General Manager John Catoe

Transcript: May 1, 2009

General Manager John Catoe photo

Metro General Manager John Catoe will respond directly to questions about Metro-related issues during an online chat this Friday, May 1, when he hosts "Metro LunchTalk Online" — a live hour-long chat from noon to 1 p.m. Catoe welcomes questions about Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroAccess during his chats. 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:

You may have heard that yesterday Metro’s Board decided to tap a reserve fund and move forward with fewer bus cuts than proposed at public hearings to balance the 2010 operating budget.

Board members decided to use more than $13 million from a reserve fund, pay higher subsidies and cut about $3 million in bus service in Montgomery County, Md. and Alexandria, Va., to close the remaining $29 million gap. Arlington County’s ART bus service also will take over operating two routes the 22B and 24P.

Here is a summary of the changes:
Metro riders who board the J7, J9 I-270 Express buses in Montgomery County and the W19 Indian Head Express in Prince George’s County would pay the $3.10 cash express fare or $3 with a SmarTrip card. Riders have been paying only the regular $1.25 SmarTrip card fare or $1.35 cash fare for express service.
The L7 (Connecticut Ave to Maryland line) route would be eliminated but extra buses would be added to the L8 route.
The C7, C9 (Greenbelt to Glenmont) and some off-peak service on the Z2 (Colesville to Ashton) routes also would be eliminated.
Finally, the 21 A, B, C, D and F (Landmark-Pentagon) routes would be consolidated into a single route.

We made a great deal of progress this year since the original projected shortfall of $154 million. The first thing we did was make $81 million in internal cuts, including eliminating 313 positions. We also looked hard at our revenue and cost estimates, ultimately reducing the gap by more than 80% before ever considering service cuts. We have the direction from the Board that we need to complete the budget and submit it for final approval by the Board in June.

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Washignton, DC: Mr. Catoe, thanks for taking questions. I run a small disadvantaged business (DBE) in DC and recently registered with WMATA. I heard WMATA wants to increase its DBE involvement so I went to the DBE contacts page on the website and emailed and left messages for several people. However, I can't get anyone to return my calls. I'd like to schedule a meeting. What should I do next? I'm ready to give up.

Reply: I'm sorry for any difficulty you've had contacting us. Please call Mr. Aaron Leathers, DBE specialist, directly at 202-962-6057.

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Washington, DC: Several women and men have reported to us, at Holla Back DC!, that they have been harassed by bus drivers and WMATA employees in Metro Stations. We know Metro officials condone catcalling, honking horns to get attention of passerbys, or asking patrons for their numbers when they are seeking assistance. However, it continues to happen. What do you suggest a WMATA patron should do when this type of harassment happens?Holla Back DC!http:hollabackdc.wordpress.com

Reply: Anyone being harassed in any way by a Metro employee should take the name of the employee, record the date, time and location of the incident and report it our customer service department, at 202-637-1328 or online at www.metroopensdoors.com When an incident is reported, a case file is created and the information is sent to the head of the Division for the employee in question. We will conduct a thorough investigation and take appropriate action. Harassment is not acceptable, please do not tolerate it, take action and report it, so that we can take action as well.

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Washington, DC: As a commuter from Adams Morgan to Silver Spring, I'm happy to have the new S9 bus. I used to live in Petworth and was wondering what the difference between 'Metro Rapid' and 'Metro Express' was- is it just that one services GA Ave and the other 16th St? If so, would it make sense to have all the limited stop services (such as the 30s) use a common name to designate limited stop service, rather than have separate names (and different buses)? BTW- the S9 could use a stop at Walter Reed- I've seen quite a few confused service members try to get off there!

Reply: The underlying concept is the same, and I eventually the Georgia Avenue 79 buses will be repainted under the Metrobus Express brand. As more new buses are delivered this year, Routes 37 and 39, which were implemented last June, will also be converted to the Metrobus Express brand. Stops for the S9 were selected to include major transfer points and other stops with high usage. Local S2 and S4 service does not have high boardings at the 16th Street gate to Walter Reed. Most of the ridership to Walter Reed occurs on the Georgia Avenue side. Because this is where the main entrance is located, transit riders have direct service from either Silver Spring Station on the Route 79 (express service), and Routes 70/71, or via the K1 or the 50 series from Takoma Station. During peak period K1 service circulates through the Walter Reed complex providing direct service to individual buildings on the campus. The planned six-month review of the S9 will include consideration of changes to stops.

