General Manager John Catoe

Transcript: February 6, 2009

General Manager John Catoe photo

Metro's General Manager John Catoe will respond directly to questions about Metro-related issues during an online chat this Friday, February 6, when he hosts "Metro LunchTalk Online" -- a live hour-long chat from noon to 1 p.m. Mr. Catoe welcomes questions about Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroAccess during his chats. Visitors may post questions before and during the chat.

General Manager John Catoe: Hello and happy Friday. Several local news agencies are reporting today about recent discussions involving our Metro budget and possible service cuts. Economic times are difficult in the region and across the country. As a result, we have a $154 million budget gap. To close this gap, we have proposed nearly $80 million in internal administrative cuts, including the elimination of nearly 900 positions, which includes hundreds of layoffs. We still need to make another $73 million in cuts.
Metro’s Board directed what is known as the Jurisdictional Coordinating Committee (comprised of a group of transportation officials representing the District of Columbia, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington, Fairfax counties and the City of Alexandria) to review Metro’s budget shortfall and discuss what could be done to close the budget deficit. That group had discussions, which included talks about service cuts, but those were talks, not proposals. Nothing has been proposed by the group and Metro is not considering, nor is it proposing scrapping late-night rail service, as some news accounts have outlined.
Let’s get to your questions.

_______________________

Vienna, VA: Dear Mr. Catoe:First let me express my congratulations for the terrific job Metro did for the inauguration. Like others, Ive complained about Metro before (and, as I think youll agree, there are still issues to be resolved). But Metro appears to have done a simply smashing job when all eyes were upon it, and when it was never more important to get it right.That said, my question is: I have a safety concern about the Orange Line. In the stretch from around East Falls Church station to the entrance to the tunnel, there are two very sharp jolts in the ride, one in each direction. Inbound, its near the entrance to the tunnel outbound, its closer to the station. These have persisted for months, and theyre a little disconcerting. Beyond that, the ride is generally rough these days from about West Falls Church to the tunnel. Can you clarify whats going on?Thanks, and again, nice job.

Reply: Hello Vienna. East Falls towards the tunnel, this is in the general area were we had a rail break during the summer while we had high temperatures due to the expansion of the running rail from the excessive heat. At the same time during extreme cold weather periods like we have seen during Jan/Feb, the running rail contracts. This type of movement of rail is common on any rail system. We are in the process of a maintenance effort to help de-stress the rail which will help create a smoother ride for our customers. For West Falls to Vienna ride, this is part of our ongoing railroad tie exchange program. With the system aging and factoring in the numbers of trains and loads placed on the system, our staff is working as fast as possible in these areas to address maintenance items while at the same time limiting the service interruptions to our customers as much as possible. Our next major tie replacement in this area of the Orange Line will begin in March.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Mr. Catoe:In news coverage of the Metro budget shortfall, I believe Ive read that if Metro makes the hundreds of layoffs being contemplated, its workforce will return to the level it was about 2006. My question is: If true, why is that a problem? Why has Metros workforce grown so much since then? I daresay, with due respect, that Metro service has gotten no better since then. (In truth, I think it got somewhat worse after 2006, and has improved somewhat since then.) Im a big fan of Metro, but I have to say Im concerned about the agency's management of its resources.Thank you.

Reply: Hi Washington. The cuts in staffing are an attempt to become leaner by directly affecting service as little as possible.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Two questions regarding Metro trains:1. I have not seen the cars with the wool seats in person, but I saw the video of the seats. I personally liked the aura fabric with blue squares. I was wondering if it were possible to have new seats in burgundy and sand as well (like the current color scheme)?2. Is it possible to put the same Emergency Door Release signs and intercom signs in the 5000 series like the 20003000 refurbished cars and 6000 Alstom series?

Reply: Hello Washington. It's most cost effective for us to select one seat color scheme.

