The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, ‘Metro’) has a bright idea for its future: a Facebook page.
Long hovering, like so many other groups, in the nether-region between government agency and for-profit business, Metro’s insanity never ceases to amaze me. They charge higher fares than any other rail transit system in the United States, but MetroRail’s reliability still gives Microsoft operating systems and Chevy automobiles a run for their money. When the Washington Nationals baseball team came to town, Metro thought that Major League Baseball needed to pay them millions of dollars to cover the costs of increased ridership . . . even though common sense would indicate that increased ridership already means increased FARES.
I stopped riding Metro five years ago now. Riding five days a week, it was uncommon that my commute would go as-planned more than 50 percent of the time. Drastic delays—sometimes delivering me to work or home a full hour later than expected—slowly went from being an occasional annoyance in 2001 to a twice-a-week nightmare by 2004. Local media make fairly regular investigative reports, which invariably discover patent mismanagement, millions of wasted dollars, and general ineptitude throughout the management structure of the organization. Best of all, if you’re a resident of Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC, your taxes likely contribute to the [mis]management of this agency whether you ride or not.
Here are some ideas for Metro:
- Go back in time to 1985 and extend your rail service to Dulles Airport, Tysons Corner, Columbia, Fort Belvoir, and (duh) Georgetown. It’s way, way, way too late now.
- After accomplishing step 1, now you can start talking about the rail extensions you should be making today . . . to Manassas, Gainesville, Leesburg, Purcellville, Quantico, Annapolis, and other places in the greater DC metro area.
- Stop complaining about money . . . or, as an alternative, lower your fares to be price competitive with every other mass transit system in the country and then complain about money.
- Stop assuming everybody lives in the suburbs and works in the city. This isn’t reality anymore, and hasn’t been for fifteen years. Build up methods to commute from suburbs to other suburbs, instead of your vintage 1970s structure where all the rail lines intersect downtown. My commute from Herndon to Alexandria shouldn’t be a two-hour odyssey of driving to a park-and-ride lot, taking a bus to an Orange Line station, transferring to a Blue Line train, and finally hopping a shuttle bus to the office.
Final conclusion: If I can get to work faster and cheaper by driving, even in the DC area’s horrible traffic mess with sky-high gas prices, then Metro really, really, really sucks. Starting a Facebook site won’t fix that.