1. Fix: Buy loyalty by reimbursing riders for fares when trains are late.
How feasible is it? Feasible. London does refunds online if delays last more than 15 minutes.
2. Fix: Instead of doing repairs at night, close entire stations temporarily.
How feasible is it? Mostly. Chicago closed one ten-mile stretch for five months. People grumbled, but ridership later went up by 2 percent. Our geography, though, might make it more inconvenient.
3. Fix: Kill the Purple Line and the rest of the Silver Line, as proposed by Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole.
How feasible is it? Fifty-fifty. Construction on the Silver Line’s second phase is under way, and Virginia—which is paying—seems intent on seeing it through. Maryland’s light-rail Purple Line is a more likely target: Governor Larry Hogan supports it only if costs can be cut.
4. Fix: Add a second tunnel in Rosslyn, opening up the worst bottleneck.
How feasible is it? A stretch. As an engineering matter, it works: A new tunnel is part of a plan for improvements by 2040. But footing the $26-billion bill for the entire agenda—or even scaring up money for a lesser plan to build a second Rosslyn station by 2025—won’t be easy.
5. Fix: Bring in a private company to run Metro.
How feasible is it? ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Some European and Asian cities have done it and get better results—Hong Kong turns a $2-billion profit and has a 99.9-percent on-time rate. Hitch: It would mean a complete overhaul of Metro’s political compact, union contracts, operations structure, and just about everything else.
This article appears in our December 2015 issue of Washingtonian.