- The Washington Times - Friday, January 29, 2016

Those of you who use public transportation haven’t had the easiest of times since the blizzard, not that motorists fared any better. Indeed, roadways and neighborhood streets remain bogged down. Still, there’s another worrisome and certainly more prevailing issue that lurks among us: Roving, flash mob-like bands of teens attacking Metro riders.

Much of the violence is occurring in Metrorail’s central core, where stations such as L’Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place-Chinatown are designated transfer points for various lines. At L’Enfant, for example, riders on five different lines can transfer. At Gallery Place-Chinatown handles three rail lines. Those stations, like all stations, also offer connecting Metrobus service.

Yet there is a perhaps noticeable difference between L’Enfant Plaza’s commercial surroundings and those at Gallery Place-Chinatown. Commuters can easily walk to the National Mall, Capitol Hill and other D.C. attractions within minutes of the L’Enfant station, and tourists and other visitors can jet from the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel to Reagan National Airport or cruise into the western parts of Northern Virginia on the new Silver Line. The Metro station is also enticing for quick bites, a cup of Joe or catching up on email.

Gallery Place-Chinatown offers far different imagery, though. The three rail lines that converge there regularly carry schoolchildren, young and old people trekking to various judicial authorities, fast-food seekers, moviegoers, bowling enthusiasts, museum-goers, commuters, book lovers to the main branch of the D.C. Public Library System, happy hour-goers, a plethora of sit-down restaurants, federal and D.C. office workers, shoppers to Urban Outfitters, Bed Bath and Beyond, and other retail establishments, bicyclists, nightclub venues, and crowds drawn to sporting and entertainment events at the Verizon Center.

Oh, the area is also a big draw for the panhandlers, drunks and homeless, and groups of members in the LGBT community. And drugs and other illicit goings-on.

Gallery Place-Chinatown is also one of two rail stations closest to Metro’s headquarters.

That’s a powerful mix of folks in a two-block area. And it’s like that day and night — 24-7-365.

Recent Metro attacks include one during morning rush on Thursday, when as many as two dozen teens ganged up and brutally beat a 35-year-old man. On New Year’s Day, eight teens reportedly beat three other youths. A 19-year-old was pushed around.

Authorities and lawmakers are concerned. Said D.C. Council member Jack Evans to Channel 5/Fox News: “If we have roaming groups of youths attacking people, that’s unacceptable and something we have to put to a stop.”

Well, Mr. Evans is now the head chairman in charge of Metro, having been unanimously elected this week to the board. A father of triplets, Jack is probably well-acquainted with a lasso and he’ll soon learn it’s needed at Metro, too.

Metro is a bureaucratic boondoggle, and it needs to be fixed, because its wish list includes expansion and funding, its to-do list includes maintenance and personnel, and its must-do list includes public safety following some tragic rail incidents.

Passenger safety falls onto the latter list.

Metro cannot issue a blanket prohibition against people entering Metro stations or riding the rails or buses. However, its board and new general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, can become more creative regarding passenger safety.

Mr. Evans should put on his “daddy jeans,” get out of his sporty-orty car, and ride the buses and the rails to see the who, how and when of Metro service. The Metro reports he already has seen and those he will see don’t drill deep enough. He needs to see with his own eyes who’s moving in and out.

He’ll need that firsthand insight when the time comes to seek fare increases. (Wink.)

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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