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Centreville, VA: Sir - I ride the 12F to Vienna each morning from Centreville. Fairfax County will be taking over this router in June. By the end of March, all of the regular bus drives left for other assignments. Since then, service had done down the tubes. We get different drives, none of whom know the routes. The directins they get are awful. I have had to give directions to several drivers. I actually had the 12L come by my stop (I am on the 12F) because he made the wrong turn. There have been more than one instance of a bus not showing up, which means I stand for over 30 minutes. Or the bus showing up late. Once morning the 12S showed up at the wrong park and ride, and the driver asked if anyone know where he was supposed to start his run. Even though Metro stops this service in June, you all still need to keep the existing service better than it is.Also, in the afternoon return trip on the 12F E, the drives stop and stand one or two places before the pick up point and wait until a couple minutes before the time to leave, forcing people to stand in line. Why annoying in the heat, this is just plain mean in the rain. Once the bus is at Vienna, why won't they pull up to the stop and let people board, even if its 10 minutes early?Thanks.

Reply: We apologize for any inconvenience. Metro’s team at West Ox Bus Division in Fairfax County is aware that there have been problems with the 12 Line. Their training instructor has been addressing the problem with additional training on all lines for any operator that feels they are in need. A few operators were found to be having some difficulty in the first weeks and have been undergoing re-training.

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Suitland, MD: Mr Catoe, someone from my office was attacked on the Green Line in the middle of the day recently. The men who accosted him boarded the train in Anacostia, broke his cheek bone, and then ran off the train before the doors closed. Generally I feel safe riding Metro, but this is one of three incidents in the past week I have heard about or experienced directly - which worries me. Would it be too much to ask for a transit policeman to patrol the platform at stations where trouble may be more common?

Reply: Metro’s Crime Analysis Division could not find a record of this occurring. We would encourage the victim, if he has not already done so, to report the crime to the police. The Metro Transit Police Department uses many strategies to prevent crime and enforce the law, and the department works closely with law enforcement departments of each jurisdiction. We have an officer continuously detailed to the Anacostia Metro Station. Additionally, the Department uses both uniformed and plain-clothed officers to patrol the stations and buses, and many stations have cameras that have helped us solve crimes. If you see a crime or are a victim of a crime on Metro, report it immediately to our communications division at 202.962.2121.

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Washington, DC: Please explain what actions WMATA is taking to ensure bus service in Washington DC is reliable. I often take the V5 bus route in the morning and am surprised at how many times this Express Serice bus arrives at its starting destination late. Perhaps the arrival time is directly correlated with the absence of a permanent bus operator?

Reply: We regret any inconvenience you have had as a result of the late arrival of the Metro V5 bus route through Southeast Washington DC. We are currently implementing Automatic Vehicle Locator systems (a device that uses a Global Positioning System {GPS} to enable Metro to remotely track the location of its vehicle fleet by using the Internet), to get better information about travel time and the causes of delays along particular routes. In addition, the Bus Department is reorganizing the responsibilities of bus supervisors so that a dedicated supervisor will be assigned to this and other routes with similar situations. These bus supervisors will be emphasizing on-time performance, though, safety always comes first. For all of this, sometimes there are conditions beyond our control. Construction and normal traffic congestion affect us just as they affect other travellers. I want to stress that we are constantly looking for ways to improve our bus performance.

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Question: why did they penalize the reserved parkers at Greenbelt by making their spaces farther away than non payers?

Reply: I can’t say I agree with the idea that there’s some sort of penalty being paid. However, due to a reduction in sales of Reserved Parking Permits at Greenbelt, Metro removed some Reserved Parking Signs from Row 3A and Row 5A. Row 4A remains signed for Reserved Parking. Rows 4A is at the immediate front of the surface lot near the sidewalk leading to the station as are Rows 3A and 5A.

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Silver Spring, MD: Mr Catoe, I hope this is the LAST time Metro cuts bus service. It makes no sense what so ever. You dont turn over bus routes to the local governments.

