- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

The words "public" and "transportation" are increasingly mutually exclusive at least insofar as regards Metro. The system may, indeed, be open to the public but whether the current state of affairs qualifies as "transportation" is another matter entirely. Delays and breakdowns have become constant problems and now we discover that the new trains Metro ordered to alleviate at least some of the headaches may not arrive until fall, if then.
According to a report by this newspaper's Daniel F. Drummond and Jim Keary, perhaps 20 of the 80 cars ordered by Metro from the Spanish firm CAF may not arrive until fall perhaps later than that. The remainder will "trickle" in over the next few months, according to Metro's transit planning director, Jim Hughes.
This compounds the problem of the absence of 26 additional trains that were supposed to be ready by December but which have been plagued by mechanical and other problems including some potentially serious safety-related problems. According to the report by Messrs. Drummond and Keary, "Metro has had problems with car stabilizers that fall off, wooden floors that crack and different styles of wheel trucks that require a special lathe to true the wheels." Meanwhile the elaborate new computer system that Metro is putting on-line to help manage the trains more "efficiently" has proved to be failure-prone, even potentially dangerous.
What all this means for area riders is that Metro, notwithstanding the rosy rhetoric of Metro officials, remains a clunky, increasingly unpleasant means of getting around. As the summer approaches and Metro usage peaks out, the problems will only get worse. Given the massive annual federal subsidy Metro receives, and the average $20-$30 per rider costs to use Metro on a weekly basis, taxpayers have a right to expect more.


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