The farce that was the last 48 hours of Red Line service on Metro is not the last straw. Whatever the last straw was (I think most riders and employees have lost count at this point), it happened a long time ago. Yet Metro continues to slouch forward, its leadership locking arms with apologists in local government and media. The result is that, in the customer's experience, there has been no positive change whatsoever.
Metro has been a good subway system in the past. Sure, there have always been issues, but nothing like that of recent years. Metro can be at least that good again with the right leadership, and adequate funding.
We've heard a lot about the "aggressive" changes in maintenance, safety and service. Riders have suffered through endless weekend station closures, closures that - along with punitive fare increases - have sent some riders back to their automobiles.
But those inconvenient closures have produced no tangible results. There continue to be delays, derailings, and even another fatal accident that killed an employee. Does anyone call this an improvement?
Yet Metro truly has a Teflon leadership. No matter what happens, it's never held accountable. But riders have leverage beyond their farecards: asking their local and state government officials to tell Metro's leadership enough is enough.
If our elected officials don't take action, we should take action at the voting machines in DC, Maryland and Virginia.
Furthermore, the state of Maryland should consider doing what Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell did three years ago: decide what substantive leadership, operation and safety changes they believe should be implemented, and withhold Maryland's Metro funding until those are enacted. Should that be the first and only means of bringing about real change? No. But if all else fails, is allowing one of the best subway systems in the world to continue to decline an option?
I'm certainly open to other suggestions of how Montgomery County and Maryland specifically can apply pressure on Metro on behalf of their beleaguered residents; feel free to leave a comment below.
But we can't continue to be told that change is just around the corner. When's the last time your train was automatically run, rather than manually operated? How many years have gone by without fixing that problem? I don't even hear Metro, the media or politicians talk about that issue anymore.
I'd like to see politicians show the same animation and fury they generate about plastic bags and trans fat on behalf of an unacceptable level of subway service for their constituents. And, if they don't, they should be replaced with people who will.
We can't go on like this.