DC Metro: Nah, I’d Rather Walk. Or Stay Home.

Despite the fact that Metro is the worst, people are constantly telling me that I’m too harsh. Of course, these people are usually tourists or non-commuters, who then tell me that the train worked just fine when they went to that one Nats game that one time, or how when they visited DC it was so easy to get the museums. These people are wrong. Metro is a poorly maintained, poorly run, and overpriced debacle. The small annoyances are so typical I barely think to complain about them: unheated or unbearably overheated cars, constant delays, trains that don’t show up, 19 minute waits for the train you need. The larger annoyances sometimes grab attention, but it takes a death to make a big splash. On Monday of this week, a yellow line train on the DC Metro stopped 800 feet from the station it had just departed and filled with smoke. Passengers sat in the increasingly hot train for about an hour, breathing in the smoke and being told to not open the doors. When paramedics finally showed up, one woman was dead and over 80 needed hospitalization. Monday was not an isolated incident; it was just an example of how inefficient and incompetent Metro is.

It is ridiculously expensive to take Metro for the quality of the service you get. Speaking as someone who frequently pays the extra money to take Amtrak to Alexandria instead of Metro, I’m fine paying more for efficiency.  Metro runs on a system that requires you swipe your card when boarding and then again when exiting, running prices on a sliding scale based on distance. To get from the heart of the city to Franconia-Springfield is $5.75; if it was my daily commute, that would total $16.35 for round trip and $4.85 parking (interestingly, the stations in Prince George’s County are $5.10 — despite being far less crowded). Doesn’t WMATA have a responsibility to make using Metro worth $16.35, or at least make Metro convenient enough that you’re fine leaving the comfort of your car? You’d think.

Dupont South, from http://unsuckdcmetro.blogspot.com/
Dupont South, from http://unsuckdcmetro.blogspot.com/

Paying $16.35 a day, would you expect to have to hike up 188 foot long escalator? If you’re a Washingtonian, the answer is “yes.” The DuPont South escalator is the worst. The escalators at all stations are constantly out, and sometimes the elevators are too. Are you disabled? Metro doesn’t appear to give a shit about you.

Maybe if you were one of the passengers stranded just steps from L’Enfant Plaza, you’d think that you were entitled to just get the hell out of the station once you were being evacuated.  Nope! I know it isn’t typically the most reliable source, but people reported on Twitter that they were still forced to scan their card and wait for the exit to open for each evacuee (the same person said she told the news and they didn’t report on it).

On Monday, the smoke in the train was caused by arcing.  While it produced a massive amount of smoke, it didn’t cause a fire. Of course, people on the train don’t know this. As usual, Metro didn’t tell the passengers the information they needed (and deserved) to know. The one thing they did communicate was to stay in the train — despite being only 800 feet from the station/freedom. Even though all of the emergency signs say to exit on the side of the tunnel where the lights are (away from the electric third rail), passengers weren’t allowed to exit, and the firefighters couldn’t figure out if the third rail was on or off to get to the victims. But this makes a lot more sense when you look at Metro’s Standard Operating Procedures and realize that….they don’t actually have a plan.

6.5.3.4.  If the Train Operator was not able to reverse from the heavy smoke, the ROCC Supervisor shall:  6.5.2.4.1. FUCKING PANIC
6.5.3.4. If the Train Operator was not able to reverse from the heavy smoke, the ROCC Supervisor shall:
6.5.3.4.1. ???????????????????????????

You’d think that Metro would put into their rules what they would do when there is a lot of smoke, since this isn’t a new problem.  According to WMATA, arcing insulators occur about twice a month, though IMO that number seems like it’s low. The day after the L’Enfant Plaza incident, sparks and smoke were reported at the Gallery Place stop. All locals remember in 2013, when a  Green Line train had a problem with arcing — and everyone was told to spend hours stuck in the trains, without power. Riders started to “rebel” by self evacuating. Not only did Metro not approve, they wondered if they could arrest people for freeing themselves. What. The. Fuck.

To be fair, “sit still and do as we say” is the only way Metro has to handle any situation. In July 2012 a train lost power and passengers were told to hang tight…on a 90 degree, muggy DC summer day. Not in a tunnel. While the passengers say they exited after being told to do so by the conductor, Metro claimed that passengers were responsible for being forced to sit so long. Even though the “rescue” train also lost power before the pax self evacuating, apparently the passengers were to blame.

