WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- If you ride the Metro and have a complaint or an issue, you can attend the monthly Rider's Advisory Council (RAC) meetings and discuss it, or you can tweet a news reporter and let her (and by "her", I mean me) ask the questions.
After a rail cracked and the Red Line ground to a halt this morning, leaving hundreds of Metro riders late to work, we asked Metro riders on Twitter for their top complaints.
We took our "Letterman-style" Top Ten list to tonight's RAC meeting at WMATA Headquarters, and shared it with Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel, asking him to respond.
Top Ten Rider Complaints About Metro
3-Weekend track work
4-Weekend Wait Times
7-Doors Open for too short a time o get on/off
8-Too frequently out of service
9-Fare to service ratio
10-Redskins (yes, they creep into everything)
"Disgruntled Rider" tweeted: "It's completely unreliable and I'm frequently paying for service I don't receive." Reporter Pat Host attended the meeting and shared this, "It's the lack of accountability, it's the financial waste, and it's the lack of reliable service during rush hour and on the weekends." Looks like Pat hit a few of our top ten items. We asked Dan Stessel: "I understand that for certain riders it might feel that way when something doesn't get resolved the next day when they report something. But the fact is we are accountable and they way that we're accountable is through a process called Vital Signs. It's our performance metric system. We make it very transparent, we report to our Board of Directors and to the public every quarter how we're doing, in a number of key categories: on-time performance, reliability, escalators, elevators, crime, safety, you name it. And in 10 out of 12 of those categories in 2012, we improved."
2. Unreliable service.
One rider tweeted about the subway service in Toronto, "where the trains come every 3 minutes, even on holidays." Another pointed out that NYC subways travel for 170,000 miles between breakdowns while Metro trains travel typically for about 70,000 miles between breakdowns. Stessel's answer, "Every transit system is different, and they all have their idiosyncrasies, we operate trains at faster speeds than New York, is one example, New York has received newer cars.....that said, we do have specific goals and we track rail car reliability by the specific rail car fleets, we have 6 currently, the 1,000 through 6,000 series, and the soon-to-be 7,000 series. The 1,000 series and the 4,000 series are our least reliable. And those are the ones that will be replaced over time."
3. Weekend track work.
Jesus Yactayo of Northwest D.C. told us this before getting on the Dupont Circle Red Line tonight, "Basically, on the weekends, it's hard to get the Metro constantly because on the weekends is when they have the repairs." If you've taken the Metro recently on the weekends, you know your commute might involve a shuttle bus. We asked Stessel why is this necessary? "What's important for folks to know about what's happening on the weekends here is that track work is not the right word, it's kind of an understatement, what we're doing on weekends here is rebuilding this system." He adds, "That's a process, that is heavy construction, and it's going to take a while. The only good time to get that productive work done is on the weekends." Stessel goes on to say that limiting the work to the overnight hours doesn't allow workers enough time, they need the full weekend.
4. Weekend wait times.
Rider Deborah Brody's biggest pet peeve? "The length of time between trains, especially off-peak. Waiting nearly 20 minutes for a train is unacceptable." Joan Arkham agrees, "Metro is useless on weekends, especially from outer stations. Trip times measured in hours." Stessel explains, "The reason that we extend the wait time on weekends is that so customers don't encounter delays on route. You encounter the longer trip time on the platform, but once the train arrives, our goal is to have that train make a continuous trip through the system. So, when we say the trains will run every twenty minutes, you might be on a bench at your station in a comfortable environment and when you get on the train your train will keep moving."
5. Faulty escalators.
Maria Naranjo of Northwest D.C's assessment of Metro escalators: "Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, sometimes they're up, sometimes, they're down." Mo tweeted, "Escalator outages. They're never ending and I hate having to work out in business wear." Miss Lee tweeted, "An escalator broke & it took 15 min to get up the stairs. Some went up the down escalator, causing problems for others." Dan Stessel says his statistics don't lie, "I can tell you that escalator reliability has improved 10 points in the last 18 months and it has, but if your escalator is out of service at your station, you don't care about that." He has a very good point. He also says WMATA has awarded a contract to replace a fifth of the escalators in the next few years.
6. Malfunctioning doors.
Some people tweeted that the doors malfunction so often, Metro has to take cars out of service. Stessel's answer is familiar, "The situation is in many cases the result of older rail cars. The oldest rail cars are approaching 40 years old. They're as original as the system itself. We're in the process of replacing those, we'll have the new rail cars start arriving in less than a year. And we'll replace all of our 1,000 series over time and not only that, we'll replace the 4,000 series ....as well as get 128 new ones on top of all of that. We've also made a number of improvements as far as the software and hardware on our existing fleets to improve rail car reliability."
7. Doors open for too short of a time to get on/off.
Riders say fifteen seconds is not enough. Stessel: "We've heard that too and it can be the result of an isolated operator here or there, when you think of how many operators it takes to operate Metro on any given day, it's about 4- to 500 train operators...so if one of those operators is not dwelling long enough at a particular station then you get complaints from that." Stessel says if this happens to you, let Metro know. "We would like to know about that, note the car number and get in touch with our customer service."
8. Too frequently out of service.
Disgruntled Rider says "I'm frequently paying for service I don't receive." Another rider asks, "How can a train just leave the yard and go out of service mechanically?" Stessel admits, "I do think that's a function of having an aging fleet. That's a situation that'll be resolved as we get new rail cars to replace the oldest in our fleet. Any time we have a train that malfunctions, we go back and do diagnostics on the car. We find out what the issue was."
9. Fare to service ratio
Carly Ferreira just moved to D.C. from NYC. Her thoughts on the fare, "A little expensive. I would say the fare price is very high." Fire Dr Gridlock tweeted, "No refunds when there is a massive delay. If they offer, they make you jump thru hoops." On a day when the Red Line had delayed passengers during the morning commute, another rider pointed out that other transit systems, like VRE, offer refunds for late service, while Metro does not. We posed that to Stessel who says, "I think that's an order of magnitude question. VRE operates about 28 trains a day, while we operate about 1500 and also those trips are much more costly."
Yes, this debate made it's way into our Top Ten list. One rider tweeted, "Biggest complaint? The fact that the DC Council is more concerned about an MD football team than Metro!!!