Metro, the black sheep of US subway systems

The Metro subway parking lots switched over to the SmartTrip card system a few weeks ago, so that now if you want to park your car at a metro-operated lot, you need a SmartTrip card. Metro apparently didn’t realize that this would cause many, many people to buy SmartTrip cards. So, due to their poor planning, they have stopped selling SmartTrip cards online. They announce this on the website, then go on to talk about how many cards have been sold in the last three weeks. Well, DUH, Metro!
However, Metro kinda sorta does have an excuse for their occasional ineptness. Last month, The Brookings Institution came out with a report about the “extraordinary lack of dedicated funding sources” for the transit system, and how this meant that Metro was having to scramble for money every year, and makes the riders pay for more of the costs, as a percentage, than any other subway system in the US.
If I sound too down on Metro, I just want to say I’m a believer in public transportation, and I like using Metro, despite all the problems. However, I’m not the one they need to convince to take the subway or bus, it’s the people in the cars. Those people need to see Metro as a reliable, easy and inexpensive way to travel, before they will get out from behind the wheel.

5 Comments so far

  1. Tiffany (unregistered) on July 22nd, 2004 @ 10:51 am

    I agree, but i would also point out that Metro needs to BE a reliable, easy, and inexpensive way to travel first.
    And that means that they need to start connecting the spokes, because the increasing number of people like me who live in Arlington and commute to Maryland do not want to have to stop over Downtown first. It means putting a line in out to Dulles. It means better and more plentiful parking. It means trains that can hold at least the current load without breaking down all the time. Oh, and air conditioning that works, escalators that work, re-opening the bathrooms in the stations, being able to sell SmarTrip cards to meet the artificially increased demand, and a better system for getting people home in a timely fashion when one of the trains does break down.
    I love the Metro for getting downtown without having to find parking, but Metro during rush hour is a miserable experience, especially in the summertime.


  2. philipp droessler (unregistered) on July 23rd, 2004 @ 1:31 am

    sounds really bad. we have some problems with overcrowded trains here, but that’s about it. the smartrip tech sounds nice (RFID?), bummer it’s not really working out.
    the whole meaning behind this comment is, welcome to the metroblog family, d.c., and hi from vienna :)


  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on July 23rd, 2004 @ 1:34 am

    I think SmarTrip is RFID, but I’m not 100% sure. The card itself is the size and shape of a credit card, but when swiped across the SmarTrip target, allows for you to pass through the faregates, or pay for parking, or add value at kiosks. It’s pretty darn handy. When it works.


  4. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on July 23rd, 2004 @ 12:03 pm

    I commute daily on Metro, and I’m constantly astounded at how they screw up simple things. 2 car trains at the end of the night? Running out of SmarTrip cards? Raising fares twice in two years?


  5. :: jozjozjoz.com :: (unregistered) on July 26th, 2004 @ 5:50 am

    Of course the Metro is not without its problems (I have distinct memories of being stuck under the river when the Metro broke down when it snowed), but now that I’m back in L.A., I wish for something as good as what you have in D.C. Our (fairly new) Metro lines don’t cover enough of the city to make it worthwhile. The only real option is (still) to drive.



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