Elevator repair: blocking off the elevator for 6 months and taking breaks.
Escalator repair: blocking off the escalator for 6 months and taking breaks.

Now the union representing the transit people is on Twitter, holding a Q&A…and getting an earful. They linked to a useful PDF about why we shouldn’t privatize the system because people will lose jobs.  In reality,  illiteracy, drug use, and prior convictions run rampant in the staff currently employed by the system…as does extreme overpayment. Anytime you’re interested in a good laugh (or cry), just search Twitter for #wmata so you can see the day’s misery. And remember: it’s DC, so if you’re an American…this is your tax dollars at work!

To read about other things that piss me off, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to my blog. 

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Do You Bleed Burgundy and Gold?

I really don’t want to hear about the Redskins anymore, mostly because I hate football. But I am considering opening up a side business if they lose their patent appeal. I’m going to sell a higher quality version of this shirt, and I’m going to be mega rich…who wouldn’t buy it?

20140703-145208-53528685.jpgSeriously, this is amazing.

Screw You, DC Cabs — And Long Live Uber!

Looks like I dodged a bullet by leaving DC last week – the cab drivers in the city apparently had a terribly obnoxious protest against Uber and Lyft that resulted in completely stopped traffic. Good. Being obnoxious will definitely make people more sympathetic toward you, cabbies. The people who are good cab drivers will likely switch to Lyft or Uber, and the bad ones will be phased out. I’ve taken plenty of Uber rides, and I can assure you I find it much safer. In DC cabs, I have been touched (yup), forever lost my phone, been hit on, texted later on by my driver (and NOT about driving me around), been told credit was taken and then forced to go to an ATM, and I’ve been told to get out because the driver didn’t feel like going where I lived. Calling DC area cabs has consistently been a nightmare, with rude operators and cabs that sometimes never show up. Since the new services allow you to rate your driver, it’s a lot less likely the driver will be a complete ass, and since you use the app to call for a car, the operator is eliminated from the equation.

Here’s a little trip down memory lane for anyone who might be on the cab drivers’ side.

June, 2011: Desperately seeking a cab ride home after my birthday in downtown DC, I faced multiple rejections since I lived in Landover. Finally had to pay $100 cash for the ride from Josephines to near FedEx Field.  Fuck you, cab drivers.  Eventually I learned to take cabs to my mom’s house in Alexandria.

September 25, 2011:  After seeing Bassnectar at RFK, my friends and I wandered around aimlessly while we hoped and prayed a cab would respond to our calls. A couple of hours later, we finally got one.

October 2, 2011: After seeing Steve Angello at Fur, my at the time boyfriend, me, and his roommates had to pay a random guy with a crack pipe in his car like $100 to take us to their house. Why? No cabs would come to us. Oh, okay. TOTALLY safer than Lyft. I’m sure his insurance was top notch.

All of the Friday and Saturday nights in 2010-2012 that I lived in Alexandria: “Hi, we’re going to Alexandria.” “No. Get out of my cab. Too far.”

All of the Friday and Saturday nights in 2010-2012 that I lived in Oxon Hill or Landover: “Hi, I’m going to Oxon Hill/Landover.” “Too dangerous. Get out of my car.” Sounds like they are so upset over missing out on all the money…oh wait. Uber and Lyft drivers are willing to go to regions that these lazy ass cab drivers can’t be bothered to drive to.

Bonus story: When I was a small child, my family and I took a cab that had fleas in it and brought them into our home in Alexandria City.

For what it’s worth, I’ve only used Uber in DC, not lift — but I did take UberX to Franconia-Springfield metro recently, and the guy who drove me was awesome. I’ve had guys use Uber to pay for my ride home (to the exotic, far away suburbs of PG and Alexandria) when I’ve taken the train to them for dates (take note, men: it’s an awesome thing for you to do).

Anyone else have miserable DC cab stories?

Despite my best efforts, no one pays me to write so use my promo codes to sign up for Uber or Lyft and I’ll love you always.

