WMATA praises escalators then announces service disruptions


WASHINGTON, September 13, 2013 — On Monday, WMATA posted a press release on its website stating “more Metro escalators are in service and available for riders than at any point in nearly five years,” as well as announcing, one day later, that all five metro lines would undergo “weekend service adjustments” for construction purposes.

The adjustment will result in closures of stations on the “Blue” and “Yellow” lines, as well as delays on the “Orange” and “Green” lines. The “Red” line will undergo what the agency calls a “slight reduction” in trains are certain stations. WMATA announced 91.9 percent escalator availability in 2013, up from 90.4 percent in 2012, and 83.6 percent in 2011.

“This is what Metro Forward is all about: delivering more reliable service and significantly improved escalator availablity [sic] for our riders,” said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles in the escalator press release.

In January of this year, WMATA announced that it had awarded a “$151.1 million contract for the replacement or modernization of 128 of the system’s 588 escalators by 2020.” The initiative is a part of Metro Forward, a new campaigned initiated by Sarles to modernize the aging system. The press release also announces that WMATA has taken steps to increase reliability of the escalator fleet, including the “Strategic use of contractor services to augment in-house staff and achieve faster response times.”

The “Unsuck DC Metro” blog and Twitter account (@unsuckdcmetro) criticizes the self-congratulatory tendencies of Metro Forward, and gives the example of advertisements posted by WMATA praising its own ability to repair tiles.  In a posting titled “Is MetroForward Making Any Difference?” the blog questions the effectiveness of Metro Forward, contrasting mild accomplishments to systemic problems.

“We’ve tolerated weekend closures, bus bridges, endless single tracking, weeknight track work, mid-day trackwork, single tracking on Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day when a lot of people still have to work. A lot of people I know have simply given up on Metro and are likely never to go back,” says the blog.

In support of the contention that riders are giving up on the train service is WMATA’s own FY2013 Operating Budget Performance Review, noting “Ridership in FY2013 was 4.3 percent lower than forecasted and 4.2 percent lower than in FY2012, with a total of 9.3 million fewer trips …”

The report attributes the decrease to unexpected federal and weather related closings, however in an article entitled “Riders abandoning Metro on weekends,” Greater Greater Washington disagrees, saying “the obvious explanation is terrible weekend service.”

A “key highlight” of the report states “Metrorail revenue was below budget primarily due to lower than projected ridership.”

Reddit users have questioned the accuracy of the escalator statistics, reporting in a thread that advertisements showcasing the repaired escalators are sometimes located next to still broken ones.


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Rahat Husain
Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues. In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.