Those who follow me on social media have been privy to my consistent griping about the Washington DC metro. Since ankle surgery, I’ve been able to take my car and park at work, but now that the ankle is healing, I will be back to taking the Metro next month.
You know it’s got to be bad when someone actually created a website entitled “Is Metro On Fire?” Accessing this site allows riders to know whether or not their metro line is actually ablaze. And if you want to know how often this happens…
…well, all you have to do is read this. Apparently metro was on fire 73 times in the first three months of 2016. SEVENTY-THREE times. This does include instances of smoke in the subway system, which apparently Metro officials protested as not being incidents of fire, such as malfunctioning train brakes that fill a station with smoke, or a third rail that is arcing so severely that the fire department is called, because apparently there are different definitions of “smoke” and “fire.” Regardless of the quibbling, can you imagine the second largest public transit system in the United States catching fire that many times in the first quarter of the calendar year?
Seriously? What in the everloving, rollerblading, couch-humping hell?
The press is freaking out about alleged Metro under funding. Congress won’t give metro more money, and is actually cutting funding for the ageing system! Metro doesn’t have a dedicated funding stream and has to go begging for money from the jurisdictions it services! Oh NOES!
For metro, it’s all about Mo’ Money! Mo’ Money! Mo’ Money! How can they be expected to run a busy transit system in the nation’s capital on a mere $2.8 billion (based on FY16 numbers)?
Oh, I dunno… perhaps not paying 70 percent of its budget to labor costs would be a good start?
Labor costs constitute over 70% of the 2014 WMATA budget, making it the single largest expenditure WMATA has to worry about. And it’s no wonder why it’s the largest bit. In 2011, during the middle of the recession, Amalgamated Local 689, the WMATA union, dragged a 3 percent annual raise out of management. The agency’s board declined to protect taxpayers and riders by not appealing the arbitration result. Naturally, riders were incensed—but WMATA paid no heed.
Now, I did a fair bit of analyzing of defense spending in my previous days. That’s a lot of labor costs! NATO, our biggest alliance, sets a benchmark that encourages its members to spend no more than 50 percent of their defense budgets on military and civilian personnel costs. There are reasons for that. While the biggest percentage of any budget is normally personnel costs, 70 percent is pretty outrageous and usually indicated bloated salaries – especially for high-ranking or connected personnel. It’s how much Greece spends as a percentage of its defense budget on salaries and benefits, and we know what an economic shit show that country is!
The average salary for a WMATA employee is $78,000 per year! And given the bloated personnel budget, that leaves precious little money for actual maintenance of the equipment that carries hundreds of thousands of passengers to their destinations. There are 488 station managers
taking naps working inside glass kiosks at rail stations, and their base salaries are in the high $50,000s. However, given overtime, these guys take home closer to $70,000, and when you factor in overtime, at least 20 station managers took home a six-figure salary, according to a 2012 press report.
And you know what it takes to fire one of these tools? Apparently almost killing a whole lot of people! This douchebag was in such a hurry to get to his break at a location with some good places to stuff his face, that he decided “fuck the red signal!” And this wasn’t his first time being a reckless jackass with other people’s lives!
The operator was on his rail job less than a year after transferring from WMATA’s bus division. As a bus driver for about two years, he racked up three moving violations: two red light overruns and an illegal right turn on red. As a train operator, he added two unspecified safety violations before the potentially disastrous red signal overrun.
And while the system doesn’t have a dedicated funding stream, they do have a nearly guaranteed revenue source in this area – the federal government. Federal employees get transit benefits – $240 per month. You think they won’t use them? And there are quite a few of them. Why not use the benefit, if one can? And it allows the Metro to provide shitty service, because… well… they’re getting that money. It’s not like federal workers are spending their own money on the commute, so it doesn’t hit their wallet.
Thirty-five Metrorail stations serve federal facilities and 42 percent of Metrorail’s peak period commuters are federal employees. On Metrobus, 16 percent of peak period commuters are federal employees. The federal government contributes roughly 56 percent of the capital costs. Fares and other revenue currently fund 56 percent of the daily operations, while state and local governments fund the remaining 44 percent.
So a system that’s on fire so often, there’s a site dedicated to informing riders when they’re in danger of… you know… DYING, that brags its stations are oh so clean (Then why did I actually find a turd on the mezzanine of the Ballston metro station last year? Yes, a real piece of poop. On the floor.), that is running unreliably, or not at all, some days, and that is pissing off riders so badly, they’re losing ridership despite the government transit benefit, wants more money to… do what? It wants to raise fares. Again. It wants to cut service. Even more. And it expects people to just suck it up. At some point, the transit benefit isn’t worth it. It doesn’t matter if it’s free to get to work. When it takes you two hours to ride the orange line 10 stops, it’s just not worth it, and the feds are starting to realize it too, while Congress even tried to pass a bill giving federal employees the option to use the benefit for other options, like Uber.
Overall, Metro is just a study in FAIL.
Shitty employee training.
Preferential racial hiring.
Lack of required annual re-certifications.
Intentional sabotage of equipment.
Poor safety practices.
Idiotic priorities – no, I don’t think riders care whether some Metro moron is wearing his uniform correctly. They care about getting to their destination in a reasonable amount of time!
Lack of accountability and planning for growth.
Do I need to go on? No.
If Metro was run like a business, rather than a cushy jobs program for barely literate, incompetent ass clowns, maybe then things would get fixed. But since funding is pretty much guaranteed, there’s no incentive to change.
And it’s the taxpayers, who pay for the system whether they use it or not, and those who wind up stuck in a tunnel for 20 minutes in stifling heat with 1000 of their closest buds rubbing up against them in the summer, who suffer most.
I wouldn’t even mind a dedicated funding stream for metro, if we had any faith that the idiots who run the system would actually fix the long list of what’s wrong with it. But considering their track record (no pun intended), and the big, fat fail that has been their “safetrack” repair initiative so far, I can’t trust them to use the money wisely.
Rob says they should shut down the system, fire everyone, and start from scratch. I would be OK with driving to work or taking Uber until they got their shit together.
Maybe metro should stop wondering why riders are abandoning the system and take a long look at the mirror.