al-Qaeda on the Red Line


Lots of bags to search here.

DCist talked to the new CEO and General Manager of Metro, Richard Sarles. While escalators and rude personnel were discussed, the part that stood out to me had to do with terrorism:

A large amount of the discussion revolved around bag searches, and Sarles’ affinity for the program…

It’s obvious that Sarles has a great amount of passion for the program, which many have criticized as little but security theater. Sarles was quick to defend with rhetoric. “We are the symbol here of a great country,” he added. “We call ourselves America’s subway. We are something that people would like to attack. Can you thwart every attack? Absolutely not….[But] all these things try to thwart or discourage terrorists from attacking here. This is a highly visible target, and to think it’s not, is to put your head in the sand.”

He continued: “Terrorists have a specific plan how they’re going to do it, and if you make it unpredictable, maybe there’s something else they can plan,” said Sarles, diving deeper. “The unfortunate thing is someone sets a bomb off on a subway train, it’s not the same as someone getting punched in the face, an assault. A terrorist could walk up here today and kill somebody, but that’s not making a statement — they bombed the World Trade Center because it was a symbol of capitalism, and we’re a symbol of freedom.”

I don’t know if Metro is a target because it’s a symbol of freedom, but it may be a target because attacking it would be hugely disruptive to this area. I guess those popular bag searches are here to stay.

“Black people don’t like the cold.”

Flickr: DDOTDC

A Capital Bikeshare bike.

Now reading: “Biking While Black?“, Rend Smith’s take on a controversial Greater Greater Washington post, which theorized that one of the reasons why Capital Bikeshare wasn’t popular east of the Anacostia was because…”black people don’t like the cold.”

The African-American blogger who wrote the GGW piece, Veronica Davis, provided a list of seven reasons why the bike-sharing program wasn’t catching on, but most readers zeroed in on part of her final point: “Seasonal usage”.

“I was basically called racist,” Davis says…

The last reason on her list, “seasonal usage,” prompted Davis to write a sentence that eventually earned a strikethrough from GGW editors: “In general, African-Americans, which make up the large majority of the residents east of the river, are averse to colder temperatures.”

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Spare the Rod, Spoil that Kid from Your Block


The kid who was very interested in Metro's future train configurations.

Yesterday, before my 88-minute Metro ride turned in to both a near-brawl at Dupont and an almost-riot at Metro Center, I witnessed something so surprising, I had to share it. I’ve worked in customer service and retail, in soul-crushing jobs which require interacting with the general public, so I’m well aware of how people are far more likely to complain about a problem than to compliment great work; because of this, I try and do the latter as often as possible. I remember how wonderful it felt to hear kind words. I can’t be the only one who appreciates being appreciated.

Once we left Tenleytown, I found a seat near the doors and sat down with a great sense of relief. I had three bags with me and the two times I attempted to hail a cab, all I had accomplished was getting pelted, first with hail, then with snow. It was 4:30, and while I knew that the storm was worsening and trains would be crowded, I hoped the ride wouldn’t be too crazy. Two minutes after making that naive wish, a boisterous, incorrigible group of boys rushed inside the train.

They were loud, brash and within moments, they had sucked all the air out of the car. I noticed adults of all hues and classes eying them warily as they barreled past, taking the first free seats they found. The moment they sat down, they unpacked several bags from McDonald’s and proceeded to vacuum fries and McNuggets in that powerful, awe-inspiring way that only teen-aged boys are capable of. As the train lurched, so did their food and dipping sauces. That was bad enough, but the eye roll-inducing conversation they were shouting was worse. It was so loud, it even eclipsed the voices of the two inconsiderate pigs who were shouting “What? I can’t hear you! I’m on a train!” in to their cell phones.
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There is no Georgetown conspiracy to keep out POCs.


M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Georgetown.

Before moving to Columbia Heights, I lived in Georgetown, a neighborhood I have always loved without any embarrassment or hesitation. I can’t count how many times I was either teased or questioned about being a POC (Person of color) living in the one part of the city where “they don’t want minorities”; then I’d hear a familiar tale about “the only reason Georgetown isn’t on the Metro is to keep it white.” I’d sigh and explain that while that theory was popular, it was a myth; there were logistical issues behind the lack of trains in popped-collar-land. Besides, when I lived there, there were plenty of teenagers roaming M Street or Wisconsin Avenue– and they were minorities. So it’s not like the lack of a metro stop was a particularly effective strategy for keeping the chocolate away from the vanilla.

