- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2011

Metro has lowered its internal standards for on-time performance of rail service, buses and escalators.

Officials said during a Metro committee meeting Thursday that changes to procedures governing train operations, worsening traffic on bus routes and a backlog of necessary maintenance and repairs to escalators are behind a decision to lower the transit agency’s goals.

Chief Performance Officer Andrea Burnside said goals for on-time train arrivals were lowered from 95 percent to 90 percent, that on-time bus-arrival targets were reduced from 80 percent to 78 percent, and that only 89 percent of the system’s escalators now need to be working, compared with the former benchmark of 93 percent.

Last year, trains were on time an average of 89 percent of the time, compared with 91 percent in 2009, officials said. The 5 percent drop between the old 95 percent target and the proposed one is a result of manual train operations, which made stopping the train and opening and closing its doors, a longer process.

“Targets should be evaluated when operations change,” Ms. Burnside said. “The new target reflects a number of very important considerations.”

While trains must deal with unforeseen breaks in service caused by construction or accidents, Metro buses consistently travel on routes made unpredictable by traffic and by road and weather conditions.

Metro officials set their goal for on-time bus arrival at 78 percent, even though officials said they thought a more attainable goal would be 75 percent.

Kathy Porter, a Maryland board representative, said that regardless of its internal targets, Metro has to provide reliable service to customers who depend on buses.

“We need to figure out how to get individual buses where they need to be … much closer to the published time.”

Capital improvements to the escalator system will put a strain on available machines, but Ms. Burnside said more escalators will be in service next year as the backlog of repairs is handled.

“There is a difference between long-term outages and random maintenance,” federal board representative Mortimer L. Downey said.

Metro is scheduled to release a comprehensive performance report for last year in June.