Metro Board Member Admits Erosion of Public Trust

Metro board member Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George's County, speaks with reporters after a May 11 board meeting at the transit agency's D.C. headquarters. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Customers aren’t satisfied with Metro’s service, a new report shows — a complaint that’s been expressed loudly since the transit agency began its SafeTrack maintenance project last year.

The quarterly report — titled “Vital Signs” — shows customer satisfaction was 74 percent for bus riders and 69 percent for train riders, well below Metro’s goal of 85 percent.

Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County on the agency’s board of directors, called the numbers “troubling.”

“I know there are efforts to turn this thing around, but I am very concerned … about the impact that [SafeTrack] has is long-term,” he said. “As you are fixing the system, you are making improvements to the operation and engage the public. I’m not so sure that the work is being done on the customer-satisfaction side is sufficient.”

The board’s Customer Service, Operations and Security Committee reviewed the report Thursday, May 11 during the weekly board meetings. Some of the reasons cited in the report for customer unhappiness were late-arriving buses and trains, uncomfortable rides, bus collisions and railcar malfunctions.

Metro's quarterly report shows customer satisfaction remains below the target goal of 85 percent. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Metro’s quarterly report shows customer satisfaction remains below the target goal of 85 percent. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

A major factor in delays is the massive SafeTrack initiative that began last summer, but officials believe buses and trains will arrive on time once the maintenance-overhaul program is completed next month.

Officials warned ridership could possibly decrease during certain phases, or surges, of SafeTrack — and it has, by 11 percent.

According to the report (http://bit.ly/2ppzvVw), the Green Line had the highest on-time performance at 80 percent during first three months of this year. The Blue Line had the worst at 59 percent.

The report also notes the 10 most crowded bus routes by jurisdictions such as the 16th Street line in the District; New Carrollton-Silver Spring line in Maryland; and Ballston-Farragut Square line in Northern Virginia.

To help boost rider comfortability, Andrea Burnside, chief performance officer for Metro, said the agency will test placing air fresheners inside railcars. So far, she said about 6 percent have them.

Although officials admit there’s a perception about buses and Metrorail being unsafe, the report states crimes against persons decreased 30 percent from the same period last year. One reason for the improvement, according to the report, is the placement of Metro officers at various stations during shift transitions and evening hours.

Board chairman and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (Ward 2) said the agency has made gradually improvements, but must receive financial help.

During a press briefing after the committee sessions, Evans placed a bag full of pennies on a table to promote a regional sales tax. He said the millions of tourists who visit and spend money in the District, Maryland and Virginia would help Metro.

“This is an opportunity to capture money that is not generated from the region to support our Metro system,” he said while holding a penny. “For a region that is one of the wealthiest regions in the country. That isn’t too much to ask for to fix our Metro system and make this a pride of not only the region, but of the nation.”

About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 256 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com