Ah, yes. Sorry about the confusion. As part of the Core Capacity study, a few years ago, it was determined that an expensive underground turnback would be required. We are investigating ways to improve the frequency of service from Mt. Vernon Square and Fort Totten.
Routes through multiple jurisdictions...
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W McGee Some weeks back, I went to an Arlington County forum on Metrobus changes they were proposing for their county and beyond. Of course as interconnected Metro is, these changes would impact users in neighboring jurisdictions. Thus my question, how is control shared along routes that cross jurisdiction lines, like the #1, #2 or #16? Can one jurisdiction impliment changes that affect other jurisdictions. Likewise, can one jurisdiction veto changes proposed by another if it doesn't like the impact.

On a related, but slightly different note, does Metro try to coordinate its service with local providers like Fairfax Connector, Art, Dash, etc? I seem to see a lot of places where both a Metrobus and a local bus run right on top of each other along a similar route, but then there is a long gap before the next buses arrive. A good example of this miscoordination is the 29KN-AT8 in Alexandria.
Richard White Hi. Before any changes are made to Metrobus routes, the proposed changes must go to a public hearing. Furthermore, Metro is a regional agency, requiring cooperation among participating jurisdictions. So no, one jurisdiction cannot implement changes without the neighboring jurisdiction's knowledge and concurrence. Jurisdictional vetoes by the Metro Board are possible, but unusual.

Metro and the suburban jurisdictions do try to coordinate their services. We will ask our Planning Department to take a look at the routes in Alexandria and work with the local bus providers for better coordination.
Upcoming Series in The Post
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Richard White Thanks for all of your questions today.

On Sunday, The Washington Post will begin a series of articles about Metro that are historical in nature.

As an organization, we at Metro have already addressed many of the issues that are in ;the series, and I want to assure you that we are hard at work on the other issues you will be reading about. In the past eight months, Metro has unmistakably changed as an organization. We have gone through an honest and open self-evaluation and have requested several independent and outside reviews on how we perform. One of these reviews concluded that Metro is the best operating transit system in the country. You are seeing improvements throughout the Metro system–from more reliable bus and rail service to Town Hall meetings, these online chats, formation of a Riders Advisory Council and a stronger focus on customer service.

Even before these recent changes, Metro was recognized as one of the best public transportation systems anywhere, whether measured by on-time performance, use of the latest technology or system safety and security.

We hope that you will view the Post’s criticism of Metro in context by remembering some key facts:

* Metro is a proven success. Earlier this year, a Washington Post regional survey reported that 88 percent of Metro users rate Metro “excellent” or “good.”

* We are carrying more passengers than ever before. Sixty percent of the top 10 ridership days have been this year. Yesterday we moved more than 722,000 in the rail system and more than 500,000 in the bus system.

* We provide one of the highest service reliability levels of any transit system in the nation. We are focused on taking any necessary corrective actions to further improve our service, and I’m very pleased to say that our actions are working, as evident by recent improvements in the reliability of our service.

So, despite what you may read, we want you to know that all 10,000 Metro employees and the WMATA Board of Directors are working to bring you the best public transportation services available anywhere–today and every day. We’re on the right track, and will continue to get better in the weeks and months ahead.

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