Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Metro's Gallery Place Platform is a Mess

Red  line platform at Gallery Pl-Chinatown Station
We're all used to being crowded on Metro, especially in September. Congress is back, high school is back, DC's nine major colleges & universities are back, vacations are over: EVERYONE'S back at once. We get it. We deal with it. That's life. What I don't like to deal with, though, is what's going on at Gallery Place station during rush hour. 

I don't know the ins and outs of every station. I haven't even been to every station (see Metro-Ventrue's awesome project). But I can't imagine that any platform gets as crowded and dangerously gridlocked as the Gallery Place red line platform to Shady Grove during rush hour. 

Like all other platforms, it's as long as an 8 car Metro train. However, most trains aren't made of 8 cars, they're made of 6. And trains pull to the front of the platform when stopping, by rule. Seems like a good rule. However, at this station, most people departing this train are heading in the direction opposite of the train heading. They are either leaving the station onto 7th Street NW or transferring to the green and yellow lines on the platform below. These people --the majority of passengers departing the train-- are headed directly into the path of commuters transferring from green and yellow lines to the red line. 

This is to be expected at a transfer station. But, at Gallery Place, the brackish area where the red line and green/yellow line commuters meet happens to be a 90 degree corner with little latitude for maneuvering around oncoming foot traffic. 

This situation is made more complicated since rush hour riders headed toward Shady Grove are often running and pushing to reach the last car of a 6 car train before the doors close; just as riders headed toward green/yellow trains are running and pushing in the opposite direction. There is only so much space for these commuters. Not enough space.

It all ends in gridlock. Usually commuters form three columns of moving people. On the inner most column, near the wall, are riders moving west, towards the front of the red line train. In the middle column, people leaving the red line train headed east towards green/yellow trains. And on the outside, next to the granite edge, another column moving west towards the six car red line train. The columns are slow and often seem to not move at all. Passengers are slowed exiting trains and the columns block others from entering trains. There are common sense and etiquette rules, but even those aren't always followed.

A hobbit lay here... er, I mean a bench. It's gone now.
The gridlock leads to frustrated commuters, who sometimes yell, push or get claustrophobic (me) when you can't see anything besides other people ahead, not moving. At times it can feel awfully dangerous. Gridlock only lasts for so long before more aggressive commuters (who just want to get home) start pushing their way through or tip-toeing on the granite edge, bumping you along the way.

As for the fixes, occasionally I see Metro personnel directing riders near the 90 degree corner. And the arrival of an 8 car train does help relieve some of the crowding towards that end.

Weeks ago, Metro removed some benches against the wall. That freed up some space for walkers. But, having Metro personnel directing passengers is the best way. We'll often stand around, or some of us just might not know where to go. Put an authority figure who shouts clear and constant directions to us; that almost always works. Let's get on that before an accident happens or temperatures rise above silent cursing of  fellow in front of you. Especially if you're silently cursing at me.