Reply: For some situations, it makes very good sense to turn routes over to the local jurisdictions. Metro is a regional transit service. In the text book scanario, we would handle putting buses on the major regional transportation corridors, and the local jurisdictions would put buses on feeder routes to those corridors. If they service those routes we have more resources to devote to the major regional corridors.

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Riverdale, MD: John: The bus stop sign at Good Luck Rd and Oakland Ave in Riverdale was knocked down by a car weeks ago. Your bus drivers have said that they've reported the sign to the maintenance department, but the sign is still laying by the side of the road. Can you look into having the bus stop sign re-erected? Thanks, Jay

Reply: Thanks for the heads up, I'll certainly look into that.

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Arlington, VA: Mr. Catoe,Has there ever been consideration to a system-wide review of the Metrobus network - simplifying the route structure, for example. I got this idea after reading about the 21s turning into a single route and the recent reconfiguration of the 25s in Arlington and Alexandria. Look at a 21 timetable and try to figure out the map and where each "branch" runs.

Reply: In fact a review like that has been done in the last few years, and these changes are the implementation of the recommendations of that review. In the future you'll see more of this, straight lining of routes, express routes, last year we got Board approval to pursue our priority corridor network plan for buses which will improve bus service for half our Metrobus riders in as little as six years if all goes according to plan.

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Springfield, VA: Some of the red blinking lights at Capitol South don't work and only every other light blinks. Please fix.

Reply: I think there must be a short in the wiring, I'll alert our maintenance teams and have them look into it.

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Reston, VA: First of all, thanks for fighting to keep fares low. My question is this: as fares inevitably increase, how are the new costs analyzed? I'm right at the cusp where driving and taking the Metro are about the same, and any increase would push me toward driving.Also, any word on Silver Line fares?

Reply: It is a bit early to project the fares on the Silver line, but I understand your concerns. Our costs are driven by inflation just like any enterprise. We won't have a fare increase this Fiscal Year, but it is likely that we will need one for Fiscal Year 2011. I would imagine though that by the time that happens the cost of driving will go up as well. Aside from costs there are other benefits to transit, not the least of which are the environment, and the reduced stress of the commute. Ultimately, I hope you will continue to use Metro. You can compare costs between driving and Metro on our web site by using our Commuting Cost Calculator.

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Washington, DC: The Circulators Bus is GREAT!! But...why are they having so much trouble with their Air Conditioning? The last THREE I rode on (in one day) all were HOT HOT HOT inside.

Reply: Often people think that we run the Circulator, but in fact we only administer the contract that the DC Department of Transportation has with their provider. Let me give you the number to the Circulator's customer service office (202) 962-1423

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FT Washington , MD: What was decided about the P17 and the P19 Express Bus Routes? The iniitial proposal was to have all of the riders to go to SOuthern Avenue Station. Currently,the Green Line is overcrowded during rush hours the teen-agers are rowdy and the trains are constantly delayed and there does not seem to be enough security to control these situations. Is our safety being considered during this budget process? We are willing to pay extra to keep the buses running downtown and avoid these type of situations. We really would appreciate your response.

Reply: Yesterday the Board decided that that service will stay the same. They were able to use a reserve fund that we had to avoid most of the proposed bus cuts.

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General Manager John Catoe:

There is a great deal of news coverage on the Swine Flu, and many of you may be wondering whether or not you should ride on transit. Of course, we all have commitments both personal and professional that require us to move around. Most of the time, I choose Metro to do that, and I will continue to do so.
When making your decision as to how to travel, consider two things. First, that Metro has put a flu response plan in place. Every flu season we disinfect our trains and buses with a hospital grade disinfectant, and we will continue that during this flu episode. We will also do the same for our MetroAccess vehicles. In stations, we disinfect the touch surfaces (fare machines, fare gates, etc.) regularly, and we’ve activated a Metro task force to deal with flu-related issues. We’ve begun an internal information campaign for our employees so that they know how to reduce their risk and we’ve also begun an information campaign in our system to highlight those same risk reducers for customers.
Second, when deciding, remember that the best defense is to wash your hands regularly, stay home if you’re sick, and cover your mouth with your sleeve if you cough or sneeze.

 
Thanks for joining me. I am looking forward to more questions next month.


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