Archive for the ‘Metro’ Category

How DC Volunteers: Via Massive Single Day Event

When did massive, single-day volunteer orgies become cool? Maybe it’s a Gen-Y thing. As a college student we had annual community service projects and more recently it was hip to partake in community service around Obama’s Inauguration.

Regardless of how it became cool, I have to admit that it’s always good to support your local community and I’ve been hearing some buzz around my friends about a couple of events coming up this spring.

My friend Rebecca is currently trying to enlist me onto her team for Servathon 2010. This year on April 23-24 over 7,000 volunteers will participate in various service projects around DC. Servathon is organized locally by Greater DC Cares and you can learn more about joining here.

The other big event is put on Hands On DC, an organization that Metblogs’ very own Frank often works with. They put on Work-A-Thon which takes place on May 15th, 2010. What makes this event different is the focus on improving local DC public schools. Check out the video below to see the end product of their recent work.

Whichever event you want to get involved with, it’s clear that spring for DC means volunteering- so get involved!


Frusterated About The Metro? WMATA Offers Chance For Rider Input On Budget

Photo Megan Rossman/The Washington Post

Today my roommate came home and told me she had a bad day. When I asked why she complained about something at work and went on to lament about the terrible Metro service on the way home from work.

You aren’t a Washingtonian if you don’t have an ambivalent attitude towards Metro. On one hand you love that it’s relatively clean, and that it’s open late for those nights you want to go out. On the other hand trains are often delayed and the elevators and escalators often appear to be out of order.

Now you can do something about it.

I found out on Greater Greater Washington that WMATA is conducting a survey of concerning items that should be included in the FY2011 budget. WMATA hopes to get rider input on several possible fare increases and service cuts. The results will be reported at a future Metro board meeting.

It only takes ten minutes to complete (like the census) so why don’t you take a minute to tell WMATA where they should spend your money?

Other Cell Providers To Gain Service In Metro

No longer needed for Non-Verizon users (photo courtesy Flickr user brownpau)

No longer needed for Non-Verizon users (photo courtesy Flickr user brownpau)

When my high school pal David asked if he should get an iPhone or Blackberry, I gave him my DC opinion.

While I’d love to have an iPhone, the AT&T exclusivity has always been a barrier for me taking the plunge. When I moved into the area three years ago, I sported a Motorola Razr and a Cingular cell phone plan. However I noticed that my service was lacking around my Clarendon neighborhood and at the office. So I switched to Verizon.

One of the added benefits of Verizon was it’s service underground on the Metro system. To this day I enjoy checking e-mails on my blackberry as I zoom (or wait) along the Orange line.

Of course my friend Dave doesn’t have this problem since he’s still in Boston but now I won’t have that problem as WMATA recently unveiled plans to phase in cell service from other major providers.

Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, AT&T and T-Mobile will work together to install service in the follow stations: Ballston, Bethesda, Columbia Heights, Crystal City, Dupont Circle, Farragut North, Farragut West, Federal Triangle, Foggy Bottom-GWU, Friendship Heights, Gallery Pl-Chinatown, Judiciary Square, L’Enfant Plaza, McPherson Square, Metro Center, Pentagon, Pentagon City, Rosslyn, Smithsonian and Union Station. The goal is to have wireless access up and running by Mid-October, and complete system-wide service by Fall 2010.

It’s too bad I recently re-upped my Verizon plan for two more years, otherwise I’d be thinking about making the jump. How about you? Will the expanded service in Metro make you think about changing cell phone plans?

"Tin whiskers" sound harmless, don’t they?

I got a cold chill as I read this article yesterday on the Metro crash investigation:

“In the aftermath of the crash on the Red Line between the Takoma and Fort Totten stations, Metro officials analyzed track circuit data and found that one circuit in the crash area intermittently lost its ability to detect a train. The circuit would report the presence of a train one moment, then a few seconds later the train would “disappear,” only to return again.”

It sounded to me like the same problems that have been encountered on the Space Shuttle, nuclear power plants, and various military systems. And that problem is tin whiskers.

The backstory:  When people first started building electric circuits, they used tin metal to solder the interconnections between the copper bits.  It wasn’t long before they noticed the tin would get “furry”, growing spiky whiskers as the part was used.  These spikes could grow long enough to short out the circuits, and then were so weak that they would break off right after doing so.  A smart metallurgist figured out that adding a small amount of lead to the tin alloy stopped this behavior.  And so the electronics industry grew, and electronic circuits got so small and fast and reliable that they ended up in nearly every control system — with a bit of solder in every one of them.

In the early 2000’s two things happened:  Europe passed legislation that prohibited lead in consumer products, and at the same time, the production of interconnection technologies went global.  So even though only European markets mandated this change, producers all over the world had to comply.  And that means that consumers all over the world were getting lead-free electronics, many times without knowing it.  Many times the same part number started showing up with lead-free solder, making this trend very hard to track.