_______________________

Washington, DC: I know that the economy is affecting Metro as well. I would like an opportunity to work in the planning of extending Metro to new areas. Is there a way that I can contribute or work with Metro on a volunteer basis?

Reply: Hello Washington. I don't know exactly what you mean by "contribute," but we could use a few million dollars right now. But seriously, you may consider applying to be on our Riders Advisory Council.

_______________________

Burtonsville, MD: Mr Catoe, what is the update on the new buses?

Reply: Hello Burtonsville. All of the buses are due to arrive by the end of this summer.

_______________________

Silver Spring, MD: Mr Catoe, Metro will conduct a public hearning on bus routes that Fairfax County wants to convert to their local bus system. I am concerned about this. We cannot have local governments trying to break up the Metro Bus System. You have to stop this process from happening. Washington DC wants to convert Route N22 to the DC Circulator.

Reply: Hello Silver Spring. Do you work for me? What jurisdictions are doing in working with us is to look at providing routes in the most cost-effective manner. We tend to do more of the regional service. Local jurisdictions tend to provide more localized service.

_______________________

Fairfax, VA: Are there any plans to run updated percentage of passengers capacity statistics for each rail car on the electronic billboards when a train arrives at the rail station? This would be a helpful feature for passengers looking to find an open seat as the train arrives. It could make things much safer without having to run or cause injury since there is such a short time when the train car opens and closes its doors.

Reply: Hi Fairfax. No, we have no plans to do that.

_______________________

Rockville, MD: Mr. Catoe, why aren't we hearing about the possibility of charging for parking on weekends and holidays? People are getting a significant savings especially if headed to sporting events or things like the Cherry Blossom Festival. Parkings costs in the city for such things is easily double what Metro would charge.

Reply: Hi Rockville. That's not a bad suggestion at all! It is something we will consider.

_______________________

Arlington, VA: Hello! I am a new metro rider (2 months) and so far I have not experienced any major delays. However, it seems that more often than not the train has to sit in the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom (Orange line) delaying the whole trip by sometimes more than a couple of minutes. Is there anything that as metro riders we can do to make any and all delays minimal? Also what would the cost be of having better, faster and thus more reliable transportation in this area within the next 10 years?

Reply: Hello Arlington. Generally when a train waits in that location, it's a matter of waiting for train traffic to pass through what we call the Rosslyn portal. It's a high traffic area to pass through with both Blue and Orange Line trains wanting to get through that point. The cost to improve our system is rolled into our Capital Improvement Program, which is $11 billion.

_______________________

Alexandria , Va: Hey Mr. Catoe. When will at any time Metro will have the new hybrid buses operating in northern Virginia? I see already that they exist in Maryland.

Reply: Hey Alexandria. We wil have delivery of more than 200 hybrid buses arrive this summer. Some of them will be operating in Northern Virginia.

_______________________

Clinton, MD: Good Day Mr. Catoe:First of all, Bravo Zulu to the Metro Teams for the great job on Inauguration Day. But now its time to move forward. Secondly, Id like to comment on overall customer service, which to me is not up to the Service Level Agreements for such a large organization. You may have many teams and divisions or departments, the take away should be on the same customer service level or better of what I received at the worlds largest theme park in Orlando, Florida. I should never hear from any Metro Employee its not my Job. Tell all station managers, all supervisors, and all departments: Yes They Can and Will.Have a Super day and Metro Does Open Doors.Mr. GEH

Reply: Hello Mr. GEH at Clinton. I agree.

_______________________

Alexandria, VA: When No Passenger trains move through a station, why do they continue to honk their horns all the way through the station?

