- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fare increases, frequent breakdowns and rampant overcrowding have upset a lot of Metrorail riders — and out on the front lines are the subway station managers, who also have drawn criticism for being of no help.

But now, Metrorail is looking to make its managers a kinder, gentler lot, through a training program aimed at improving customer service. Besides adding role-playing exercises to the training, a big part of the new program is showing managers that they are appreciated.

“You don’t want people to feel like they’re getting beaten up all the time,” said Cindy Gannaway, Metrorail’s operations training manager. “There’s been a lot of negative press, and that’s really affected them.”

Managers have said the system’s problems often are blamed on them, no matter what the circumstances. But Miss Gannaway plans to change that.

Comment cards will be added to subway stations next week to give customers an opportunity to give Metro personnel a “high five,” she said. Management will begin selecting a “station manager of the week” to make up for a lack of positive reinforcement for employees who work alone.

“We’ve turned what was a real negative situation into a positive outcome,” Miss Gannaway said.

All 421 Metrorail station managers will be trained by the end of the month, in a program that emphasizes contact with customers, diffusing tense situations and taking full responsibility for their stations.

Managers say some problems won’t disappear overnight. A constant frustration has been Metro’s mandate that customers purchase a $10 SmarTrip card to pay their $3.75 parking fee. That doesn’t work for tourists who use the card just once, said Alexandria station manager W.E. Johnson.

“They don’t give us a lot of options to help,” Mr. Johnson said. “We take the blame for everything.”

Despite the problems, manager J.S. Mullins, a 24-year veteran, said she’s still proud to work for the transit agency.

“It’s clean, it’s comfortable,” Miss Mullins said. “You have malfunctions, but it works.”

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