So yesterday, I dropped a note to one of my expert friends, who agreed with me that the circuitry in the Metro replacement part, more likely than not, contained lead-free solder.  And then, he pointed out the likelihood that the latest Airbus crashes had lead-free solder components in their flight controls.

Hence the cold chills.

Yes, it’s a bad thing to have lead where kids might put it in their mouths (especially drinking water).  Yet the activists admit that the amount of lead in electronics isn’t at dangerous levels; they say their ultimate goal is to shut down lead production entirely.   (In the interest of full disclosure, I facilitated a study back in 2005 that predicted this, and only now is the military starting to address those findings.) 

Hey, guys, maybe technology might need to trump politics for once?

Dude, Where’s My Bus?

Greater Greater Washington has the goods…NextBus is finally live!

Dude, where's my bus?

Dude, where's my bus?

So, according to NextBus, the “next bus” (see what I did there?) heading for the Metro from my office will be arriving in a mere six minutes.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to go home for a few more hours.

The utility shows arrival times for the next three buses at the desired location, which you can select by stop number (those little signs on every bus stop signpost) or just use the dropdowns to select your route, direction, and intersection.  You can access the service from your computer, or a mobile device; and if you have a favorite location that you’ll be checking all the time (your home, your office) you can bookmark that custom location as well.  Neato!  Earlier this week the DC DOT introduced a similar system for Circulator buses as well.

Have a look and let us know what you think, DC.  Is it worth it after the years of waiting?

Metro Crash Aftermath: Expect Commute From Hell This Morning

Here’s the official from WMATA, complete with everything you need to know about commuting on Tuesday:

Red Line service will be severely impacted on Tuesday, June 23, as a result of a fatal collision on the Red Line on Monday, June 22, between the Fort Totten and Takoma Metrorail stations.

Red Line riders will have several options on Tuesday morning, however if they are able to avoid the Red Line, that may be the best option for Tuesday.

The Red Line will be operating in two sections on Tuesday. Trains will run back and forth between the Glenmont and Silver Spring Metrorail stations and between the Shady Grove and the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metrorail station. All trains will be six- and eight-car trains on the Red Line and they will be running about 8 to 10 minutes apart. Trains are expected to be very crowded.

The Brookland-CUA, Fort Totten and Takoma Metrorail stations will be closed to Red Line traffic.

Free Metrobus shuttles will be available to take customers around the incident between the Silver Spring, Fort Totten, Brookland-CUA, Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood and Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metrorail stations. People can expect long waits for buses as a full Metrorail train often carries 100 people or more per car and a bus can only hold about 50 people at a time.

Metro officials recommend that customers who normally use the Red Line between the Glenmont and Silver Spring Metrorail stations should commute to Metrorail stations between the Shady Grove and Grosvenor-Strathmore Metrorail stations, or to use the following Metrobus lines to avoid the service disruption:

• Metrobus C8 line (Glenmont to White Flint)
• Metrobus Q2 line (Wheaton to Rockville)
• Metrobus C2, C4 line (Wheaton to Twinbrook)
• Metrobus J1 line (Silver Spring to Medical Center)
• Metrobus J2, J3, J4 line (Silver Spring to Bethesda)
• Metrobus L7, L8 line (Friendship Heights)

Metro officials also recommend that people utilize the Green Line from Greenbelt to the Fort Totten Metrorail station for service into downtown DC.

Metro Crash On Red Line Between Takoma And Ft. Totten Stations

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Be careful Red Line Metro Riders! RT @metro_man Red line crashed!

That was the tweet I got from MeggiePoo as I wrapped things up at my office. I wrote it off as a routine fender bender that causes most of the Metro Fails we all experience on a daily basis. I drive home from my office down the street to my home, thinking how lucky I am not to be stuck in the Metro system.

I arrived home and turn on NBC4 to see the dramatic image of two Metro trains collide and stack on top of each other. I listen and watch while eating dinner and started to take it all in. Mid-bite I realized that the accident happened on the same line my roommate takes from her Silver Spring office back home to Arlington. I drop my things and run to my cell phone.

Those were the longest 90 seconds of my life as I waited to see if she would answer.

My roommate finally did, she missed that train by five minutes and was stuck on the platform, however she was safe and found a ride home.

Here’s what we know now (see update below)

  • At least 4 people are dead (one confirmed to be a female WMATA employee- a train operator), over 100 are injured
  • One train has appeared to rear end the other- this is not a head to head collision
  • There have been reports that there was track work scheduled on the Red Line earlier today
  • FBI is on the scene to assist but there is no reason to suspect that this was a criminal act
  • The rest of the lines appear to be working but they are moving slow
  • Adrian Fenty will hold a press conference soon

Here’s the official word from WMATA:

A six-car Red Line train headed in the direction of Shady Grove derailed between the Takoma and Fort Totten Metrorail stations today and was involved in a collision with another train at 5 p.m. today, Monday, June 22.

