After decades of neglect, the Washington DC Metro system will begin a year-long surge in track maintenance on Monday, starting with two weeks of work on the Orange Line that will reduce service on my daily commute from Vienna by 70 percent:
This surge of repairs to the nation’s second-busiest mass transport system is in response to a growing series of service delays, track failures, and electrical fires culminating in last year’s death of a commuter trapped in a tunnel on a smoke-filled train. General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld ordered the maintenance surge along with changes to the system’s budget, culture, and management in an effort to improve safety and reliability.
As well as making commuting a challenge for the 6 million residents of the Washington DC region, it will be something of a social experiment. Commuters may choose to work from home on their companies’ or agencies’ VPNs or email, but mine gets overloaded when Federal offices are closed on snow days and it’s impossible to work on classified systems outside of the office; how will that change the pace and content of work, office culture, and family life? Metro users may get up earlier and arrive home later, or shift to other modes of transport; will this result in massive traffic jams, increased air pollution, more accidents, and a boom for bicycle shops?
The Washington Post’s SafeTrack web site provides further analysis and graphics, and the Washington Metro Transit Authority’s website is a good source for up-to the minute reports. I’d also recommend the outstanding free app DC Metro and Bus by DixonMobility (iOS and Android) to tell you when you’ll get to squeeze onto that next train…