- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

Metro, the region’s largest mass transit system, is considering spending between $500,000 and $1 million per station to add Spanish-language maps, signage, fare-card machines and public announcements. But that doesn’t reflect the sign of the times. More importantly, the costs for redesigning and implementing such an ambitious proposal as Metro works on new projects, such as Dulles rail and expanded stations like Navy Yard for the new D.C. baseball stadium, are cost prohibitive. We propose a reasonable and less costly option.

Advocates, such as CASA of Maryland, complain that riders with limited English “might have difficulty understanding” how to use the transit system. And Metro officials seem all too willing to pander. Metro’s director of sales and marketing, Murray Bond, admitted that, on the one hand, the changes would put “a strain on the budget,” but on the other it would entice more Hispanic riders. Metro authorities were hardly as pliant several years ago when Metro signage needed to reflect the name change of National Airport.

As one of the region’s most consistent voices on Metro funding, we believe that adding foreign languages to all or most rider aspects of Metro is a waste of money. (After all, Ballston Station is Ballston, even in Spanish.) Instead, we encourage Metro to consider using fliers or small pamphlets in foreign languages, but not just Spanish. Such a move is more reasonable and will prove easier and far less costly, especially since Metro is considering adding kiosks inside most, if not all, rail stations.

Americans today, amid all the political and public chatter about immigration, are calling for integrating — not segregating — immigrants, regardless of their legal status. Public-opinion polls and English-only legislation on Capitol Hill and on state and local levels point to America moving in the direction of assimilation, while Metro wants to move in the opposite direction. Instead of conforming Metro to foreign-language speakers, Metro should be encouraging foreign-language speakers to conform to its standards. Kiosks and pamphlets would send the right message — albeit in various foreign languages.

As Metro Interim General Manager Dan Tangherlini and longtime board members probably recall, it took intervention from Congress to get Metro to add Ronald Reagan’s name to the Metro stop at National Airport. Prior to that, Metro officials cited prohibitive costs, when, in fact, the change cost Metro less than $400,000.

Metro’s Mr. Bond told Keyonna Summers of The Washington Times, “We want to understand what [Hispanics’] needs are and how Metro can serve them best.” In reality, that’s fairly obvious. Hispanic riders of Metrobus and Metrorail have the same needs as other passengers. They need Metro to get them from Point A to Point B as safely as possible and in a timely manner.

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