DC at Night

DC at Night

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Metro As Vision; The Metro as Reality

For all projects there is the vision, then there is the reality. And often, despite the best intentions, the starkness of the reality turns out to be much darker than the shine of the dream. Such is the case with the subway portion of the DC-area Metro transit system, which since opening in 1976 has grown to include five lines, 86 stations, and 106.3 miles.

The DC Metro is the 2nd busiest in the United States, ranking second only to the New York City subway. However DC numbers don't even allow it to be ranked in the 30 busiest subways in the world. Indeed, with its 1.6 billion annual riders New York is only 6th in the world, topped by Bejing, Shanghai, Seoul, and Moscow (each with more than 2 billion riders) and #1 Tokyo, with its 3.16 billion riders each year.

But that doesn't mean that often-disgruntled riders don't think that their local Metro is beset with world-class problems, Riders frequently complain, often with much justification, of what they call substandard service. Last month, local TV station WUSA Channel 9 examined the 10 biggest complaints of area riders. They are:
  1. No accountability
  2. Unreliable service
  3. Weekend track work
  4. Weekend Wait Times
  5. Faulty Escalators
  6. Malfunctioning doors
  7. Doors Open for too short a time to get on/off
  8. Too frequently out of service
  9. Fare to service ratio
  10. Redskins (yes, they creep into everything) 
As you might expect, in this age of social media, there are numerous Twitter sites where you can lodge your complaints about the Metro. There are even blogs like Fix WMTA or  Unsuck DC Metro, for that purpose.

But when the Metro 1st opened its doors in the year of America's 200th birthday, the hopes for the then new, fresh, clean, not-yet-used system were rosy. And local riders were reminded of that fact this week when The DCist urged its readers to watch the video Metro: Here and Now, a promotional video from the 1970's. In addition to embedding the video, The DCist had this to say:

The 13-minute film explains the history of Metro, how it operates and its benefits while very groovy music plays. Images of afro- and sideburn-sporting Washingtonians enjoying Metro trains and stations that look exactly the same today accompany the very positive narration.
"Everything about Metro has been designed with people in mind," the narrator says. "Its convenience, comfort, safety and beauty all were tailored for people." (Contain your laughter, please.)
The original film is housed at the Smithsonian Institution archives in a box of National Museum of American History Office of Public Affairs records, which includes "press releases, memoranda, tapes documenting Museum activities, newspaper clippings concerning the museum, correspondence, exhibition catalogs, exhibition scripts, invitations, guest lists and photographs."
You can take a trip back in time by clicking here to watch the video. And happy traveling.
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
We have lived in Crystal City (served by both the Yellow and the Blue lines) for 2 years. There is no question that the Metro operations, especially on weekends when track work forces the trains to run less frequently, can be frustrating. But we still use the service almost daily. In fact, I have only driven our car 3 times in calendar year 2013 in the DC area. Of course, coming from rural South Jersey where mass transit consists of 2 horses, one cow, and a large wagon, we may not be the best judge of an urban system.

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