Investigative Group

EXCLUSIVE: Here’s What 2,300 People Had To Say About Metro

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) officials received more than 2,000 formal comments in just one month from riders and others, including frequent complaints about severely delayed trips, no-show buses, and rude employees.

Among the more than 2,300 comments submitted in November 2016 and recently obtained and reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s (TheDCNF) Investigative Group were nearly 900 complaints about affected Metro trips, more than 160 complaints regarding dangerous situations encountered in the system, and 135 complaints about rude employees.

WMATA also received 194 compliments about Metro employees. The Metro system receives $150 million in annual federal funding in addition to approximately $850 million from eight county and city jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C. region.

Riders most frequently complained about delays due to buses and trains that were late, didn’t stop for passengers, or never showed up, among other problems. Those submissions make up more than one-third of all comments submitted to Metro.

“Really?!? Another delay due to train malfunction?!” one commenter wrote. “This system is complete garbage.”

“Whenever I think about having to take the Metro to get anywhere, I always have to look for a backup plan with an alternative way of getting anywhere because your service is so poor systemwide,” another rider said.

One rider saw a train door close without advance notice. “As a result, the doors closed on the leg of a handicapped man in a wheelchair,” the writer said. “The car was still empty and could have easily allowed many of the people waiting to board.”

The “doors partially opened for a split second and slammed back on the man’s leg,” he continued. “The man started screaming in pain, and I and others started screaming toward the front of the train for the conductor to open the doors.”

A MetroAccess driver regularly blocked one commenter’s parking spot at his home. When the commenter tried driving around him, the WMATA employee “became belligerent and aggressive,” the commenter wrote. “Not only was he verbally abusive, he threatened to physically harm me.”

“He tried to run me over when I took pictures to document this incident,” the commenter continued. “Prior to finally leaving, he stopped his vehicle and threatened to fight. He also threatened to return later, which I took as a threat to return to harm myself, my property, or my family.”

But some customers offered positive words for Metro employees.

“This is a commendation for bus driver [REDACTED],” one customer wrote. He is “terrific, thorough, professional, knowledgeable, proficient, efficient and focused.”

Compliments to employees made up about eight percent of November 2016’s comments.

“Whenever a customer takes the time to contact us with a complaint, we work hard to resolve the issue to the greatest extent possible,” WMATA spokesman Richard Jordan told TheDCNF. “It is important to keep in mind that, during the timeframe of your request, Metro provided more than 23 million trips – a complaint rate of less than 1 complaint for every 46,000 trips provided.

“Under the leadership of GM/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld, Metro has been singularly focused on improving reliability and safety to reduce delays and improve service, including the unprecedented SafeTrack program, the delivery of a fleet of new railcars, and improved maintenance for our older railcars,” he continued. “In fact, last month, 92 percent of the 14 million Metrorail trips provided arrived within five minutes of their expected time.”

Yet many commenters’ complaints represented systemic issues, rather than isolated incidents, and riders often noted that their complaints were regular occurrences.

Below are additional exemplary comments:

“Metro is the worst. The worst. Safe Track + Additional delays due to a track problems at Grosvenor? How long to go 4 stops today? The worst. And you want to raise fees? I’m driving from now on. You’re not getting my money anymore.”

“My car was sideswiped by a metro bus … The bus did not stop … I have filed a hit-and-run report and accident report with Washington Metro PD.”

“I think the service you provide is very expensive. That is not a problem. What really annoys me is to pay for a service that is totally unreliable and simply a joke at different levels. You are so unreliable that I always prepare a contingency plan.”

“Can you teach anyone using the speaker systems on the trains and the platforms how to use them. There’s no point making an announcement that no one can understand. All are garbled.”

“I entered on to car number 5038 and there is a strong sickening smell of mold and mildew on this train. The mildew source is visible and very noticeable on the floor … This type of mold and mildew does NOT appear overnight … Someone in your organization simply did not care about of your passengers’ safety and health to address the issue.”

“On the bus a fight broke out and people started spraying pepper spray. I went up to the bus driver and asked him to let me off the bus because I feared for my safety. The bus driver REFUSED.”

“The metro faregate slammed closed on my body as I walked through. This happens too frequently … It’s especially alarming and painful as I’m pregnant and the gate closed hard enough to cause a bruise.”

“Why do the metro trucks constantly part in the handicap spots and take up the front spots in the Largo parking area … This is done frequently.”

“Metroway bus [REDACTED] pentagon city pickup stopped on way to crystal city stop in middle of traffic to honk at group of females and asked one specifically to call him. About 4 passengers on board. Was not at intersection or bus stop. Unprofessional and unsafe. [sic]”

Interns Benjamin Decatur, Jennifer Duplessie, Kent Strobl, and Andrea Vacchiano contributed to this report.

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