Tuesday, February 19, 2013

1 Day, 5 Colors, 86 Stations, Countless Memories

Speaking out FOR the DC Metrorail System (Part 1)
An unusual point of view about Washington's iconic rapid transit system


This is the first part in a multi-part series about the positives of the WMATA rail system in the Washington area. The author is not an employee of WMATA and the opinions represented in this series are his own.


Thank goodness all of the cars we rode in had cool A/C!

On a seasonably hot day late last July, a relatively new friend and I set out on a journey to traverse the entire Metro system in Washington. There was no particular reason to take on such a task, but others had done it in the past and we happened to have an open day. So a few days prior, the plan had been finalized to meet at the Rosslyn station.

I parked my car at Glenmont and shuffled down the escalator with the typical mix of DC office workers and students. The night before, I had loaded an unlimited day pass onto my Smartrip card in preparation for this adventure. The turnstile registered the pass and I settled into a window seat on the train. Before long, the train lurched to life and began its journey towards Shady Grove (the western terminus of the Red Line).

After a transfer at Metro Center, I arrived to a hazy or smokey platform at Rosslyn. It also appeared that the power was out to about half the station. It was stuffy and rather uncomfortable in the station but the crowd exiting and entering trains seemed content. After exchanging a few text messages with Megan, (my adventure partner) we determined that the new meeting place would be Vienna.

From Vienna we traveled the entire length of the Orange Line until the train terminated in New Carrollton. Megan had been asleep for a portion of this leg of the trip. The train gathered a larger crowd as it approached the downtown area, and predictably the crowd tampered off significantly as we exited the city on the other side. One thing I noticed was how cheerful and enthusiastic the train operator sounded on this line. He seemed genuinely happy to be a WMATA employee on this summer morning.

Amtrak was rolling through New Carrollton as we waited for our train to depart.

From New Carrollton we returned to the Stadium-Armory station to head out to Largo Town Center on the Blue Line. Methodically, we checked stations off our lists and progressed through the system in an efficient manner. We got some strange looks from station employees at times (especially when our farecards refused to allow us to exit a station at one point). Nobody seemed to understand why anybody would want to devote 8 hours to riding on public transportation.

Throughout the adventure, one thing I noticed was that despite there being many types of people entering and exiting the trains we were on...the common trait was that we were all Metro riders. There was no point where I felt unsafe (even in some of the more sketchy areas). Surprisingly, we encountered no delays (save for a 1 or 2 minute stop on a part of the Red Line). Perhaps we got lucky? With that said, I seem to always get lucky when riding on this rail system. Perhaps it's the fact that I'm never a quick person to get impatient. I realize that I may be skewed from not having to ride Metro in an effort to get to a job or commitment. However, I think it's important that Metro riders take a moment to appreciate how much this system has expanded to cover more and more people since the opening in March of 1976.

My adventure partner Megan has put together a nice video of our trip last July.

Metro Challenge: July 30th, 2012 from Megan Buche on Vimeo.

We'll take a further look at some of the things that WMATA does right on their rail system in the next installment of this series.


Kenny Lorber is the creator of The Capital Region Pulse. If you have comments, suggestions or questions you may email the author at capregpulse@gmail.com

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