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Waterfront Dinner

I started this blog intending to write about things in politics and the news that really irritate me, but I’ve been held back bythe question of what topic to start with. Thankfully, I wasted $95 this weekend eating at Sequoia in DC, and I want to use every outlet possible to let people know how terrible this place was (Yelp and Google just aren’t enough). Sure, it isn’t exactly about politics, but the restaurant is in DC so it’s close enough.

I went here over the weekend with two of my friends to celebrate the sun finally showing its face in DC, and I now wish I had just had some PB&Js in my front yard or something. Everything that could go wrong and suck here absolutely did. When we got to the hostess stand, we had the same interaction with two different people (one of whom I believe was a manager based on his clothing).

Employee: How many?
Us: 3
Employee: [walks away as though we are invisible]

Oh, okay. So when we finally got to our table, instead of just meandering off after pointing us in the general direction, the guy who sat us goes, “is this table fine, YES OR NO?!” What? Is this the exit row in an airplane? You need a verbal yes or no about the table? Whatever. After we agreed YES to sit at the table (maybe this guy was actually warning us to get out and save ourselves?), a single glass of water with one straw was placed in the center of the table. Naturally, everyone that worked for the establishment promptly fled the vicinity, leaving us wondering what to do with this single water cup. Maybe cut the straw in thirds? When the waiter came to our table and took our drink orders, I even told him, “someone awkwardly set this single cup down here, so I’m not sure what’s up with that, but is it trash?” “Oh, they’ll be ‘right back’ with more.” Right back? Hope you like the water view, dear reader, as this place runs on Key West time…but with none of the natural beauty of the ocean or warmth of Florida (indeed, we ended up spending so long there the sun went down and it was freezing when we left).

Also, good thing the drink menu is just a list of some beers and like 3 speciality cocktails that aren’t impressive. They only have TWENTY for the entire restaurant, and the waiter rudely took it from my friend without an apology or saying he’d be back with it. Hey, Sequoia, you’re a WATERFRONT RESTAURANT. Would it freaking kill you to put some beachy drinks on your menu? I could buy some crab legs at Safeway and blend my own key lime vodka with coconut cream and ice and drink it by a kiddie pool and it’d be a more worthwhile and creative waterfront experience than crushed blueberries and menu snatching.

We ordered our appetizers and entrees at the same time — and thank God for apps! It took over an HOUR from GETTING our appetizers to get our entrees. Seriously? Props for using Maryland crabs, Sequoia, but did you send someone up the Chesapeake to pull a crab pot to make our cakes super fresh? When we got the food, my one friend asked for a box because she figured it’d be her only shot for an hour or so (jokes on her, since it took over an hour to pay the check after we asked for it), and our waiter told her, “I’m really busy right now, I’ll get it later.” WHAT?! The CORRECT answer is, “Of course! Give me just a minute and I’ll be right back with it.” But the boxes ended up being in a cabinet about 2 feet from our table, making his frazzled reaction even more bizarre. I guess he was really pressed for time since he probably had to run away and hide from another table so they couldn’t ask where their food was (answer: if at all like my lukewarm crabcakes, sitting under a heat lamp).

Then the check. Oh, the check. We planned to split the bill between two cards, with the third party paying cash to one of the cards. I was dividing up my portion when I realized there was an extra drink on the bill. We finally flagged down the waiter and pointed it out.

Waiter: Oh, yeah. Just pay everything and I won’t charge $10.
Me: Right, but we’re splitting the bill so we need an accurate count of the whole thing.
Waiter: It’s no big deal, just make it $10 short.
Me: You need to give us an accurate copy of the bill before I’ll pay.
Waiter: Fine.

Um, what? We’re dividing things up, and there was $19 worth of taxes on the bill that also needed split, and everything that happens here is terrible, so why would I trust this? Good thing I didn’t, based on what followed. We get the accurate check, I divide everything up and write LastNameA: $XXX LastNameB: $XXX. He did separate charges, all right…but swiped my friends card for both of the charges. Good thing I noticed my receipt said her name on it, or we wouldn’t have known until she or I checked our credit card statements.

AND SIR, YOU WANTED ME TO TRUST YOU TO RUN MY CARD ON AN INACCURATE BILL?! YOU COULDN’T PROPERLY CHARGE THE CORRECT BILL.

Just walk around the area and buy a hot dog from a vendor or something.

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The view is lovely.