WMATA 29 Hour Rail Closure: A Two Way Street

Another Metro mess, and 29 hours of coping with no rail. Transit activist Lessie Henderson brings the perspective of the riders to the latest difficulty with our tattered rail transit system.

/By Lessie Henderson/ By the time this is published, people will either be: sitting on a bus in heavy traffic complaining about the rail situation and ongoing WMATA woes; somewhere listening to drivers say this is why they drive daily and this is why they can’t mess with Metro; figuring out who they can get a ride from; riding in a taxi hoping the meter slows down; pondering about life and the extra charge in an over surged Uber or Lyft; scratching their heads at the Capital Bikeshare stations trying to figure out how it works; strolling it to their destination; or at home thanking something or someone that they have the telework option.  

Seeing how only a major WMATA closure, Federal shutdown or a named winter storm has the ability to have the region at a standstill, people should know the drill and always know alternate ways of getting around besides rail (even if you’re an area newbie, you should look into alternate ways just as you did for your previous location). 

On the other hand, there must be better ways for WMATA to communicate late-decision news that will impact thousands of riders. 

When I was commuting Tuesday afternoon, passengers were spreading the word to others about the closure.  Even a few bus drivers were surprised at the news.  Passengers were gasping at the news and mentioning how they have to ride multiple buses, and a few obscenities were thrown around.  People get that the new general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, is trying to turn things around -- but people are tired of issue after issue, report after report and meeting after meeting while things keep happening back to back. 

While we can all agree that safety comes first and that the emergency inspections of the power cables must happen and inconvenience is better than more fatalities, it’s not okay that during the early evening hours, the only signage announcing the shutdown was displayed on the television screens in the stations. And it’s not okay that people are inconvenienced weekend after weekend for track work only to go through it during the week in rush hour, too. 

On a good note, people will learn alternate ways of getting around in addition to rail and will hopefully get that public transportation and our infrastructure are not to be taken for granted and as far as the WMATA issues, time will tell. 

Lessie Henderson is co-chair of Prince Georges Advocates for Community-Based Transit and just gives the take of the riders.