Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When I Am Metro Dictator

With all the news of the D.C. Metro outages, delays, and crashes, I've done some thinking as to how I would change things if I were given total control over the system for a year. (This is not a bad idea, by the way! Unlike most Metro executives, I have no track record of hilariously terrible failures to speak of. Clean slate, dude!). Of course, I would take the job on the condition of having total control of the DC Metro area as well, since the reforms for one go hand in hand with the other. So maybe I need a like-minded confederate to help me implement the clever reforms I have in mind! Please make your pitch to be co-dictator in the comment string below.

1) Replace all escalators with stairs, except for the super long ones (like Rossyln). My theory is that able bodied people should be able to walk and not be such fatasses, and besides, the Metro escalators are out of service something like 1/3 of the time anyway (and it's harder to walk up a narrow, broken escalator than up regular, wide and shallower stairs). With a fraction of the budget used to repair escalators, we could make sure the elevators are always running, so as to serve the handicapped and those carrying heavy stuff. Savings, and efficiency!

2) Pipe in music with ad breaks. This makes money, and gives people something to dance to.

3) Put in bathrooms, and keep them cleaned.

4) Light the cars with differentially-hued lighting. This way, when they pass by outside stations, it gives people something to marvel at. It'll make us distinctive!

5) Put ads on the sides of the cars.

6) Expand the system to reach more areas. This map is the current plan, and it's a good one, but I'd suggest going even farther. There should be no part of DC or Arlington that is not within a fifteen minute walk of a station. And it should reach Annapolis, Baltimore, and BWI Airport.

7) Run longer trains during peak hours, and increase the train frequency during non-peak hours. When riders have to pack into Tokyo-level trains, or wait an agonizingly long time between trains on weekends, it hardly pays to ride Metro compared to driving. And we should be encouraging more Metro and less driving.

8) Keep the system going 24/7. The extra funding for this (as well as items 6 and 7) would require more regional funding, but it'd pay for itself with extra ridership caused by making more roads toll roads and increasing the gas tax.

9) In the suburbs, encourage more development (commercial and residential) around the Metro stops. You should be able to buy a beer within fifty feet of any station.

10) Open up the big stations (Metro Center, for example) to allow some retail to set up in the pedestrian tunnels between tracks. I understand the point of not selling food in the system, since that creates more of a garbage issue. But selling non food items--and selling food and drink only on-premesis (that is, not allowing takeout)--could promote more commerce in the stations, and provide a nice service for riders. Instead of "meet me waiting at the turnstile" you could say "meet me at that burger place between stations".

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