Metro officials advise that people avoid the Red Line this afternoon. Trains are operating between Glenmont and Takoma Metrorail and between Shady Grove and Brookland stations for the remainder of the day.

There are preliminary reports of injuries on board, some serious. Emergency officials are responding to the scene.

This being said- avoid the Red Line at all costs.

Twitter has been crazy and DCist is all over the situation.

As I return to watch more, my hopes and prayers go out to everyone in the District- I hope everyone makes it back home safe!

UPDATE 8:59 PM: As the night winds down let’s do a recap and review of the latest

  • A correction on an earlier title of the post, the Metro crash occurred on the Red Line between the Takoma and Ft. Totten Stations.
  • More detail and the actual accident: around 5 PM today a train was waiting on the tracks for the platform ahead to open up when another train slammed into it from behind. The trains were six-car trains and were headed in the same direction. The female operator of the trailing train died.
  • The Washington Post reports that at least six people are dead and scores of passengers are injured and are being described as “walking wounded” in what is being called the deadliest accident in Metro history. The last time two trains crashed was back in November 2004.
  • The Metro is still operating between Glenmont and Silver Spring and between Shady Grove and Rhode Island Avenue. Around the accident scene Metro is offering a shuttle bus service.
  • If you are seeking information on anyone that may have been riding on those trains should call the Metro Emergency Information line at 202-737-4404. If you live in Washington DC you can also call 311.
  • Metro reports that the sections of the Red Line where the accident occurred will be closed through tomorrow, so plan your commutes accordingly.

Here is video of the Mayor’s press conference earlier tonight:


After the Mayor was on, the Metro Chief provided more details on the accident:


Paper, Plastic, or Canvas?

Yesterday, a fellow Metblogger Tweeted with a “Red Alert”:  the DC Council had passed the five-cent plastic bag tax!  The Post reported that “The D.C. Council voted unanimously yesterday to assess a 5-cent tax on paper and plastic bags to try to discourage their use, putting the District at the forefront of efforts nationwide to promote reusable shopping bags.”  The tax will apply to food-service providers, grocers, and pharmacies.  Could the District be on track to join San Francisco as the only major city to ban plastic bags outright?

The bag tax is designed to limit pollution in the Anacostia and its tributaries — proceeds will be used for the Anacostia River Cleanup Fund.  Will the city distribute any reusable bags to its residents to get them started?  Businesses who sell reusable bags will qualify for a rebate of one penny on each bag sold (or, of they offer a discount for using the bags, two cents).  Will they subsidize the price of reusable bags for their customers?

I’ve seen reactions to the news ranging from, “Hooray!  Let’s dance with glee,” to “Oh great.  Another tax for District residents.”  Regardless of the means or how one feels about the bag tax, though, I hope we can all agree that we don’t want the Anacostia looking like this any more:

Anacostia River, near Poplar Point

Anacostia River, near Poplar Point

The Council will need to vote again on the measure before it goes to the Mayor for his signature.  What do you think, DC?

WMATA kills my "Eating on Metro Dream"


Siiigghhh.   WMATA has shot down the proposal I wrote about a few weeks ago regarding vendors at Metro stations-well, food vendors anyway.  The discussion regarding dry cleaning etc. has been tabled.

Well, not really-I’ll just keep eating on Metro like I always have (carefully and cleaning up after myself).  I guess Metro just doesn’t want any of the money I spend on food and drink before I get on the train.

Oh right, they could fine me I guess-but in 7 years of living in this city and riding the train I have never even seen someone get in trouble for eating on the train-let alone been fined myself.  Metro’s very own paper bag law-as far as I can tell, as long as they don’t see it they don’t care-and that’s the way we’ll continue to play it.

This does seem to be, however, what the people want so I will keep my complaining to a minimum.  Hopefully the revised proposal without food will pass and other types of vendors will be allowed in a few of the stations.

Metro UPDATE: Retail on the Way!?


Okay, well I’m glad somebody at WMATA is reading my posts-now if they’d only give me some credit!

NBC Washington is reporting that as early as this fall Metro might feature retail stores at 12 Metrorail stops.  Everything from dry cleaning to food will be available if things go according to plan. 

A plan they clearly got from my post a few weeks ago.  Okay-maybe we just had the same idea, but I’ll take credit for it until someone shows me different.

Here it is though, commuters of DC;  there isn’t much separation between selling food and drinks and being able consume them on the trains.  My opinion was made pretty clear in my last post, but just to restate it-I think the eating and drinking ban was pretty ridiculous anyway and at least Metro will see some money out of it.  Sadly, my gut says that it won’t bring a reduction in fares-but maybe it will keep prices from going up any time soon.

The  idea will be brought to the Metro Board later this month and, if approved, proposals for retail shops will be solicited in June.  Shops could start as early as late this fall.

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