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March 20, 2011
DC Metro Subway: Spring Breakers Beware
Don't expect families heading to Washington for spring break to get the skinny on the DC Metro subway system - not from city boosters, anyway. The Metro, once the crown jewel of public transit, is incompetently run, poorly maintained, and behind on repairs. That means increasing delays for passengers. Crime is on the rise at Metro stations, many of which are rundown and dirty.
We know these things about the Metro thanks largely to the dogged reporting of The Washington Examiner, which runs articles regularly on the Metro's mounting woes.
In The Examiner's latest edition, readers learn about the Metro's managerial incompetence. Metro's management has already exceeded its overtime budget for 2011, which began July 1, last year. In seven months, the subway system has spent $49 million in overtime for a $600,000 cost overrun. Expect cost overruns to climb.
The Examiner reports:
... Metro has blamed the overall maintenance workload for causing the higher overtime rate as it tries to fix a backlog of maintenance projects such as broken escalators, crumbling platforms and aging tracks.
But why Metro's growing maintenance backlog?
One explanation is that for years, Washington's city fathers and Metro officials were fixated on aggressive expansion of the subway system. Slower expansion and smarter budgeting would have provided more dollars for mundane but necessary maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. But, then again, fixing cars doesn't provide photo-ops for publicity-hungry pols; opening new lines did.
As disturbing as the Metro's condition is, more distributing is the growing incidence of crime throughout the system.
A recent attack on a 47-year-old man at a Metro station was chillingly captured on another passenger's cell phone. Another man was attacked more recently outside the Suitland Metro Station. Where were Metro personnel or system police?
Last year, the Washington Post reported that thefts were on the rise in the DC Metro.
Washington, DC, is the federal city. Congress needs to take more aggressive oversight of the Metro. The subway system's board and management need to be house-cleaned. Union contracts need to be overhauled. Budgets and operations need to be thoroughly inspected. Where services can be privatized, they need to be.
But, take heart, while government isn't running mass transit successfully, it can run public schools excellently and, in the offing, the nation's health care.
Only in a liberal's dreams.