Making Myself Unpopular
June 24, 2009 | Filed in: Personal Crap

As a minor member of the DC hockey blogging pantheon and an even smaller member of the DC blogosphere as a whole, I thought it might be time for me to weigh in on the recent Metrogate ‘09 accident a day late and a dollar short, as usual.

What happened Monday was tragic and quite possibly avoidable, had certain wheels been put into motion much earlier on. I do feel for those involved and their families, and I wish them nothing but the best as they endeavor to heal.

However, as the investigators swoop in and the media begins to cold-call Metro riders, lets’ remember that overall, Metro’s track record is pretty damn good. CNN reports, “The only other time in Metrorail’s 33-year history that there were customer fatalities was in January 1982, when three people died as a result of a derailment between the Federal Triangle and Smithsonian Metrorail stations.” In 33 years, that’s less than one customer death a year, meaning the numbers just don’t add up to making the Metro the deathtrap everyone seems to want to think it is.

Here, at the risk of alienating the rest of the DC hockey blog scene, I have to call out OFB’s pucksandbooks. Mr. books, you wrote online and were quoted in the daily Express the sentiment that, “During weekday rush hours — and not just on the Red Line — Metro must operate cars at 3-minute intervals to address the teeming platforms of patrons. Conditions within those congested cars are at times sub-human. We who ride it regularly are in a very real sense survivors, even on eventless days. ”

Sir, this is nothing more than over-hyped, old-fashioned new-media alarmism. I am not a survivor because I ride public transit any more than I am a survivor when I drive my car. Statistically, in fact, I’m MORE of a survivor when I drive to work, what with the the number of highway accidents in this country every day. In fact, by tagging those of us that commute via Metro with the title “survivor,” you horribly discount those people in the world who are deserving of the title; those who have survived domestic violence, war zones, life threatening illnesses: in essence, something more harrowing than an inconvienient commute.

As for the “sub-human conditions” on trains, Mr. books, I can’t put it much more nicely than this: Put on your big girl panties and board the train, sir. If having your personal bubble squished for half an hour is that offensive, I can’t imagine that you enjoy the concourses of a full Verizon Center or being squished into a seat for hockey with 18,277 of your closest friends. Sub-human conditions are found in the ghettos of World War II or the tenements of New York, not in the Metro tunnels of Washington DC. Yes, cars smell of mold, yes, carpets are stained, but sub-human, they are not.

When you speak of the system being brought to a halt by one passenger, saying “I took the train into work this morning not 15 hours removed from yesterday’s accident. A sick passenger on a single train brought the system to a virtual screeching halt.” I can’t help but wonder what kind of human empathy you are disregarding. If YOU were that sick passenger, wouldn’t you be appreciative of any effort by your fellow man to get you off the Metro and to help? Perhaps I’ve missed an integral part of this story, but it seems to me that this is not outside of the realm of acceptable customer service.

While I concur your point that many hockey fans use Metro to get to Verizon, your suggestion of a bus fleet for games just seems like avoiding the underlying problem. “When the Capitals become profitable to the owners” as you say, perhaps the ownership shouldn’t simply bypass the Metro, but invest that bus fleet money in making it better, safer, and more accessible for the fans that use it. Buy a few solid red cars with the newest in safety equipment. Allocate money to rail upkeep. Hell, start a Corporate Metro Sponsorship program where companies can sponsor sections of track that run under or near their businesses. Instead of only “fixing” what might be one group’s problem, fix the system for everyone.

Sir, I respect you as a member of the community, but I can’t help but feel that perhaps on this issue you’ve overstepped the bounds of propriety, and on some level, reality.

Yours in blogdom,

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