(Washington, DC) – Representatives for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) – commonly known as Metro to local residents – have concluded holding public hearings – widely considered a sham – to gauge public support for both Metro’s performance and their reaction to possible 3% fare increases for rail; bus and parking rates would also increase. Again.
The hearings were held from January 29 – February 6 in Greenbelt (MD), Springfield (VA), Anacostia (DC), Rockville (MD), Arlington County (VA), and downtown Washington, DC.
As in previous years, and if history is any indication, Metro officials are just going through the motions to appear to care about their customers. And that’s why the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is just now scrutinizing the never-ending fare increases and service issues.
“We want to make sure everything is on the up-and-up,” said a NTSB spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We realize that we have to take everyone’s opinions into account – the riders, the employees, the administrative officials, and the shareholders – and we hope to be as impartial as possible, listening closely to the administrative officials and shareholders.”
Even more unseemly are the salaries of top Metro officials. General Manager Richard Sarles recently received a two-year contract extension. The $16,000 pay increase means Sarles earns $366,000 annually.
“If you want to really complain about fare increases, look to the lack of funding from the Federal government and the local states,” said a Metro spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I mean, [MD governor Martin] O’Malley has raised taxes on just about everything over the past seven years. He shouldn’t have any problem raising taxes again to help out Metro’s riders.”
“I personally know that Metro really does care,” continued the Metro spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Even though senior Metro officials wouldn’t be caught dead on a Metro train, they do care about the cattle who ride the trains day-in and day-out. And they have to attend these meetings to see how much more money they can get for their stockholders, their bonuses, and their personal coffers.”
Metro customers would disagree about the caring. “These ‘hearings’ are about as valid as elections in China or North Korea,” complained a Metro customer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “These people think that taking some time out of their schedules makes gouging us OK. It’s not OK.”
Another issue for Metro: the Silver Line. The yet-to-be-opened line will provide service to Tyson’s Corner (VA) and could start service as early as this summer. And a new line means more passengers and more money … and more fare increases?
“They’re going to get even more money,” said a different Metro customer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “So why do they have to charge us more money? I’ll tell you why. Because they can!”
Metro’s fare increases have become routine, and many riders don’t even pay attention to what has become a rite of passage in the DC area. In spite of non-air conditioned cars, perpetual track work (meaning hours of delays due to single-tracking), perpetual breakdowns (meaning hours of delays due to single-tracking), more out-of-service escalators than in-service escalators, non-climate-controlled underground stations, the fares go up. Additionally, Metro has suffered through a number of “incidents” in recent years, such as:
- October 31, 2012 – Metro imposes a “Sandy Tax” due to Hurricane Sandy, which forced Metro to shut down and lose two days of revenue … meant to be temporary, the tax is still in place
- October 11, 2012 – Metro shows off its new 7000-series trains, meant to replace their 1000-series deathtrap trains … each of the 350 new trains cost about $2 million, meaning a 400% fare increase for riders
- September 17, 2012 – At a subway stop in Sweden, a man falls onto the tracks and is robbed and left to be run over by the train … this prompts Metro to put out a “Help Them, Then Rob Them” Public Service Announcement (PSA) to focus on customer safety
- May 29, 2012 – a Metro mechanic is struck by a train at the Shady Grove rail yard and loses part of his leg when he steps in front of the train, allegedly unintentionally
- May 15, 2012 – the doors on a 1000-series deathtrap train on the Red Line between stations open without warning … no one surviving to the next platform was injured
- March 2012 – it is reported that one Metro office bought itself about $10,000 in gifts
- January 26, 2010 – a gasoline-powered truck, modified to operate on the rails and carry gear and equipment, moves in reverse and strikes and kills two Metro employees
- August 10, 2009 – a gravel-spreading machine, which resembles a small truck, spreads gravel on the Orange Line when it strikes and kills a Metro track repairman
- June 22, 2009 – two 1000-series deathtrap trains, manufactured by Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc., collide, murdering eight civilians and one Metro employee … the 1000-series trains had been rated “uncrashworthy” by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), were not taken out of service, and still ride the rails