Found In the Woods

April 9, 2010


Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 9:53 am

Why is Metro so broken? That’s a question best left for the pundits and the blowhards. For me, it’s a few things.

  • No through trains. If I want to get from Wheaton to Crystal City, I have to stop at every single one of the 15 stops between those stations, including a transfer. In many major cities like NYC there are “express” trains that skip stops in order to take those who are traveling long distances to their destination faster. Locals. Expresses. It’s basic public transport logic, right? Well, not for Metro. Apparently the ridiculously elaborate and fancy designed system is too good for express trains. Way to plan for the future, Metro. There are no express trains that I know of on the Metro system. As a result my train ride today took just over one hour on the rails. This includes waiting for trains to clear platforms and the train stopping at my station (Crystal City) and the doors not opening. No announcement, no warning, the doors just didn’t open. The train continued to the next stop where I had to transfer and ride back to my stop.
  • Lack of coverage. As far as I’m concerned the DC Metro area screwed the pooch back in the 50s when they decided to rip up the DC Traction rails and convert to buses. Much of the old DCT system rode on dedicated right of way, that is to say that it didn’t have to contend 100% with the flow of traffic as the buses do. Of course the system had its own problems and much of it did in fact run on city streets with cars. But what troubles me is how we have reached a quite saturated suburban population as far as infrastructure load is concerned, yet we have no right of way left. In order for Metro to get a train line in place now it involves years and years of money wasting deliberation and meetings. And then there’s the astronomical costs. It’s ridiculous that these people actually argue with people. What happened to eminent domain? Putting in public transportation projects is something that must be done. Do it.
  • Cost. I had to break this one down for you a bit. Now keep in mind that I like driving. I like being in my car. I’m a big gearhead. I like to be able to open and close the window. To turn the music up or down. To put the heat or the AC on. I don’t mind traffic that much and I sit in traffic nearly every day. My commute usually takes from 40-60 min door to door driving from Rockville, MD to Crystal City, VA which is ~18 miles. I pay for parking, which costs $7.75/day. My car does about 24 MPG which roughly comes to $4.16/day in fuel costs. That’s $11.91/day so far. This does not include the cost of wear-and-tear on the vehicle, which I’d have to figure separately *. I walked from my mechanic’s shop to the Wheaton, MD Metro at about 7:38am and arrived at my office at about 8:53am. That’s 1:15 total travel time door to door. Cost round trip today is $8.90. So the way I see it, for a few bucks more per day I get to roll down the windows, keep my hands clean, turn up the music and enjoy the breeze. No bums to breathe at me, no rude boys to stare. No tourists to get in my way (GET OUT OF MY WAY). No freaks. I don’t have to squish myself into the sardine can seats and I get to come and go as I please from the office.

It’s a no-brainer for me. No wonder Metro is struggling so badly. Putting too much money into a super-fancy system, poor route design, trains that go no where. Astronomical costs (it’s a good thing I didn’t have to pay $10 to park for the day at a Metro lot) don’t help. Unreliable trains and broken escalators abound. Until the system gets its shit together and starts to put their service first, they are never going to succeed.

* The astute among you will notice that I left out a key item in my car’s daily cost. The operational costs. This includes wear-and-tear, depreciation, insurance, etc. GSA has a figure of ~$18/day for my vehicle which I think is a little high. For one, I don’t really see the need to include the depreciation value of my vehicle as I don’t see it as an investment, per se. I didn’t purchase the car to make any money, I bought it to perform a task. However, like any tool used to perform a job, it still has a value. But I’m not sure the depreciation costs need to be figured here. Anyway, this does bring the daily costs of my commute quite a bit higher, but the freedom of driving still supersedes doing the Metro dance for me .

One Response to “Getro”

  1. Eladio Says:

    Metro’s biggest mistake (which was made thousand-fold in the 50’s thru 70’s by every transportation authority, including the feds) was to assume that the transportation needs of that day would not significantly change over time.  As you said, Metro has no express trains because they can’t — they only have 1 line in each direction.  NYC often times has 4, which not only allows express trains, but also allows them to do track work without upsetting the train schedules.  (Another thing that Metro cant’ do, which is why if they’re doing track work on the weekends they have to single-line it and often times waits are 30+ minutes.)  And in order to build that 3rd track that Metro would need, they’d need to do major tunnel work.  No way it’s going to happen.
    Another benefit of driving vs. riding:  less chance of sitting next to someone with epically bad body odor.

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