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Sound off to Metro's new chief

Metro could get a new (interim) boss Thursday, and that raises the hope among many Metro riders that the troubled transit system could get a fresh start in dealing with its myriad safety, reliability and budget problems.

No one wants more crashes, delays or derailments, but we want the new chief, Richard Sarles, who is coming in from running New Jersey's commuter rail and bus system, to get a good sense of just what it is about the system's decline that most troubles riders. So here's your chance to speak truth to power: Come ahead with your letters to Richard Sarles--be specific about the problems you want him to fix and the agenda items that you want him to tackle.

Use the comment board at the end of this post to add your voice--we'll use the results to shape our coverage of Sarles' early days on the job.

By Marc Fisher  | March 3, 2010; 10:18 AM ET
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Dear Mr. Saries,

My boyfriend works for Metro as a train mechanic, he says that Metro buys the cheapest trains they can find, that might because of budget restriants,but it also means that they have to keep repairing the old parts over and over again, and I am sure that you are aware of the old chiche you get what you pay for. Please ask the people who work on and repair the trains what's their opinion, they know. Don't ask the supervisors ask the Mechanic's themselves, what problems they are having repairing the trains and ask for suggestions. Talk to the employees who actually do the work day and day out. I'm sure you will learn something. Well that's my two cents.

Posted by: sherreetl | March 3, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Fix something that's been going on for a very long time. Probably three years now.

Weekday morning rush hour on the Blue Line after it leaves Arlington Cemetery headed to downtown Wash DC. Stop and go. It's like molasses. "There's a train in front of us." You don't say. Imagine that. "We appreciate your patience & regret the inconvenience." I haven't heard that before. "Once the train clears the platform at Rosslyn, we will be moving..."

Nothing changes. It doesn't get better. Heading to Virginia from downtown DC in the evening rush hour doesn't seem as bad.

Will the new Chief be riding the Metro on a regular basis or will he be riding in his heated/air conditioned limo?

Posted by: uncivil | March 3, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

As someone mentioned in one of the hearings, there appears to be a need for a change in the work culture, and that change needs to come from the top. Of course, having dedicated funding would be a great boost, but more money and no culture change would be a waste of resources.

There needs to be a customer service focus from top to bottom. Whether it's a safety issue/repair or if someone is asking directions or in need of information about why a train or a bus is not on schedule, the customer always needs to come first.

Once I was at the Anacostia station looking for a specific bus and where it stopped. There really isn't a clear way to distinguish which bus stops where, so I asked the attendant. He didn't know and rather flippantly told me to check some board. The board only indicated that the bus in fact DID stop at the station but did not show WHERE it stopped, which is what I needed to know.

Even other drivers didn't know where this particular bus stopped. I ended up playing it by ear and doing a process of elimination as the buses came to and left the station.

That's just a small example, and I'm sure others may have similar or worse experiences.

Posted by: linroy62 | March 3, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Ok...I could possibly rant about the ills of Metro for hours. As a weekday/rush hour rider for the past 15+ years I have witnessed a steady decline in the system as a whole. It used to be a pleasure to park my car, hop on the train and get to my destination with a clear mind and generally hassle-free experience. As of late, everytime there's a sudden jerk of the train, an unusual noise, the lights inside the cars flickering, and when we're sitting in some tunnel and the voice of the operator sounds over the loud speakers I am close to being a nervous wreck on the rails.

Now, EVERY DAY there is some sort of delay. When there are major delays there is often contradictory information given over the load speakers (I'm so glad they upgraded it) and the information given from station staff.

I understand and somewhat sympathize with the fact that the system itself is indeed ancient and clearly wasn't built to handle the type of area that DC has become. However, I do not appreciate being nickeled and dimed in order to cover "budget shortfalls." Who is in charge of developing these faulty budgets anyway??!? Like the rest of the world, if I am paying for a service I would like to essentially get what I am paying for. The last time they raised prices, nothing improved and everything with the system has progessively gotten worse. I guess the same could be said about PEPCO with the ridiculous and unwarranted price increases (another story for you all to develop.)

Unfortunately, there's nothing management can do about the passengers and their lack of metro etiquette so we'll save that for another day. Soon, it will no longer be a convenience to catch the subway at all and I too will have to ditch the rails for my personal vehicle.

The new manager has one helluva bumpy road ahead of him, I do wish him good luck and God speed. He's definitly gonna need it!

Posted by: Pat_E | March 3, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Aside from the most common and even more important concerns (derailments)etc; The X2 line is horrible. I have even heard the bus drivers say they wish they hated this line. Now there are others,B2, 90, 70 etc; But the X2 is the worst from dirt, filth, water leakage,broken seats, and the no shows. Either they don't show and you waiting for at least an hour or they are super croweded. The bus driver curses (majority)and holds up the bus if folks dont move back when it's already crowded. Sometimes, the buses come 2-3 at at a time and folks are left waiting in the cold, rain, of extream heat. No AirCondition or No Heat when appropriate. By any measurements or comparisons the X2 is the worst line in both directions. Folks say...the line with get better becuase more white folks are beginning to ride. Well I haven't seem any improvement thus far and there are plenty of white folks riding now. Laugh! Regardless, this line really needs an overhaul from the drivers attitudes to the unsuitable buses. I believe this bus line is very profitable to Metro and it would really be appreciated if someone really reviewed some of it's troubles with this line. I know the riders would greatly appreciate it. I hate to ride it but, it beats paying for downtown parking.

Posted by: trisha4477 | March 3, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The new guy needs to ride the buses & all subway lines during the morning & evening rush hour. Talk to riders. You don't even need to ask anyone, you can see the problems/issues for yourself when you're squeezed like a sardine or the train sits in the middle of a tunnel for 5 minutes or so.

Sometimes I wonder why Metro management needs to be told over & over & over again what the problems/issues are. They do these passenger surveys every now & then like they're sitting in an ivory tower in Georgetown or McLean & have no clue what's going on.

"Riders have complaints? Lots of escalators aren't working? Station platforms are too dark? Ceiling tiles are falling down? Water leaks."

Don't you read emails from passengers & transcripts of phone calls to Metro from passengers? Not to mention reading the stuff that appears in the WASH POST/WASH TIMES/CITY PAPER about Metro.

Especially if you had a management position at another transit system in the USA. Not like you're coming from Baskin-Robbins or Sears.

You get the picture. Nuff said from me. I'll let the other members of The Disgruntled Metro Passenger Army say their piece.

Posted by: uncivil | March 3, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

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