No, he doesn’t need bus fare to Quantico.


OCS Graduates at Quantico.

I’m proud to be a member of a Military family, so this post over at Prince of Petworth immediately got my attention– one of his intrepid readers managed to photograph an alleged scam-artist on the Metro:

He asked for $60 for a bus ticket back to Quantico…This was on the Red Line…the elements of the story were that he was away from base, he had been mugged or pickpocketed (could not hear which), and he needed $60 to get back. He got off the train at Judiciary Square saying something about needing to catch the train back the other direction, but I think he may have seen me take the picture. Immediately after the scammer got off the train, there was another man who was wearing his uniform who realized what just happened and told the woman that she shouldn’t have given him the money, because if he was actually in the military the scammer would have gone to the fellow military guy first thing.”

I spoke to two Veterans, one from the Air Force and one from the Army about this situation, to find out what would actually happen to someone in the Military if they were stranded. Bottom line? They wouldn’t be panhandling for bus fare, ever, so beware:

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“Be on the lookout”, on Metro

marrngtn (Manuel)

So, last week Metro Transit Police heard from a Metro-rider that two men were engaged in shady behavior at L’Enfant Plaza and on the Orange Line (via WTOP):

The rider told Metro he saw two men acting suspiciously and videotaping platforms, trains and riders.

“The men, according to the citizen report, were trying to be inconspicuous, holding the cameras at their sides,” Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel says.

The rider was able to photograph the men who were videotaping and sent the photo to Metro Transit Police.

Metro Transit Police issued an internal memo to officers telling them to “be on the lookout for” the men, a standard tactic used by police departments to share information with their officers.

However, that internal memo was leaked. Metro says the memo was meant for an internal audience only and was not intended to be a public notice.

Some photographers are alarmed at how this memo could be misinterpreted, and as a brown female who always has her camera with her (it’s part of my job!), I understand why. At the same time, I worry about how vulnerable Metro is to a terrorist attack. How vigilant is too vigilant? And how much liberty should we lose to be safe?

Metro’s “Grab-bag of Good Ideas”


Metro Center

After the escalators at L’Enfant Plaza malfunctioned ten days ago, injuring several people, I worried about how safe they were. The Greater Greater Washington blog has obtained a copy of the report that WMATA commissioned on elevator and escalator maintenance. Their verdict? It’s not good:

Quite simply, the escalator report is not well done. It doesn’t specify the specific goal of the audit, and ends up being a grab-bag of several findings, many positive and many negative…If the brake issues were a real concern to the consultant, the report certainly doesn’t reflect that. They are buried between recommendations for better housekeeping and for better training in the Maintenance Management System.

This gets to the heart of the real problems facing Metro. As we have repeated on several occasions, Metro’s fundamental flaw in both maintenance and safety is its inability to proactively prioritize action items based on how much an issue contributes to downtime or risk of injury.

Instead, Metro creates grab-bags of good ideas, pursues them in no particular order, and then when a major incident occurs reactively spends mountains of money addressing the immediate causes of that incident. Metro is doing the same here, by now testing the brakes on every escalator in the system.

Not everyone can afford to keep a car or live somewhere where they can walk to everything they need; people depend on Metro. It’s disheartening that WMATA is unable to prioritize access to safe transportation over housekeeping. I love a clean station, too. But when I spent the better part of a year with my mobility impaired, limping in a brace, a sparkly floor meant nothing to me if I had to pass a broken elevator and then stumble down a broken escalator to enjoy it.

Must. Resist. Car.

Mike Licht,

But it would be so hard to resist a six-speed manual...oh, the earth is sad? Well, all right.

Dr. Gridlock on “Car Free Day”:

So to me, Wednesday’s Car Free Day is about raising consciousness concerning choice, not about pushing people out of their cars. So I hope people who usually drive will consider options that could save them money and stress. You don’t have to take a sudden and lasting plunge into a completely different commuting style. But do think through the alternatives of transit, biking, walking or telecommuting — even once in a while. As Nicholas Ramfos of the Commuter Connections program says, “Just try it.”

