Everybody Hates Metro

One thing I've found amazing about living in DC is how much people hate the public transit here. At least I think people hate it, because they gripe about it constantly. I've lived in cities with much less useful, frequent, and clean transit service. And yet, people around DC make noise like Metro is a scourge on the city that can do nothing right.

When I explained this phenomenon to a friend of the blog in Cleveland, he wrote back:
What's the root of this transit hatred in DC? In a transit poor city like Cleveland I can understand, but in a relatively transit rich region such as DC it surprises me.
I think the simple answer to this question is that so many people use it here that there are a whole lot more opportunities to hear from people that don't like it. In Cleveland, the same types of professionals who get frustrated with 'hot cars' and delayed trains and rude station managers simply aren't using public transit. They realize how poor the service is, but they are disconnected from it on a personal level.

(from Flickr user joekerstef)

The comment from my friend does demonstrate something important. While DC is a 'relatively transit rich region', that doesn't mean the service is objectively amazing. For all the time we spend comparing which transit system in America is better than the others, it misses the bigger picture. Every single city in America could use better public transit service. Every one. Even 'America's best' cities for transit could use some serious help. There is still a long way to go before they become truly great.


    On August 16, 2010 Autumn said...

    As someone who has lived in DC since 1995, I can tell you, the problem is simply that Metro service has deteriorated ridiculously fast over the past five years.

    I live and work in the district, and I live on the red line. The people who complain in my experience are exactly the people who have to suffer through the delays, the increased fares and the indifferent or worse rude staff members.

    I work in a large office and many of those people do NOT take Metro. They may comment that part of the reason they drive is because using Metro has resulted in an unpleasant experience, but I assure you that those with the loudest voices are the ones suffering through it day in and out.

    Yes, DC is a somewhat transit rich city with buses and trains, however, there is no reason why there should be such a poorly run service in our nation's capital and such apathetic people at the top.
    It's a disgrace.

    On August 18, 2010 ZZinDC said...

    I agree with Autumn, but would add an additional angle - I think people are dissappointed that our once shiny new and exciting Metro, so modern and space-age looking that sci-fi movies were filmed in it (Logans' Run)has become nothing more than ... a transit sytem. I think some of the anger you note is the result of lost illusions - Metro was supposed to be different and better than other subways (and THAT one other subway in particular) and in recent years we have had to face the reality that... we/it are no better than than anyone else. Sigh.