News & Politics

5 Possible Metro Fixes, Ranked

Photograph by Ricky Carioti/Washington Post/Getty Images.

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.

Related: The Infuriating History of How Metro Got So Bad

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.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.

Staff Writer

Michael J. Gaynor has written about fake Navy SEALs, a town without cell phones, his Russian spy landlord, and many more weird and fascinating stories for the Washingtonian. He lives in DC, where his landlord is no longer a Russian spy.