Friday, October 02, 2015

NTSB wants to supervise DC Metro, with implications for non-commuter riders

Angry and frustrated Metro riders in the Washington DC area are glad to “bring on the feds” for oversight, as the NTSB recommends that the administration push Congress for official federal oversight of the Metro system (with a declaration of Metro as a "commuter railroad"). A GOP Congress may well balk. But Petula Dvorak has a Metro section column in the Washington Post Friday, link here.  This would be the only major transit system under federal supervision. By the way, NTSB has said very little about the big May Amtrak crash in Philadelphia in recent months. 
Metro service was reliable in the 1990s, but I've noticed many more delays and disruptions myself in the past five years. 
One problem that keeps cropping up is the idea of cancelling after midnight service on weekends, to allow more time for maintenance (in line with the "commuter railroad" concept).  But businesses in Washington DC are very dependent on this service.  Taxi service has improved, and it’s possible that Uber and Lyft would take up the remaining slack (again, regulation).  But businesses in entertainment areas of DC have not built the secure 24-hour garages as has been done in downtown areas of other cities without enough public transportation.  (For example, I found parking in downtown Orlando, for $5, easy during a summer Saturday night street festival, with bar visits, recently.)
Another idea is to run “dedicated bus lane” service along express routes all the time (Cleveland has done some of this), and that would give Metro more time for repairs.
The call for fibbie regulation runs counter to calls for DC Statehood.  It’s interesting to note that if DC were a state, it would have its own two Senators (a compromise of only one would be an “unconstitutional amendment”, as implied by John Paul Stevens’s book – on my Book reviews Aug. 31).  It’s also interesting, as a thought experiment, to add the population of Arlington and part of Alexandria (within the original 10-mile square) to the District.  You get about 950,000 people, I think.  Maybe a good question for the Millionaire quiz show.

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