Metro Solutions: Current and Proposed

Black and Whites

There have been a lot of talk recently about WMATA proposing cuts in weekend late night service. As reported by Greater Greater Washington and Beyond DC, and Unsuck, there is significant debate over the proposal. In short, Metro would cut subway service at midnight on friday and saturday nights.

As Unsuck points out in a guest-written post, what the public hears about metro has two distinct (and often contradictory) sources. The first are the people telling you the subway’s goal is to be a world class system that strives to be the best. the second group tells you what you may not want to hear – how WMATA fails at maintenance, fails at safety and securiy. Most of us know there’s something wrong with the subway, but most don’t really care. This post is not directed at you. If you don’t care, you’re going to think me, Unsuck, BeyondDC, WDCM, etc are a bunch of whiners when in reality, we want the subway to be better. we want it to be the best.

Here are some suggestions I have that have potential for saving money:

Modify the escalators that are 1 story high (go up and down one floor) to be stairs. This would reduce the amount of maintenance required on the system escalators. Escalators are a gift – and we can barely keep them afloat. this includes all the platform escalators. I realize this is unpopular, but I’d rather have a system that works than the convenience of an escalator.

Buy future train cars that do not use carpeting and leather upholstered chairs. The maintenance costs for shampooing carpet and re-upholstering the chairs must not be cheap. Change to the vinyl/linoleum flooring to make it an easy mop job. Change the seats to the all-plastic one-piece things that just need a wipe-down at best.

My nightmare: 25 foreign kids trying to get on the metro

Link the metro Smartrip card to local stores and shops so that we can use the money on our smartrip cards at 7-11 or something, making it a potential single-card for your DC travels. This would increase the money kept on smartrip balance and metro could reap in some of the transaction/sales. Most places already have RFID devices, why not use your Smarttrip to swipe?

Increase the maximum amount you can put on your smarttrip card. I never understood why they would cap it at $300 (I think it’s $300). If I have $1,000 I want to dump on the card, why would you limit me? That’s pretty much a guaranteed $1,000! this increase would make the most sense with the above suggestion, but I know I’ve lost some dollars from adding my smartbenefits a little early.

Have VA and MD contribute more money to WMATA through smartbenefits. I have some vague idea where VA and MD would give smartbenefits to their residents to work in DC, but I wasn’t sure how the money would balance out considering the commerce a VA resident would bring to DC doesn’t really affect VA in a tangible way. It’s a nice idea, and it gets around VA or MD having to burden the whole state for a commuter system that a small percentage actually uses. I would like to see a way that I could defer some WMATA money pre-tax or even post tax, but get taxed less somehow? I don’t know, this was a vague idea. this would increase state contributions (so to speak) and increase WMATA funds.

Sell advertising aggressively. I want to see a fully wrapped “Washington Wizards” train, a giant ad for the capitals, any number of museum exhibits, etc. There is tons of advertising money that WMATA needs to harness. The catch is, looking at the decreasing ridership, advertisers might be more selective about when to use WMATA publicity.

Stop using the ceramic tiled platforms. They have already released photos of the new red cement faux-hexagonal replacements for the exisiting signature tiles – I have yet to see any installed, but it’s a good idea to go with cheaper flooring.

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