Memo to the D.C. Metro

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you know I have a disdain for the Metro. I’m a proud public commuter. I love taking buses and trains. I find it more cooler than driving on the beltway. I love Metro so much, it hurts that I contribute to Unsuck DC Metro, which is a great source of Metro news and fodder.

However, I saw this harmless article about why Cliff Lee chose the Phillies over the Yankees, Nationals, Rangers and others because both Cliff and his wife, Kristen, love taking the train. I could argue about DC being a more cultural than Philadelphia or that most Philly fans throws batteries, boo Santa Claus, and taser their fans:

However, I don’t blame Cliff Lee rejoining the Phillies to create the “Four Aces” lineup with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. He wants to win a World Series championship. Who can blame him?

I don’t blame the Washington Nationals because they are trying to progress as an organization and although they signed Jayson Werth, they didn’t get Werth’s best friend on that team 2 years ago.

I blame you, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

In the past few years, you not only scared people away from taken the Metro at its peak, but you have scared off potential clients, ruined businesses, forced conferences to relocate , and your transit system has killed people.

The first straw that broke the camels back was the SHRM Conference was scheduled to be in D.C. in the next year or two. However, due to “transportation issues”, the SHRM Conference is going to Las Vegas next year and Atlanta in 2012. I don’t mind traveling to Atlanta since I have friends there, but it would have been much cooler in D.C. Yes, the 2006 SHRM Conference was a mess because of the monsoon hit that week, but you couldn’t work out how the buses and trains will run (plus our incompetent drivers)? You lost 15,000 additional tourists because of that.

Another strike to your company is your trains have caused double-digit fatalities in the past few years when trains most likely injure people at best. What’s worse: people are committing suicides by just jumping off the platform and get crushed by your trains than jumping off the bridge.

To be fair, other transit systems have the same problem, but in L.A. and Boston’s case, it was incompetence by the human. In your case, it was incompetence by the machine.

The Cliff Lee thing might be small beans, but in the bigger picture, your transit system was going to be an asset to attract people to buy/rent houses and apartments and bring businesses near the Metro stations. Instead by staying on the status quo, your transit system is a liability to work out a deal.

The good thing that is happening to the WMATA board is a potential clean sweep of the whole board to bring in the new one. I do not want my board members to say:

“To an extent, it’s thankless and it’s very time-consuming,” said Maryland board member Elizabeth Hewlett, one of those who wants to step down. “Obviously no one likes to be criticized, especially when you are working so very hard.”


“Some of the comments were not well-received,” said Maryland member Gordon Linton, who decided to leave before the reports came out, but officially announced his departure Thursday. “It was wondered whether they understand how the board actually functions.”


Board member Jeff McKay and other members faulted the reports – one by a task force organized by the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and the other by Metro’s Riders’ Advisory Council – for making recommendations that were unrealistic, detrimental, or reflected a lack of understanding of how the board works.


“They need someone willing to be heavily scrutinized, work for free, not have a conflict of interest, and have a schedule to devote two days of your week to this…” — Jeff McKay

Really? Two days to devote on this and you can’t do the job? Here’s what you do: Shut up, F*** the system, and do what’s best for Metro and not be a talking head for your district or state because you actually have a job the 6% of the D.C. Metro area wished they do because they are unemployed.

I want D.C. Mayor Vince Gray, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (and his right hand sock puppet, Ken Cuccinelli), and the Federal Government to get board members who are passionate about public transportation from engineers, advocates, business people, and others to can contribute to the agency. By the way, your guerrilla marketing strategy...seriously?

I rarely write blog posts like this, WMATA, but I have to because I care about public transportation and enjoy going to the Metro, but you’re at a crossroads right now.  Ridership and Fare hikes are not your issue; it is how inefficient your trains and systems are. Get reliable people who know how to operate a subway station; bring innovators on the engineering and business front; and bring people who are proactive and WILL DO the job, not use the board as a resume enhancer. When you have the trains and systems in check, people will come to the Metro plain and simple, but you made this more complex than it is.

