Photo by Make Lemons on Flickr.

Metro suffered a complete system failure last night around 11:30 pm. The failures were so extensive that all communications, including track circuits, were out of service.

Customers on Twitter were reporting that rail operators had to leave and walk to the next station to get permission to move. WMATA’s website was down, no communication came over any of the alert systems.

Former DCRA tweeter Mike Rupert wrote in the Local Gov blog that he thinks the complete lack of communication killed months of goodwill.

This wasn’t Metro’s only problem yesterday. In the morning, a cracked rail forced single-tracking between Van Ness and Friendship Heights, and then one train single-tracking stopped for 15 minutes due to door problems, forcing long delays for all riders trying to traverse the area.

With Metro’s 30-plus year old system and a long backlog of deferred maintenance needs, some problems are going to crop up, but many riders and the Riders’ Advisory Council have repeatedly faulted inadequate communication during crises.

Meanwhile, while Metro has launched a detailed campaign to explain its need for maintenance work, it has been tight-lipped about more specifics, such as timelines and costs for various aspects. Riders frustrated by multiple overlapping outages of lines, escalators and more may well tire of just hearing entreaties to be patient for a period of years, with little more to reassure them that the delays are leading to actual change.

Were you stuck in either of yesterday’s problems? Looking constructively, what level and type of communication do you think Metro needs to achieve?

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.