Reply: Hello Alexandria. They honk to alert customers to stand back from the edge of the platform.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Good Afternoon,I thought the Inaugaration Day Metro bus and rail went as smoothly as was possible. So congratulations on that. I caught the 80 P6 buses to the events, no problems at all.Why is my transfer from rail to bus (VA to DC) .75??Why do Metro bus drivers now wear yellow safety vests?I saw a driver on the H8 route driving and reading text messages. I noticed he was looking in his lap a lot and as I got off the bus (at the Giant on 14th Street, NW) via the front door I noticed he had a device like a Blackberry type of phone and he was reading from it. Of course the drivers are warned and know the dangers of texting and driving? I meant to report it but lost the paper on which I had written the particulars (date, bus , etc).Thank you.

Reply: Hello Washington. We instituted a "balanced transfer" with the use of a SmarTrip card in January. That means now when you take a bus and transfer to rail that you get a discount in addition to getting a discount when you transfer from rail to bus. So when you make your round trip, you actually save money. Bus operators are wearing the vests to improve their visibility when they are in the bus garages. It also helps keep them just a little warmer in these cold temps. Please report details of any future Blackberry use by a bus operator by calling 202-637-1328. Please include bus route, bus number, date and time of day.

_______________________

Arlington, VA: Will Metro eliminate bus service and leave local jurisdictions to opperate the bus component of this massive public transit system? Also, will you consider a fare hike in light of the budget situation. If I need to pay a dollar or two more to keep my rail service, so be it.

Reply: Hello Arlington. We are looking at every cost and every expenditure in hopes that there will be no fare increases and in hopes that we will not need to reduce service. Ultimataely these decisions rest with the Board.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Thank you to whomever returned the Brookland Station area bus routes of the H8 and the 80 buses. It is greatly appreciated by us bus riders.MAC

Reply: Hi MAC of Washington. You're welcome.

_______________________

Arlington, VA: Why hasn't Metro gotten rid of the carpets in it's railcars yet?Commuter railcars have vinly floor, which aren't slippery and easy to clean, so I'd like to see those in your railcars.

Reply: Hi Arlington. We need to use our existing inventory before we purchase alternate floor materials. Once that carpet in our inventory is used, we'll say a hearty bye-bye to carpet.

_______________________

Chevy Chase, MD: Mr. Catoe,Why does WMATA only announce upcoming trackwork projects for the next month on the last weekend of the preceding month? In New York, they have a page (http:travel.mtanyct.infonewtpserviceAdvisoriesserviceadvisoryall.aspx) where service advisories for trackwork are posted as soon as the dates are known. Why doesn't WMATA just dedicate a page on its website for that purpose, so people can easily find information about planned single tracking and other construction related projects on Metro?

Reply: Hello Chevy Chase. We think that a month's notice is a good amount of time to notify people. We also send out weekly reminders every Thursday before the weekend. Let me use this opportunity to remind folks that on February 13-16 we will undertake a major track project on the Blue and Yellow Lines that will close the Pentagon Metrorail station for three days. We will operate special service on the Blue, Yellow and Green lines and will provide free shuttle bus service between Pentagon City, Pentagon and L'Enfant Plaza stations to get riders around the closure. We will replace rail switches, fasteners and stud bolts at the station and will conduct some preventive maintenance on the Yellow Line bridege over the Potomac River from 10 p.m. Feb. 13 to midnight on Feb. 16.

_______________________

Franconia, VA: The amount of eating and drinking on the Metro has increased markedly in the last few years, along with trash and food stains in the cars. You need to place large signs in the cars and stations that state Eating and Drinking are Prohibited, and a violation carries a $100 fine. Most new riders dont know the rule since it is not well advertised. Metro station managers should also stop people from entering the system who are carrying cups of coffee, etc.

Reply: Hello Franconia. I agree. We recently posted large permanent signs at all of our station entrances that list the various prohibitions. The signs have the icons with a circle and slash through them. We posted the signs so that people would see the regulations before entering the system.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Will there ever be a monthly pass for residents?Thanks.

Reply: Hi Washington. I'm figuring you're talking about the rail system. Since our fares are distance-based, that's not likely.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Thanks for holding these chats! I live and work in DC and like the idea that I can use several forms of metro to get to pickup and drop off my children at daycare and my round trip to work. I am concerned that the bus schedules along the CT Ave corridor are not consistent and you can not rely on the schedule. Is there anything being done to ensure that all metro works to keep to its schedule?

