Wednesday, November 29, 2006

metro conspiracy theory?

I am now starting to dread taking the Orange Line during the morning rush hour. It’s gotten to the point that I never know what to expect when I get to Ballston. A metro station lacking power? A delay due to a train malfunction? A super-packed train so I’m not even able to get on even if I tried? Ugh. I’m over it.

Last Tuesday morning, I got on the train at Ballston like every work day. Sure it was super-packed and we were all practically molesting each other because the riders were all so close, but this is what I’ve come to expect as an Orange Line rider. Between Ballston and Clarendon, the train driver’s warnings to step away from the doors (or else we’ll have to off load the train because of a malfunction) became a broken record. By the time the train got to Clarendon, it was completely full. Despite this, the commuters at Clarendon station tried desperately to get on. The cars were so full that the train doors would not close (or rather stay closed). The conductor tried in vain to get us all to back away from the doors, but there was simply no room to do so. So what do you think happened? The conductor announced, “This train is no longer in service. Please step off the train as this one is NO LONGER IN SERVICE.” Great. Since I was one of the passengers closest to the door, I walked to the back of the train platform (that was already full of frustrated commuters) to wait for the next train (which I’m sure would be packed too).

After watching three Orange Line trains go by, I was FINALLY able to get on one. “Please step away from the doors, DOORS ARE CLOSING,” the conductor warned. I thought to myself, maybe I’ll only be 15 minutes late to work today. And then we stopped. In the tunnel. Between Clarendon and Courthouse. What the hell is wrong this time? The conductor announces, “We will be waiting here for a few minutes. The train in front of us is experiencing a malfunction and is currently being offloaded. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.” Hmmm…another Orange Line train being offloaded? Are you serious? Just how many times can this happen in a 15 minute span?

Well, a week later, it happened again. I was on a train behind another train that offloaded this morning for the same reason—malfunctioning train probably with doors that would not close because the train was so packed that people simply could not step away from the doors. This is crazy. I am more familiar now with a conductor saying, “Please stand clear of the doors or I can’t move this train” than that annoying Metro announcer recording. I’m beginning to think that the train conductors are so frustrated with commuters not heeding their warnings that they’re punishing us by kicking us off of their trains.

Is this theory really that big of a stretch? I just find it hard to believe that this many Orange Line trains are malfunctioning during the morning rush. I’ve never been offloaded during afternoon rush. And it can’t just be me on the offloaded trains (or riding in a train behind the offloaded trains). There’s got to be some offloading when I’m not around. I just know it.

I’m not really sure what the solution to the overcrowding is, because it just ALL has to come back to the # of commuters on the Orange Line. Extending the (not-yet-built) Silver Line to Rosslyn is definitely not going to help. This will only increase the chances of (even more) bottlenecking at Rosslyn. Urban sprawl is ruining our commutes!

I do have one suggestion for the overcrowded trains—get rid of the 4 car Orange Line rush hour trains! If 6 car trains are already crowded, how packed do you expect 4 car trains to be?

9 comments:

Ar-Jew-Tino said...

I thought your line was testing out 8-car trains. Is that still happening? Do they go by Ballston?

lizzie said...

you know, i haven't seen an 8 car train in forever. back in the day, when the 8 car trains were the "in" thing, they were usually followed by 4 car trains or (worse) by a large time gap between trains. and they were never supposed to relieve passenger congestion. they were meant to alleviate congestion in the tunnels.

Thinking Fool said...

Yet people actually have the nerve to complain about the red line. How I miss you, red line. How I miss you.

Anonymous said...

i ride the orange line as well, and i know exactly what you're dealing with. i've found that the worse morning rush is at about 8:20 to 8:40... it's rediculously packed. but if i go at 8:10, much easier to get on and it doesn't stop as much mid-tunnel. yes, i'm early to work and yes i have to wake up earlier, but luckily i dont have to get smooshed by strangers every morning. try leaving 10 minutes earlier and see if it's different. hope this helps.

lizzie said...

thinking fool--yes, i miss the red line too!

anon--when i get to the station really depends on what time my bus decides to show up (if it does). but you're right. whenever i do leave extra early, the mess is sometimes avoided...unless there is still a train malfunction. I do appreciate the advice! thank you!

avocadoinparadise said...

Silver train? Did you say Silver? I've seen pamplets about a purple line train, but this is the first I've heard tell of a silver.

Re: 8 car trains, I ride the morning rush orange/blue lines within the district (where we were promised 8 car trains a while ago), and have never seen one. It would sure be nice, as long as they don't use that as an excuse to run fewer trains as you mention! That would be evil.

youknowwho said...

that's what you get for living in the burbs. Isn't ballston out by south carolina somewhere?

lizzie said...

yes, AIP! there is a silver line...or at least a plan for one. it goes from East Falls Church to Dulles Airport. more info at www.dullesmetro.com.

YKW...you know why i live in the 'burbs and how i miss the city!

Anonymous said...

When people don't get out of the way of the doors, they malfunction, and then everyone needs to get off the train.

Not that I don't think that Metro has its problems, but things would run smoother if passengers wouldn't crowd the doors.