Also, I don’t want to hear about “Multi-Jurisdiction Dysfunction.” We’re a bunch of grown-ups now. If the majority of states in this country can accept tax cuts and repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” two states and the District can solve the Metro, right?

Think of this as your “Kick In The Ass!” memo, Metro. It’s time to do it and back it up.  Your golden opportunity is now and it is slipping away.


  • Thank you for writing what we all are thinking! I ride the metro everyday and truly enjoy not driving to work as well, but I do not understand how the fares keep going up and the service keeps getting worst!

    If WMATA needs a good idea or 100, We the People (riders of metro) can lend a hand. Metro should take a tip from Ted Leonsis the CAPS owner and ask the people what they want and need changed, first. ( Then add in safety, maintenance and I second your opinion, wipe the board clean and bring in someone(s) who want to make a difference NOW!

    Please Metro, take heed.

    • Thanks Kristen. I do hope next year the Metro change their colors.

      They say its hard and unrealistic, but they couldn’t ask? Don’t say its impossible, try the impossible and see how it works.

  • I want to respond to some who don’t want to comment on this blog.

    On the grammar side: I will never be a grammar expert and it won’t make any high-end literature papers, but I do want to make a point and if most of the people understand what I’m talking about, I have achieved my objective…but yes, my writing should be better. That’s why I stink (hence the URL of the site).

    On me being delusional that I’m talking out of my a**: I never said the main factor of Cliff Lee’s decision was about transportation. We all agree Cliff Lee signed in Philly because he wanted to be part of a great team (and a dominant pitching staff) and he and his family love the place since they used to live there, plus the Nationals would need a big sales pitch to get Lee, although the writer from the Star-Telegram wrote a good article on a minor part why the Lees made the decision to go to Philly. What I’m saying is we are at a point the Metro would be a liability for businesses, conferences, and tourism. Apple funded a renovate a station in Chicago. Are there D.C. businesses that are stepping up to the plate to help the Metro? The Metro just need to step up, period.

    On SHRM, there are a lot of HR professionals in the DC area and their headquarters is in Alexandria, so people are coming from the Metro to go to the conference, but they can’t control what Metro does like delays, track maintenance, etc. I’ve talked to those people in SHRM and they had the same concerns, so they put Las Vegas in 2011 and Atlanta in 2012. Traffic in Atlanta is bad, but most of the HR people will be at hotels, not homes, which makes it easier to handle.

  • […] Memo to the D.C. Metro (December 22, 2010) – This was simply a rant on the D.C. Metro. Nothing really special about it since every D.C. blogger rants on the Metro and I had 10 views when it was first published. After Christmas, the post exploded on its own.  It is currently my most viewed post of all-time in just a month. If you want my theory, I think most read my post because they relate on their Metro experience and wanted to see whose crushing Metro now. Also, I believe there were detractors who think I thought Cliff Lee went to the Phillies because of Philly’s great “public transportation” for which I never said was the main reason, although some interpret that. This was about the WMATA’s Board’s lack of awareness that might cost Metro of getting business around the stations. After that post, Metro is recommending naming rights and I’m in the middle of the D.C. media storm on TBD and Washington Post Express (via @crieghtonc)…ok, not really, although I might have a third career as a “public transportation expert” (again, not a chance). […]

  • Cliff Lee didn’t join the Phillies because of the traits, you moron. One of the main reasons he joined was the fans. He said that Phillies fans are some of the smartest fans out there, they don’t need horns or teleprompters to tell them when to cheer. (he had an actual quote similar to that) meanwhile DC fans need some lame horn guy to cheer during hockey because they barely know the rules.

    • Thanks for your “insightful comments, John.” I never said the main reason Lee wanted to go to the Phillies was for the transportation, though that may play a very minor part. If Cliff likes the Phillies fans, more power to him. Just wondering why you put together Phillies baseball and Caps hockey? At least have a Flyers mention.

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