There was a time when Washington's subway system was the envy of the nation. So clean. So efficient. So modern. Well, thirty plus years of deferred and poor maintenance, mismanagement, safety lapses and lack of proper funding has turned Metro into a mess. The subway system of the most powerful city in the world has become an epic embarrassment and even a symbol of the nation's neglect towards its public transportation infrastructure.
Yes, Metro is spending $5 billion on improving the system and making necessary safety repairs following National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations after the horrific 2009 Red Line collision that killed nine people and injured 80 others. But these projects have really inconvenienced riders with long delays due to single tracking and stations being shut down for repairs. Also, it is dispiriting for many riders to still see so many broken down escalators. Or there was the incident October of 2010 when during the Rally to Restore Sanity the L'Enfant Plaza escalator collapsed injuring several people. And even when the escalators are working they run dangerously slow and sometimes produce truly horrific sounds.
The bottom line is sadly Metro is in a depressing state of dysfunction and it will take years, perhaps decades, for the system to be restored to its former glory. But thankfully there are other new and innovative ways to get around town as I discovered yesterday evening.
I was riding the Orange Line from Ballston to Metro Center for dinner and got stuck on a delayed train at the Clarendon Station due to a mechanical failure on a train at the Stadium Armory stop. After fifteen minutes of not moving on a packed rush hour train and no announcement to passengers on when we would start moving again, I decided to exit the train and the station and walk across the street to the new Capital Bikeshare station. The shiny red bikes were a sight for sore eyes. I was so glad bike sharing had expanded to Clarendon. I rented a bike, hopped on the saddle and was breezing along Wilson Boulevard while the Metro train was still stuck at the station. I rode through Rosslyn, across the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge into The District, past the White House and to Gallery Place-Chinatown where I dropped the bike off at a station. I was only around 15 minutes late to dinner thanks to Capital Bikeshare.
So when Metro fails, and trust me it will let you down, know that Capital Bikeshare is always there as a backup. Plus you get exercise and it's just plain fun bicycling around town. The only problem is that the system doesn't provide helmets so unless you just happen to carry around a bike helmet on your Metro ride, be extra careful if you go bike sharing without a helmet!