Metro has made a lot of its problems worse by keeping the public in the dark. New general manager Paul Wiedefeld seems ready to open up, which could lead to political good will, fresh ideas, or even more funding. New York’s subway made this video explaining what’s wrong with its own infrastructure, and Metro might want to steal the idea.



The video is from back in June, but I just came across it in this article about how antiquated parts of New York City’s subway system is: There’s essentially no central control system, and MTA literally doesn’t have the information it needs to tell customers where some trains are in the system and when they’ll next arrive at a station.

MTA is working on technology upgrades, but for the foreseeable future the majority of trains in New York will keep doing things the old fashioned way.

Are the issues this video is explaining this troubling? Puzzling? Do they lead to delays that are frustrating, and leave people unhappy with MTA? Probably; Definitely; I can’t see how they don’t.

But it’s also clear how transparency is a step in the right direction. When you tell people what’s going on, they can see whether you’re truly doing the best you can with what you have. In MTA’s case, the hope is that coming out and saying what’s structurally wrong with the system will mean more support for getting it fixed.

Their point is not to flagellate themselves. It’s to drum up capital support for a systemwide upgrade and in particular for a program called CBTC. The MTA, too, thinks it’s ridiculous that all a tower operator knows when they look at their board is that some hunk of steel—which one, they can’t be sure—is sitting on some section of track. You want fewer delays? You want realtime countdown clocks?

CBTC is the answer.


If WMATA were to make a video like this, what do you think they should make it about?