I see that the Georgetown Metropolitan is sick of that unnecessarily divisive and inaccurate explanation as well, since he tackled it admirably in his post, “All You Need to Know About the Georgetown Metro Stop“.

Why There is No Georgetown Metro

If you take anything away from this article, please let it be this: the reason there is no Metro station in Georgetown has absolutely nothing to do with neighborhood opposition. Nothing. No “rich Georgetowners wanted to keep out minorities”-conspiracy. No matter how much it fits with the popular stereotype, it’s just not true.

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“Let’s find a way to humiliate a white person.”

Flickr: Foxymoron

"I Heart Gentrification" street art from this summer, found on U Street.

Michel Martin’s Can I Just Tell You? column about the recent, shocking violence at L’Enfant Plaza inspired a Washingtonian named Jane Lincoln to leave this comment on NPR’s website:

Thank you for your thought-provoking essay. I’m a DC native, white, and i’m used to subtle messages of hostility from black folks. I totally get it. The young man clearly is not from here. He would not have been enraged by their attack. or puzzled. If he was a native, he’d know, ah, this is one of those pay back times. I have white privilege, and no matter how pro-black i may be, i have what they don’t and they’re mad. Yeah, they were kids, and being bad, and the new twist is videotaping. But its an old game. Let’s find a way to humiliate a white person. Ah! That felt good. Now, what do we do? I’m bored again.

If i were present, i would have run to the station attendant and asked her/him to call police. I would also look as closely as i could at the kids to see if i knew them, or at least to identify them if ever they’re caught. i’d leave my contact info with the metro police. i’d stick around to see if i could be helpful to the young man. i know i would have done this. i’ve done it before.

I love this town. I work on my racism. I live in Edgewood NE DC and have lived in ward 5 for 23 years. The tensions between new and old, black and white, haves and have nots, will continue.

A Public Shaming for a Foiled Purse-snatcher

Flickr: zach kowalczyk

Metro riders waiting for their train. Wholly unrelated to this story, but it's a neat picture.

In case you haven’t already heard this story, I want to put it on your radar. Yesterday, TBD writer Dave Jamieson witnessed something extraordinary at the Foggy Bottom metro station; a kid grabbed a woman’s purse, a concerned citizen ran after the boy and caught him, and then, a metro employee yelled at the immobilized culprit!

Once we made it out on the platform, a dozen or so passengers had formed a circle near the base of the escalator steps. (This is where the video above begins.) At the center of the circle was the boy who’d grabbed the purse, wrapped up by a good samaritan who’d run him down. The man, who was middle-aged and broad-shouldered, clearly wasn’t trying to hurt the kid, as the video makes clear. He just wanted to hold him until the authorities showed up…Meanwhile, the boy, who looked to be about 15, pleaded to be let go. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m sorry. I apologize,” he said. The victim stood nearby with the purse that had been grabbed, looking mortified. “I said I’m sorry,” the kid went on.

…another Metro employee arrived on the scene. He ordered the boy to sit on the ground and wait until transit police arrived. Then, as the video shows around the 1:25 mark, he gave the kid a public scolding.

“There ain’t no apologizing, son,” he said. “It’s too late to apologize. You can apologize to transit [police] when they get here.” He shamed the kid for robbing a woman. “You’ve got a mother at home. You don’t take money from a lady,” he went on. “You’re gonna learn something tonight.”

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I like that they are going to be red.

Flickr: Streets of Washington

A Circulator bus near NPR headquarters.

Now reading about the future of D.C. transit, via “The Case for Streetcars“:

Almost 50 years ago, streetcars in Washington, D.C. stopped running and most of their tracks were removed. Now they’re back and ready for a revival, with parts of the first two lines slated to open next spring. In this post, we talk to Dan Tangherlini, the former DDOT director under Mayor Anthony Williams, who committed to building one of the first two lines, about why streetcars matter for the nation’s capital.


