Last week was pure misery for anyone who depends on Metro to get to work, school or home. Unexplained delays, an increase in train breakdowns, restless crowds on the platforms and train conductors who repeatedly hit the breaks during commutes have pushed Metro riders to the edge.
Last week, the problems reached a breaking point; passengers’ frustrations are running high and patience has been pushed to the limit – if Metro doesn’t get its act together soon, it’s bound to be a long summer of misery.
Metro officials say trains riddled with brake and door problems are the major reasons for the delays. Since last month, conductors have been driving trains manually because some of the computerized control systems have broken down. Conductor-driven trains place more wear and tear on the braking systems. For riders, that means slow-moving trains, more starts and stops between stations, and irregular train arrivals.
Friday, two passengers at Foggy Bottom got into a fistfight after the waiting crowd on the platform rushed an already jam-packed train. With commuters using each other as human battering rams, it was inevitable that some people would blow their tops. In an unprecedented mutiny Wednesday at the Smithsonian stop, passengers, fed up with the delays and breakdowns, refused to get off a Metro train whose doors wouldn’t close.
The 103-mile Metro system needs immediate repairs. Metro officials must make fixing these problems and alleviating delays their top priorities, especially because prime tourist season is fast approaching – more than 600,000 passengers will ride the trains.
Metro officials have pledged to pour millions of dollars into system upgrades and repairs. That’s a long-term solution for immediate problems. Metro should plan to put more trains in service to handle the increased volume of passengers this summer. The last thing people need on their morning commute to work, or on their evening trip home, is to be crammed into trains like sardines.
Metro has boosted its ridership to record levels over the last two decades. But ridership could plummet after just a couple of aggravating rush-hour commutes. That means more cars on the streets, more traffic and more pollution. And that means more misery that this city doesn’t need.