‘Back to good’? Metro ex­ceeded great on con­sec­u­tive days of mass hu­man­ity.

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER -

Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

Please send out praises to all of the Metro per­son­nel and tran­sit po­lice who worked on Saturday [dur­ing the Women’s March]. Faced with over­whelm­ing num­bers that never seemed to give up, they were all cour­te­ous, help­ful and sup­port­ive.

These work­ers are of­ten ma­ligned, but I saw only grounds for praise on Saturday. Even af­ter a long day of such crowds on stairs, plat­forms and trains, I never heard a voice raised in frus­tra­tion. I was proud to be a Metro rider that day and to sing their praises to all of the out-oftown­ers, who were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the Metro for the first time.

— Nina Parish, Aspen Hill

For In­au­gu­ra­tion Day and then the next day for the Women’s March on Wash­ing­ton, Metro put on quite a show. Give credit to the man­agers for pre­par­ing and de­liv­er­ing the pumped-up tran­sit ser­vice, and also to the front-line staffers and law en­force­ment per­son­nel who were so calm and help­ful over two of the most stress­ful con­sec­u­tive days in Metro’s four decades.

On Fri­day, Metro of­fered rush­hour ser­vice from an early open­ing at 4 a.m. to 9 p.m., but Saturday was more re­mark­able be­cause of the chal­lenges cre­ated by an un­ex­pect­edly large crowd of marchers.

For in­au­gu­ra­tions, the plan­ning goes on for months, and there’s a long his­tory to build on. The Saturday event was much less pre­dictable. Early in the week, Metro changed its plan to of­fer regular Saturday ser­vice, de­cid­ing in­stead to open early and add trains.

Those steps alone would not have been enough. Safe op­er­a­tions on Saturday de­pended on good de­ci­sion­mak­ing from the man­age­ment level to the staff on the plat­forms and aboard trains. Dear Dr. Grid­lock: My com­mute to the Women’s March was from Ross­lyn to Fed­eral Cen­ter SW. And I re­turned via L’En­fant Plaza.

I think Metro did a splen­did job with such packed cars and plat­forms. Metro of­fi­cials were ev­ery­where and so help­ful. Yes, it was very slow. Though most of the peo­ple in my stuffed car were plan­ning to exit at L’En­fant, the train qui­etly glided through that sta­tion with­out stop­ping.

The rea­son was ob­vi­ous, as the plat­form was filled. I had al­ways been in­tend­ing to go to Fed­eral Cen­ter SW. When we got there, Metro had set it up with por­ta­ble bar­ri­cades that we snaked our way out, back and forth, un­til we reached the es­ca­la­tors (turned off for the ini­tial por­tion) to­ward the fare gates. Es­ca­la­tors out were work­ing. And it was clear that Metro had made that an exit-only.

I tried to thank ev­ery Metro of­fi­cial I saw. I know times have been bad. But Saturday, Metro did more than get “back to good.” Saturday, I think Metro was at its finest.

— Mar­i­lyn McMor­row, RSCJ (So­ci­ety of the Sa­cred Heart), Ge­orge­town Univer­sity

L’En­fant Plaza was crowded Fri­day, but it was stressed to the max Saturday. As at some other sta­tions used by the marchers, Metro staffers took steps to keep peo­ple safe, even if it meant tem­po­rary in­con­ve­niences. Those steps in­cluded us­ing sta­tion en­trances for exit only, turn­ing off es­ca­la­tors and con­vert­ing them to stair­ways, and hav­ing trains skip the filledup plat­forms.

Those are the me­chan­ics of suc­cess­fully con­trol­ling a crowd. Tran­sit staffers on the plat­forms and at the fare gates and es­ca­la­tors weren’t just calm. They were out­go­ing and help­ful.

By the num­bers, the Sta­di­umAr­mory sta­tion should have been a nightmare on Saturday. Thou­sands of peo­ple walked to the sta­tion en­trance from the char­ter buses park­ing at RFK Sta­dium.

Among the rea­sons it worked: A tran­sit of­fi­cer with a loud­speaker called out to the peo­ple de­scend­ing the es­ca­la­tor and ad­vised them on how to pro­ceed once they reached the mez­za­nine.

She waved to them, and they waved back.

That’s an­other thing. The crowds on both Fri­day and Saturday were part of the suc­cess. Vis­i­tors were in a great mood. The tran­sit staff and the crowds picked up each other’s mood, and they sus­tained each other.

Is such good­ness sus­tain­able? Prob­a­bly not. Suc­cess in­cluded stress­ing equip­ment, sus­pend­ing nor­mal main­te­nance and pay­ing enor­mous amounts of over­time.

At Thurs­day’s Metro board meet­ing, tran­sit of­fi­cials shared con­grat­u­la­tions over the two amaz­ing days. “Metro can truly be a great tran­sit sys­tem,” board Chair­man Jack Evans said in re­view­ing the two days of glory.

But as Metro of­fi­cials of­ten tell me, “We’re only as good as our last rush hour.” Long-range thinkers might pre­fer the historic Latin ver­sion: “Sic tran­sit glo­ria.”

Dr. Grid­lock also ap­pears Thurs­day in Lo­cal Liv­ing. Com­ments and ques­tions are wel­come and may be used in a col­umn, along with the writer’s name and home com­mu­nity. Write Dr. Grid­lock at The Wash­ing­ton Post, 1301 K St. NW, Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20071, or email dr­grid­lock@wash­post.com.


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