It's Metro board day.
We'll hear about
- The bus network redesign kick-off
- The upcoming budget issues (dcist.com/story/22/09/19…)
- Development at Greenbelt
- Silver Line timeline and next steps (no opening date today, though, I'm told)
What customers say they want for buses: "run more buses."
What Metro hopes to achieve with this bus network redesign, which could be rolled out in 2024.
.@Randy Clarke 🚌🚊🚍 says people don't like changes. Encourages extensive public involvement and outreach where riders are.
"There will be some people upset with the change. Our job is to make the best bus network for everyone in the region," Clarke says.
I think bus route changes or routes going away is one of the constant drumbeats I've heard during the pandemic. People still tell me they miss their old routes.
So I can see how this project could be difficult.
Metro is hiring its (I believe) first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer:
wmata.com/about/careers/…@DMOIDC Lucinda Babers says equity is so important in the bus network redesign, especially for D.C.
Many board members are excited, thrilled etc about the redesign, but @Tracy Hadden Loh injects some pragmatism into the conversation: we've been sitting on this project for four years, which feels like an eternity, she says.
"Now we say we're delivering a new map in 12 months?"
On Greenbelt development -- Clarke says Metro is being responsive to the GSA's request for info on the Greenbelt site.
Clarke reads a statement from lawyers on the legalise around allowing unsolicited offers, which can only be allowed under certain circumstances.
Smedberg says the board is not favoring one site over another. "Selecting an FBI building site is not our business -- that's the FBI's business."
WMATA only owns land at one of the sites -- Greenbelt.
(Slides from GSA presentation)
Haven't followed FBI HQ news closely, but sounds contentious!
.@WMATA OIG has an audit underway on Metro's Money Train processes.
Seeing the yellow Money Train in the wild is always such a fun surprise. It's like a unicorn train with lots of money and armed guards.
RT to bring the Money Train into your life
Budget presentation is wrapped.
But speaking of money trains... WMATA could use a LOT of money in the next few years to meet some REALLY large upcoming budget gaps.
Main problem is ridership is still way down, ridership has fundamentally changed, federal COVID funding runs out
Sarah Kline, a board member appointed by the feds, says zone pricing could be an interesting idea and different from what Metro has done before.
"But as the General Manager said earlier, some people don't like change."
"It's becoming clearer and clear that Metro's financial structure is simply not sustainable in the future," board chair Paul Smedberg says of this graph. "We need to have a larger regional conversation about how to address this."
"We have to figure out what we want Metro to be and then figure out how to fund that," @Randy Clarke 🚌🚊🚍 says.
"(Unlike jurisdictions) We have very few tools to manage ups and downs."
Clarke: "I'm going to be optimistic until proven otherwise (about the future of WMATA)."
Clarke says everyone he's talked to in the first two months wants the agency to succeed, that it needs to succeed.
MD board rep Donald Drummer tells staff to come up with bold ideas to meet the budget gaps.
VA board rep Matt Letourneau says the fare policy options on the table don't seem to address how big the budget gap is...
Letourneau also says increasing the amount of money from jurisdictions would take law change, be a big lift for not that much money.
Fare and service changes won't meet the gap, GM Clarke says.
"Around the region, people want more service, night service -- not less service." That would widen the gap.
Metro board honoring Fonda Moore, a train operator who put out a fire on an Orange Line train at Eastern Market a few weeks ago. Someone intentionally set a seat on fire and she ran to it and extinguished it.
Not to be Captain Obvious, but btw trespassers, system tampering & an intentionally set fire it’s been a tough day for @Metro customers. That aside, I want to recognize the heroic actions of our operator who sprung into action to extinguish the fire. 1/2
Also honoring Allan Whittaker, a bus operator, who pulled an unconscious driver out of a flipped vehicle that was leaking gas. He drives on the 90 route.
Phil Posner, who has been a tireless advocate for people with disabilities on Metro’s Accessibility Advisory Committee for years, is stepping away from the role.
He’s moving to Florida.
Chair Smedberg says Yellow/Blue line shuttles seem to be meeting customers' needs.
I went out there on the first commuting day: dcist.com/story/22/09/12…
Anything good/bad since?
GM Clarke's updates:
- Metrorail had a pandemic-era high of 292,000 riders on Sept. 14
- Clarke leaning into concept of "Your Metro"
- Meeting with a LOT of elected officials.
- WMATA hiring mental health experts to respond to crises: dcist.com/story/22/09/22…
- Metro will publish survey results underway wmata.com/about/news/202…
- Piloting new digital signs outside certain stations that show train arrival times. One at Metro Center
- Metro working on a seven-week clean-up of stations repairing lights, cleaning windows, removing graffiti
- More Metro Transit Police will be on trains, moving from car to car. More on buses and also in charge of clearing bus lanes, clearing bus stops.
- Clarke heard from international visitors that Metro was really clean. He's also heard from people that it's really dirty.
- Metro is piloting fare gate modifications to make it harder to jump the gates/not pay.
- Silver Line is "getting close." Seeking safety certification by end of October.
Update on 7000-series trains from Jayme Johnson, Assistant Chief Safety Officer.
Responding to a WMSC report from Tues: "the report was not new info that WMATA was hiding." It was part of tens of thousands of pages of documents submitted last Nov.
- Root cause still unknown.
- NTSB and WMSC haven't directed WMATA To change any wheelsets or track configurations
- "WMATA is treading carefully," Johnson says. Changing track or other things may cause more unintended consequences.
- This is about "measurement, measurement, measurement" before we figure out root cause.
- Metro found 16 wheels/axles that were pressed on at higher specification and that was source of 30% of failures.
Metro put out six cars today that were due for measurement but weren't measured. They were caught and removed from service. Doesn't say how long they were out in service.
This has been the most out-in-front Metro has been responding in public to WMSC reports. Fascinating to see the communication changes under new GM Clarke.
Sharing Johnson's comments in full because of how detailed and technical they are.
.@Tracy Hadden Loh notes she's seen lots of crowding on trains lately and it's starting to be a problem.
"We are not overcrowded on the system at the moment," Johnson says. "At certain times on Red Line during rush hour, the number of people per rail car "grabbed my attention."
Clarke said if more 7000-series trains don't return (only 20 allowed so far) there will be railcar shortages that will force a decision:
- run less service when BL stations reopen on Oct. 24
- not open the Silver Line extension just yet
Clarke during media availability
"We have no intention to delay the opening of Silver Line."
Based on train availability -- won't be able to provide a level of service today. "A simple math equation"
Current level of trains, more tracks = less service.
Metro working on wayside inspection station to automatically measure wheels, but Clarke says he wants to be cautious with that system and make sure it's validated.
Didnt give a timeline of when that could be online. But previous plans said Metro needs those to return all trains
Clarke said staff is working to figure out what headways riders could be seeing if they need to reduce service.
Clarke said he would love to get to root cause on the 7000-series train wheel issues, but ok if they have to do mitigation (measuring the wheels) in perpetuity as long as safe.