The streetcars were conceived in 1997, when Mayor Marion Barry’s Department of Public Works published “A Transportation Vision, Strategy, and Action Plan for the Nation’s Capital.” The plan called for circulator buses and streetcars to connect existing Metrobus and Metrorail lines and activity centers close to the city’s core. Planners think these additional connections are important since current rail lines connect neighborhoods to the city center but not necessarily to each other; this sometimes makes travel between neighborhoods and activity centers on different transit lines difficult, despite the 106 miles of Metrorail track and 319 Metrobus routes that exist today. Plus, as one presentation of the city’s transportation department puts it, overcrowding on Metrorail will be “unmanageable by 2013” and several Metrobus lines are already over capacity.

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“Go and do likewise.”

I saw this video on YouTube yesterday, but didn’t want to link to it because of the profanity and a few other reasons…I’m grateful TBD has more information that I can point you to, instead. This whole story just makes me want to shake my head. No one helped. Everyone filmed. This city’s social fabric is fraying everywhere and in some spots, it is worn through:

On Sunday night, Allen Haywood was randomly and viciously attacked by two kids on the platform of the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. Dozens of people witnessed it. Several people filmed it. Nobody helped.

Haywood was trying to transfer to the Yellow Line around 7:15 p.m. when the assault happened. He was headed home to Fort Totten after working out at Results on Capitol Hill, a gym bag slung over his shoulder and a book in his hands. As he read with his back to the station wall, “all of a sudden someone whacked me on the back of the head really hard,” he recalls…

Haywood looked to strangers for help, but all he saw were other kids with their cell phones out, recording the scene and laughing. Judging from his voice-over, the man shooting the YouTube video above doesn’t appear to be part of the group. The video showed up yesterday on Unsuck D.C. Metro, which posted an anonymous account of the attack Tuesday.

“I can understand people not wanting to get physically involved,” says Haywood, who’s 47 and works in a Friendship Heights flower shop. “But nobody pressed the emergency button or went to the booth,” as far as he knows.

One of those kids offered to sell him the video of his own beating. I used to think the scariest thing about Metro was the broken escalators (the extra long ones make me queasy); now I think it’s the terrifying lack of a response to crime, whether from the people paid to work there or the commuters who look the other way.

Metro’s Resolution for 2011: Working Escalators?


These "Precision Escalator Products" were sitting next to the elevator at the Tenleytown/AU station, yesterday.

Finally– some good news, especially for those with mobility issues, who are extra-inconvenienced when a Metro escalator is broken (via WAMU):

Metro is focusing extra attention on its problematic escalators, a frequent source of complaint from riders. The transit agency is starting the new year with a newly appointed general superintendent for elevator and escalator programs.

Veteran engineer Rodrigo Bitar has been assigned to the position. His task: to oversee the repairs and upkeep of hundreds of escalators and elevators that Metro has failed to maintain.

In October, six passengers at the L’Enfant Plaza station were injured when the brakes on a Metro escalator malfunctioned. After the incident, a system wide inspection found additional problems with various Metro escalators.

Bitar will be charged with shepherding repair work laid out in an agency assessment made public earlier this year.

Rodrigo Bitar has previous experience with Metro; in the past, he was the “Director of Quality Assurance and Warranty”. If there’s anything that I encounter on a daily basis in this city that needs some QA– it’s Metro. Go Rodrigo!

An Age Divide? Or a Racial one?

Current District Department of Transportation chief Gabe Klein (whose name is trending right now on Twitter, locally) has announced that he will leave his post on January 1, rather than stay on under a Gray administration (which he characterized as “not a good fit” for him). Aaron Morrissey, Editor-in-Chief of, just tweeted this about Klein:

Klein discussing age divide, as opposed to racial divide, as reason for many of DC debates over new transpo projects.
Aaron Morrissey

I’ve never thought of it that way, but it makes a little bit of sense. Some of my older relatives don’t understand why anyone would want to ride a bike on the crazy streets of D.C. when they could be driving or on the Metro. Having typed that, I would be very wary of downplaying the “racial divide” that exists here; when certain residents of this city see the passion exerted over bike lanes, they wonder where that same energy is, when it comes to the social problems that vex some of our neighbors.