If Washington’s Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was a soccer team, the Red Line that runs between Shady Grove and Glenmont would be a player not pulling his weight. The Red Line, part of the oldest line in the 37 year-old combined subway/surface rail system, has been plagued with problems for the past several years, including excessive delays, breakdowns, and accidents.
When mishaps cause the system to have to single track – which seems to happen almost every day – riders during rush hour can experience delays of two to four hours, stations as crowded as a Tokyo subway station and frustration levels that are off the chart. Add to this the design flaws in the system, such as platform tiles of a material that becomes as slick as ice when it gets wet, escalators and elevators that stop working at the most inopportune time, and turnstiles that malfunction frequently, and you have a set of irritants that force many commuters back into their cars and onto the crowded streets and the Beltway.
The Red Line handles about 150,000 rider trips a day, making it one of the busiest of the system’s soon to be six lines (the Silver Line to Dulles Airport is set to open sometime in 2014). If its problems cause people to jettison mass transit commutes, and go back to the highways, think of what that will mean to area traffic and pollution. That’s another 100K cars or so on roads that are already overcrowded, and tons more greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere.
Come on Metro; fans are sitting in the stands cheering for you to get your star player in shape and back onto the field.