‘Back to good’? Metro exceeded great on consecutive days of mass humanity.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Gridlock ROBERT THOMSON