I am so grateful I get to work from home. I’m more productive in my quiet apartment than I am in our bright, electrifying newsroom. I can run down the street when Go-go legends are hanging out at Ben’s. I can read without being disturbed and make phone calls without disturbing others.

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How many hyphens and slashes are enough?

Mr. T in DC

The Green Line likes long names.

DCist discusses local groups (like ANCs and BIDs) who would like to add even MORE words to our already cluttered, hyphenated Metro stops:

This isn’t a new debate. Metro station names have gotten somewhat out of hand over the last 15 years, especially on the Green Line. (Excuse me while I hop on at U Street / Cardozo / African-American Civil War Memorial, roll through Mount Vernon Square-7th Street / Convention Center, and then exit at Archives / Navy Memorial / Penn Quarter.) It’s station name creep, plain and simple, and especially galling when you think about how, at the genesis of the Metrorail system, station names had a limit of 15 characters.

Poor Information, Poor Planning, Poor WMATA

Ah, the continuing saga of SmarTrip and WMATA. Will they discount the $5 cards and make them more affordable to strapped commuters who are already smarting from a fare increase? Will they allow riders to exit the station with a negative balance? Will scofflaws abuse the system? Who cares, the situation is even worse than we thought. An “embarrassment”, even! Via WTOP:

Metro says it has no idea when — or even if — it will be able to put a SmarTrip discount in place.

During a tense board meeting Thursday, Metro Board members talked about the issue, but could not find a solution.

“This is an embarrassment,” said Board Member Jim Graham, who represents D.C. “I think we should move off this agenda item. With every passing minute, this looks worse.”

I’m concerned about Metro Board considering changes when they are on the receiving end of “bad information”: Continue reading

Take Metro? Step Away from the Door, Hide your iPhone.


Well, that's one way to keep your iPod safe.

WTOP reports that Metro Transit Police are concerned about the rise in robberies of phones and mp3 players:

From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2010, there were 540 robberies on trains and buses, according to Metro statistics. (See Slide 14) That’s about 160 more compared to the same point last year, and almost double compared to 2008.

Many robberies involve smartphones or iPods that are simply snatched right off riders.

Much like real estate, location is everything: Continue reading

Maybe SmarTrip Won’t be Discounted, After All


This SmarTrip card is in the red...thanks to a sharpie.

Last week, I posted about having your say regarding Metro’s proposal to no longer allow negative balances on SmarTrip cards. The whole reason Metro considered changing the current system, which allows riders to exit even if they don’t have enough money on their card to cover metro fare was because of a proposal to lower the cost of a SmarTrip card from $5 to $2.50, in order to make the plastic fare card more accessible and affordable. Laudable goal, right?

Well, yes, but officials at Metro then theorized that people could abuse the system by purchasing a card and taking a ride which cost more than $2.50. That’s why they considered eliminating negative balances. What they didn’t consider was how complicated this would all become. For example, there were no plans to change the Exit Fare machines to accept credit cards– they are cash only. That was one of the reasons why negative balances were allowed in the first place; the machines for adding value to SmarTrip cards are beyond the fare gates. Continue reading

Speak up for SmarTrip negativity on GGW!

Mr. T in DC

Mr. T in DC's SmarTrip Card

Greater Greater Washington‘s founder, David Alpert, (who, incidentally, is the subject of a cover story on “Smart Growth” for the latest edition of the City Paper) is calling on readers to go over six possible alternatives to WMATA’s plan to no longer allow SmarTrip cards to have a negative balance.

WMATA raised the hackles of many riders when it announced SmarTrips would no longer go negative. Responding to the outcry, CFO Carol Kissal and her team developed six alternatives for handing the issue, which they presented to the Riders’ Advisory Council last night.

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Circulator’s New Route? East of the Anacostia River.

It’s happening, next year:

DDOT is currently conducting a comprehensive study to guide the expansion of the Circulator system over the next five to ten years. That includes an ongoing collaboration with neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River to determine the best route for a new line in this location. This planning effort will be completed this fall.

DDOT anticipates the route with service east of the Anacostia River to garner much demand and has already directed First Transit, which operates the DC Circulator, to purchase buses for the new line in preparation for starting service next year.