Prince George’s residents are becoming increasingly frustrated with Metro service. Increasing prices, service delays and other issues have residents wondering if using the service is even worth the trouble anymore.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) fiscal troubles have infringed on riders who now say commuting by Metro is increasingly becoming a pain rather than a convenient tool to get them to and from work. County residents have myriad complaints and reasons why the service is not up to par.

“Well a lot of times in the summer you’ get on and air isn’t working,” said Keisha Monroe, 30, of Bowie. “One day I got on one car that was so hot that you couldn’t sit or stand because the seats were too hot and so were the hand rails.

WMATA’s problems have been well documented as the transit organization has suffered through tough economic times along with the rest of the country. Its precipitous fall from grace has been amazing and frustrating for Metro officials and riders alike.

Six years after it won the American Public Transportation’s Award for innovation, WMATA residents are left believing that there is no innovation in sight for the organization.

“The increase of prices does not reflect the quality of service,” said 28-year-old Oxon Hill resident Bill Walker. “However there is absolutely no incentive for them to change anything. They don’t have to compete with anyone and they keep getting money from the federal government. It’s like a license to fail.”

Metro once again raised fares this summer in an effort to avoid service cuts; but with constant delays, car break-ins, broken escalators and elevators and major accidents, −like the derailment at Fort Totten on June 22, 2009 − many riders still lack confidence in Metro’s ability to provide good service.

UnsuckDCMetro, a popular blog and Twitter account run by an anonymous journalist, documents daily complaints from riders. The blog’s operator told the {AFRO} that WMATA’s myriad issues undermine its relationship with riders.

“Metro is stressed in every possible way,” the blogger said. “The governance model reflects a simpler time and mission that has long since passed. The labor agreements, as well, reflect a bygone era. These are things that will likely be very hard or impossible to change.

“What Metro could perhaps accomplish for very little money is a culture of responsibility and accountability,” the blogger continued. “On a corporate level, Metro could be more transparent with the riding public that pays their salaries.”

Metro has been trying to address issues of rider confidence by implementing new measures. It’s increasing training for front-line employees and supervisors, using new tools to create more transparent performance tracking and reporting systems, revised inspection and maintenance procedures and is re-emphasizing safety and quality repairs as top priorities.

Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles testified before Congress that he knows that the culture has to change for the company’s future success.

“The quality of our customers’ experience is the key to the continued success of our system,” Sarles said. “We are taking steps to improve the on-time performance of all of our modes — Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess – as well as the availability of our elevators and escalators which have a very direct impact on the quality of our customers’ trips.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO