Thursday, March 15, 2007
Getting Home on Wednesday Night
The Wednesday night commute was horrible - and I blame myself. When I shot this picture, I actually kinda laughed at the poor schmuck who parked this car. Now, he was going to have to deal with the city and a boot removal company (one would think). Unless he was home already, his commute home was about to go through a major disruption.
Bad Karma. I jinxed myself.
I was walking to see Eric the Barber, this Latino dude who has his own shop over on 14th between N & Rhode Island. He's a cool guy and I like the way he cuts my hair. Anyway, after I left Eric's, I walked to the Dupont Metro Station. It's a little bit of a haul, probably about 6-7 big city blocks. But it was a nice night in the city, people were out and I was wearing my iPod. Just as I was coming up on the circle, I could see a lot of flashing lights - fire trucks and cops at both entrances to the Metro, on the north and south ends of the traffic circle. Crap.
Over at the south entrance, the escalators were running and the fire guys didn't seem to be moving around as if it were an emergency. Whatever happened was probably over. by now. And there were still a few people coming up and going down the escalators. So I went down the escalator, past the ticket booths and swiped my card at the gate. From there, I could see a train at the platform on the Shady Grove side and started double-timing it, trying to catch it before it pulled out of the station.
Every car of that train was JAM PACKED with people but I found a spot near the door and squeezed in. I already had my iPod on so I quickly zoned out and got lost in my Treo, hammering out some emails that I didn't get to earlier in the day (I do that a lot on the train...) Several minutes passed before I realized that the doors had never closed and that we were still on the platform at Dupont. I turned off my iPod and listened as the station agent apologized for the delay, said there was a track issue and that we would be single tracking up to Woodley Park, which was the next station. That's cool. It's slow because you've got to wait for the oncoming train to get into the station before your train can go. But it was only one stop so I threw back on the iPod and waited, crammed in that train with wayyyyy too many people all crowded up in my face and back and side. But I waited.
For the next 15 minutes, that train didn't move and people started losing patience. They started getting off the train, talking about cabs on the street and how much it would cost to get to Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Rockville... Then someone came back and said there were a lot of people lining the curbs, trying to hail cabs but few were coming by. Around that time, two firemen walked by on the platform and said something about one of the other firemen just going into the tunnel now. "This train ain't going anywhere anytime soon," one of them said. UGH!
Then came the announcement for everyone to get off the train and move to the platform that serves Glenmont-bound trains, the ones that head into the opposite direction. Dupont is one of those stations where the tracks run in the center of the station, with platforms on both sides. Others have the platform in the middle and the tracks on the outside. This is important to know because when they say for everyone to move to the other platform, that involves, getting off the train, cramming on to the escalators back to where the ticket booths are, walking over the bridge to the other side of the station and back down the escalators to the other platform.
So everyone starts moving - except for a handful of people who stayed on the train. Now, we're all crammed on the other platform - easily 400-500 people. No kidding. There we are waiting when suddenly, the train that we all just got off of... LEAVES. With passengers. Practically empty. Boy, people were pissed.
Then came the next announcement... Go back to the other platform again. Shady Grove trains will be using their own track, after all... ARGH!!!!! So there we go again - up the escalator, over the bridge and back down the escalator. Three trains came and went before I was finally able to work my way back to the platform and get on a train.
My adventure started about 7:15 p.m. and I got home just after 9. Sure, that sucks. And it's comforting to know that Metro regrets any inconvenience (though they still made me pay my fare.) But my bigger concern is that this publicly-funded mass transit system that moves hundreds of thousands of people between Maryland, Virginia and DC every day is so not ready to handle any sort of emergency situation. Communications broke down. Questions couldn't get answered. Agents and other Metro officials were rude and abrupt. That is no way to handle a situation that involves moving a lot of people.
And this is Washington DC, where bad things can potentially happen on any given day. Had Wednesday night's chaos been the result of a national emergency, who knows how Metro would have responded. I know how I would have responded - I would walked and walked and walked until I could hail a cab to get me back to Maryland. There's no way I would have waited for Metro to get its act together.
And yet... I'll be back on the train tomorrow.
Posted by Sam at 10:55 PM