Reply: Hello Washington. We do compete with other vehicles and traffic conditions on the streets. We are very interested in bus-only lanes in some corridors of the region that will help keep our buses moving lots of people through the streets as quickly as possible.

_______________________

Washington, DC: When are we getting rid of the smelly carpet? Have you decided on a new flooring? I know replacing them won't start paying off for another 5 years, but we could probably start saving in cleaning costs immediately.

Reply: Hi Washington. I'm with you on this. Please see my answer above.

_______________________

U sStreet, DC: I know the budget deficit is huge, but are you also looking at small savings and easy savings? I cringe every time I see all four escalators on at Rosslyn. Wouldn't two suffice offpeak? Or even turn all the short escalators off nonpeak (so long as there is a working elevator). It'd save a little in energy costs and also on wear and tear.

Reply: Hello U St. Our policy is to keep all escalators operating at all times (provided they are not being worked on) for the convenience of as many customers as possible.

_______________________

Arlington, VA: Mr. Catoe, will Metro consider eliminating its Metrobus service and put all of its focus on Metrorail? There are many other bus providers out there like ART, Fairfax Connector, and DASH that provide the same service as Metrobus.

Reply: Hello Arlington. We are not considering eliminating Metrobus service, absolutely not. The other bus providers complement our bus services. The current model works very well for this region.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Hello John..... First of all, I want to congratulate METRO (you and the ENTIRE staff) for having well managed the rail during INAUGURATION DAY (before and after). I think it was a great idea having it run under rush hour schedule (especially since it was constantly PACKED with thousands of people). However, I want to ask you a favor.... Please, do not stop running the metro by 10 pm during weekdays. I heard this on TV and its really frustrating and disturbing to hear that. Life is not just between 8am8 pm or so. I think this is even more important for people who LIVE within the District. I understand that we are in a recession and even though people are RIDING the metro more often and you had HUGE profits during the Inauguration Day, it still says that you are below budget (I really cant believe that). Anyway, If you really want to cut something, its best to cut a rail during that time (late at night) than to shut it down ENTIRELY! Please be considerate of the lifestyle and NEEDS of others. We are in a recession and paying for a CAB everytime you go out AT NIGHT is too expensive for me and many, many others! I hope you and everyone at the METRO thinks MORE about it before the decision is taken. Otherwise, we could make a HUGE, super HUGE protest to Congress! I can certainly help you on that! I know many who will agree with me.... Thanks for your hard work!

Reply: Hello Washington. Please reread the intro remarks to this chat. We have no plans or proposals to stop running Metrorail trains at 10 p.m.

_______________________

Washington, DC: I had the chance to ride the BART system when I vacationed in CA last year and liked the design of their railcars 2 sets of doors instead of 3 meaning more seats, wider car meaning more room for standing and they allow you to go throught double door between cars. Why can't Metro's cars be designed that way?

Reply: Hello Washington. Our cars can't be wider or they wouldn't fit in the tunnels. We have three sets of doors on each side due to our passenger loads. We need that extra set of doors to keep people moving in and out as quickly as possible so that we can keep our dwell times in the station short to allow trains to keep moving.

_______________________

s rider, DC: How's the nopapertransfers working out? I know you had a lot of bad press due to it but I think it was only time. Has everyone adjusted? (I ride the 50s in the AM and it is just fine)

Reply: Hello S rider. Things are going smoothly, yes, thank you. Our customers are smart and they know how to save money--get a SmarTrip card! That card makes transferring simple. The adjustment has been very quick.

_______________________

General Manager John Catoe: Thanks for logging on with me today. Have a safe weekend everyone!


© 2014 Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority       Privacy Policy and Legal Disclaimer

   BrowseAloud icon