News & Politics

Sometimes It’s OK to Love Metro

DC's public-transit system has many faults, but the decision not to raise fares and cut service has at least one passenger swooning.

Photograph by Flickr user JJ Jackson.

Most Metro riders are familiar with the ups and downs of its service. I’m not naïve: Metro is a fickle mate, but it’s been there for me—sometimes.

There was the time I walked to Union Station in a downpour, debating Uber the entire walk. Metro never surges its prices in the rain. There was the time I stayed out too late because I bought a panini from IHOP and upon entering the Columbia Heights station, was greeted by the metallic clink of fencing and a “Sorry, honey,” from the station manager. Despite the disappointment, we both knew I’d be coming back.

On Thursday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced that it will spare riders from fare hikes and “substantial” cuts to train or bus schedules it had proposed last month, at least for the current fiscal year. I had been waiting for this positive news since I first heard of the draft budget through the grapevine, just as one might be informed of a philandering two-timer. It’s good to know the trains won’t keep me waiting any longer than they already do. Still, I’m left to imagine what “substantial” could mean for our future. WMATA’s final budget vote won’t be until spring.

Since moving to DC from California’s freeway-slashed Inland Empire, the lulling ding of train doors and the cozy plastic chairs have been a balm to my sun-deprived soul. Metro made me comfortable in a new city, ferrying me from place to place with relative ease. We spend a lot of time together: we all know how long the Red Line takes on the weekend (or many weekdays). But I wouldn’t want to go to the zoo with anyone else.

Sure, the relationship can be a bit disconcerting. It perturbs me when people try to jump through the doors as they were already sliding shut. (“Doors closing, stand back” isn’t a joke, people.) And yes, watching my SmarTrip dollars tick down, only to be auto-loaded behind my back is always a bit creepy. Then, the announcement of potential fare hikes and diminished service. A couple weeks later at Dupont Circle, the crush of people from an unloaded train left me reeling. And since January 12, when the smoke that filled a broken-down train left one passenger dead, the acrid, burned-plastic smell that marks certain stations is now suspect. I didn’t know where Metrorail and I would go from there, and honestly, my trust was greatly diminished. And fares hikes weren’t supposed to be on the table until next year.

So, good timing on the announcement, Metro. My transit budget was starting to stray. Even though using Uber makes me feel awful, that fare-splitting is tantalizing—and a little snow wouldn’t keep me away from Capital Bikeshare. But I’ll keep riding. Because I don’t have a car. And also, I love you, Metro, I really do.