Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Year's First Subway Fiasco
I assess Metro delays the same way floods are assessed. This evening, I participated in a subway glitch unlike any I'd been in in a couple of years, so it was a two-year delay.

That it wasn't going to be the usual commute didn't dawn on me until I had descended into the system and had parked myself on the platform at the Farragut West station, ready to head towards Virginia. There was a packed orange line train at the station. And it didn't move. As it didn't move, the platform got more and more packed. Metro people stopped commuters on the mezzanine, preventing them from moving down to the overcrowded platform. And the scoreboard on the platform noted that what we were experiencing was "residual delays."

As the train continued to not move, the platform got even more crowded. A Metro person walked up and down the edge of the platform, screaming from one end of the platform to people trying to come down from the mezzanine on the other side of the platform. So if, as they told us, the platform was 600 feet long, she was yelling at people more than 300 feet away. They didn't hear her. We got announcement over announcement, often interrupting each other, basically telling us, sorry, keep waiting. And using the word "residual" a lot.

The train eventually moved, but there was no hope of boarding a Virginia-bound orange line train anytime soon, and I hate having to compete with other commuters just to get into a damned train. So I moved to the opposite side of the platform, and did some backtracking. I got off at Federal Triangle, and immediately got on a relatively uncrowded train back towards Virginia. I got a seat, and braced myself as the train went towards the more crowded stations. Within two stops, the train was jammed full of people. And this was before we got to Farragut West.

We arrive at Farragut West -- a platform full of tired, pissed off people, faced with a train with no room on it. As the door opened, I braced for confrontation:

Tired-looking ponytailed woman by the door, as people tried to squeeze in: "There's no room."
Irritating-voiced 25-year old guy, in cheap suit, the kind of guy that gives all guys in DC a bad reputation: "Sure there is."
Ponytailed woman, and about 10 other passengers: "No there isn't."
Irritating-voiced guy: "If you could all move in just a little."
Nobody moved. They couldn't.
Irritating-voiced guy, to ponytailed woman: "When you got on, I'm sure people moved so you could fit, but no, you won't return the favor, that would be un-American..."
Ponytailed woman: "You know, DC has a whole system of taxi cabs, if you're in such a hurry."
Me, silently: "Yay, ponytailed woman."

The door closed, with irritating-voiced guy never having made any progress. We made it through Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn without further incident. As I squeezed my way out at Courthouse, I gave a nod to ponytailed woman.


cleavers44 said...

I hear ya - I saw crowd at the gates at 6:30 and decided to hit happy hour for a while instead, since a couple beers is usually enough time for the crowd to clear out.

When I went back to Farragut West at 9pm, a blue line train arrived and sat in the station for at least 20 minutes. They're still single-tracking both lines between Foggy Bottom and Courthouse.

Who the hell designed the system with two lines on the same tracks anyway?

tadcranky said...

Yeah, I thought I might run into you. Happy hour sounds like a good alternative. Gotta love those residual delays.

Anonymous said...

Great blog! The fiasco yesterday got worse than what you saw, much worse. I got on at Farragut West around 5pm had to wait two trains but finally managed to crowd into an already crowded third train. It crawled along the tracks extremely slowly and, when it finally got to Courthouse the train was so packed that the doors couldn't shut. They tried to shut to doors like 10 times when they announced that the train would be taken "out of service" if people didn't stop blocking the doors. They tried to shut them about 5 more times then they did it ... the took the friggin train out of service! This meant EVERYONE had to get off onto an already crowded platform in Courthouse and wait for the next train. It was a friggin nightmare. You were brilliant to re-strategize....

tadcranky said...

Ah, the dreaded total "disabling of the train." That sucks. Apparently that happened at Virginia Square this morning, too. What a way to get start your Friday.

webcowgirl said...

Farragut Quest!
I took a cab to Clarendon. My sanity was worth the $20.

tadcranky said...

That's the way to go, right up with waiting it out at happy hour.

Grace said...

Ugh, public transportation tools are the worst! Glad you were PlanBdextrous.

(many, many apologies for the awful pun)