This morning, like every morning, I headed off to Union Station to catch the Red Line to my job in the suburbs. But this wasn't my typical 75-minute commute. A smoking incident near Gallery Place this morning meant rush hour single-tracking, and egregious delays on Metro's busiest line.
I live-tweeted the experience. I knew before I left my apartment about the delays thanks to a text from a friend, though WMATA had yet to tweet about it.
My commute usually takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, which includes a 15 minute walk to Metro, 45 minutes waiting for and riding the Metro out to Shady Grove and 15 minutes driving the last few miles to my office. This morning I was only going to Rockville, since I'd parked there last night.
When I arrived at Union Station at 8:25 am, there was a train on the platform, but it was too crowded to get on. If I'd known what a big difference it would've made, I might have tried harder to get aboard.
8:26, train too full to board departs for Grosvenor.— Matt' Johnson, AICP (@Tracktwentynine) June 27, 2017
The train I couldn't get on was the last train to go through the single-tracking zone toward Shady Grove before Metro's control center reversed the flow of trains. My wait wasn't very long.
Another train showed up five minutes later, and I crammed my way on. Many people didn't make it. We waited at Union Station for six minutes and held another three minutes outside Judiciary Square.
Thanks to the Metro Hero app, I could see what was going on. We held at Judiciary Square while the train ahead of us cleared the single-tracking zone. Once it passed Farragut North, trains could come the other way. We had to wait for them to come through in the other direction.
My train arrived at 8:41 at Judiciary Square. The first Glenmont train coming through the single-tracking zone arrived at 8:56 over 15 minutes after the last Shady Grove train had gone through.
8:56: Glenmont train crosses over from single tracking zone. pic.twitter.com/ic1MwtLBra— Matt' Johnson, AICP (@Tracktwentynine) June 27, 2017
Metro actually "fleeted" three trains toward Glenmont before reversing the zone again. The last of these three cleared at 9:05, and we got a signal to proceed at 9:06, 25 minutes after arriving at Judiciary Square.
9:06: CLEAR SIGNAL. Departing. 25 minutes held at Judiciary.— Matt' Johnson, AICP (@Tracktwentynine) June 27, 2017
At Gallery Place and Metro Center, the platforms were packed, but there was little room on my train. Many people rushed to fit on board, despite announcements that another train was just behind. I can understand why. From their perspective, it had been 25 minutes since the last train. And would the next be any less crowded? Probably not.
While the fleet of Glenmont trains was headed for Judiciary Square, where my train waited, Metro crews were actually finishing repairs. After the fleet of three Glenmont trains departed Farragut North, Metro offloaded a train and sent it through as a test train on the correct track. My train passed it at Gallery Place. By the time we got to Metro Center, the first revenue train was arriving on the Glenmont track. It wasn't clear from my crowded car whether anyone bothered to tell the people waiting on the platform.
At 9:16, I made it to Dupont Circle. The train that I hadn't been able to get on at Union Station, the one ahead of mine, it was arriving at Twinbrook. That was the difference. Had I gotten on that train, I would have been 4 minutes from my destination. But because I hadn't, I was barely out of downtown.
9:16: Arrive Dupont Circle. Train I couldn't get on at Union is now at Twinbrook.— Matt' Johnson, AICP (@Tracktwentynine) June 27, 2017
All told, I eventually made it to Rockville about an hour later than expected. I spent a total of about 43 minutes sitting still on trains. The crowds were so bad, that even on an outbound train, seats weren't available until Medical Center. We arrived there at 9:35, 70 minutes after I got to Union Station.
9:35: Medical Center. I finally got a seat.— Matt' Johnson, AICP (@Tracktwentynine) June 27, 2017
I will be seeking a refund from Metro, not only of the fare I paid, but also of the parking charge at Rockville. Without the delay, I would have been out of the lot by 9:30, when the fee starts. But because of the delay, it was almost 10 when I arrived.
9:50: Alighting at Rockville. 1h25 since I arrived at Union Station.— Matt' Johnson, AICP (@Tracktwentynine) June 27, 2017
What were your experiences today on the Red Line? GGWash contributors discussed that question this morning, and Stephen Hudson put forth some particularly strong thoughts about Metro's response plans and how this ties to bigger funding issues:
After working on my last post about proposed changes to WMATA's board, this all makes me that much more irritated with a number of local politicians. Many very happy to point the finger at WMATA and criticize it for its incompetence. But local politicians are the ones who set funding levels for WMATA. They're often the ones who serve on WMATA's Board of Directors. I think the agency itself has become a very convenient scapegoat. It's not necessarily Weidefeld & co.'s fault that they can't afford to run Yellow Plus trains anymore (although arguably they could have kept them and cut something else instead). When local governments refuse to increase Metro funding (despite the agency's many shortcomings), refuse to move quickly to get dedicated funding, or refuse to move quickly set up a new safety board, then it is in my mind, largely their fault that the system is in its current state.
People in the States often assume that government agencies are inherently bad, employees are inherently lazy, and that this is just the nature of the beast. On the contrary, bad government agencies are the result of bad design, and politicians needn't point their fingers elsewhere if they don't like the direction of Metro.
I am grateful, however, that that there are leaders in our community, including a number of politicians, who are trying to find a solution for funding and the Board of Directors, rather than simply pass around blame.