Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sound of Two Hands Clapping for Metro

For an oft-maligned, oft-ridiculed, cash-challenged, and much complained about agency, Metro performed exceptionally well last week and I want to publicly thank them. They set all kinds of records and still managed to move the masses to (or close to) their desired destinations. Some of the numbers:

On the very first day of the week Metro rail broke it's Sunday ridership record with 616,324 trips. That was the day of the Obama-attended free concert at the Lincoln memorial. The concert drew about 400,000 people.

The next day saw the shattering of the all time Metro rail record with 866,681 trips. A record which would last less than 24 hours. Monday's rail ridership was the second all time record breaking day within the last six months. The previous record was set in July 2008 on the day of a national women's conference and a Nationals game.

Of course Tuesday was the big day. And by big, I mean BIG. A new Metro rail ridership record was set and just destroyed Monday's number. Inauguration day travel helped Metro rail record 1,120,000 trips, a huge 30% increase over the previous record. Its the first time in Metro's history in which its provided an excess of one million trips by rail. The number isn't exact, I presume because Metro was forced to open gates for entrance/exit without payment (or record) for safety reasons.

Metro bus, which I took to the festivities, logged an impressive number on January 20th with 423,000 trips taken. More than half were taken on the rapid bus corridors set up within the city.

All this with occurred amidst an atmosphere of multiple cooks in the kitchen. The Secret Service, Presidential Inaugural Committee, Capitol Police, Park Police, MPD, National Guard, DDOT, VDOT and a handful of other major forces were shaping policy and practice on the ground for the last few weeks. Metro had to respond to their wishes and demands as well as serve the customers, many of whom were new to the system. Even a near tragedy, a woman falling on the tracks just ahead of a train, didn't cripple the system's ability to move us around on Tuesday.

So, a rare standing ovation for Metro as I applaud its leader John Catoe, and the employees, for making it work and proving that our transit system is viable and indeed world class.

Now, back to work on improving and enhancing service. And getting Metro a dedicated funding source from the Feds, Maryland, DC and Virginia. Thanks Metro.